The Courier Tribune - Healthy Lifestyles section November 22, 2009
by W. Kelly Harris DDS
Worldwide, technology is changing our everyday lives in numerous ways. Many people aren’t aware that technology is also impacting Dentistry in exciting ways. One such example is the CEREC technology which allows the dentist to quickly restore damaged, decayed or fractured teeth with natural looking all ceramic restorations, saving patients time and inconvenience, and oftentimes money.
Traditionally, if a tooth was extremely broken down and needed a crown, it would require 2 or sometimes 3 visits to the dentist, involve impressions, possible injections at the second and maybe third visits also, and wearing a temporary crown for 2 to 3 weeks while the lab fabricated the crown. With CEREC technology the crown or onlay can be completed in one visit usually taking 1 ½ to 2 hours all within the dental office.
*Photos are actual patients in our office
CEREC stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics. The CEREC machine is a high tech instrument that uses CAD/CAM technology incorporating a special camera, computer, and milling machine all combined in to one instrument.
Once the dentist removes the diseased part of the tooth (old failing filling, decay or fractured area) the tooth is sprayed with a reflective powder. This allows the camera to take a very accurate 3-D picture of the tooth called the optical impression. Patients can then watch the dentist design their crown or onlay on the computer while they wait, observing each step in the procedure. Once this is completed, the milling unit makes the crown or onlay, usually in about 10-15 minutes. The restoration is then adjusted if needed and bonded to the remaining part of the tooth using state of the art dental adhesives. Once bonded in place and polished the CEREC restoration looks and feels so natural that often the patient cannot tell it is not a natural tooth.
The CEREC technology was developed in Germany and has been in use in some form for over 20 years. There are millions of CEREC restorations in patients mouths all over the world .The technology has greatly improved over the last few years from a hardware, software, and dental materials standpoint. These improvements make the results predictable and the technology practical for use in private dental practice.
There are many advantages to the CEREC restorations for patients. Most important in my mind is that, many times we can save more of the patients own tooth and provide a restoration called an onlay rather than a full crown. When doing an onlay the dentist only removes the decay, failing old filling material or fractured part of the tooth while keeping the healthy part of the patient’s tooth. The onlay is bonded to the remaining healthy part of the tooth, fitting in much like a piece to a puzzle, resulting in a tooth that looks and feels so natural, almost as if it has never been restored. The best part is that this process actually strengthens and reinforces the remaining part of the natural tooth!
Other advantages of the CEREC to the patient include: completing this procedure in one visit which saves the patient time, no impressions or temporary crowns are necessary, excellent results in esthetics and comfort, long lasting, functional and durable, and is cost effective for the patient.
In our practice we have been providing CEREC restorations for the past 4 years. The results have been many satisfied patients who often comment on how easy the procedure was and how natural the final result looks and feels.
While I’m very excited about the advancements of this technology, I believe there are many situations clinically when the patient is better served with a crown made by a dental lab. When this is the case, it is extremely important that your dentist select a high quality dental laboratory, an experienced and qualified lab technician, making sure they use ADA approved materials and take the time needed to do the best job possible. In other words, all crowns are NOT the same!
Several months ago I read of a case in another part of the country where the dentist sent a patient’s case to a lab that in turn outsourced the work to China. When the patient later developed problems it was discovered that there was actually lead in the dental gold in the crown! Moral of the story….be aware of what goes in your mouth. That way whether it’s a CEREC or a laboratory crown with good homecare and routine dental visits the patient should get many years of service from it.
by W. Kelly Harris DDS
W. Kelly Harris DDS is in practice at 307A Foust Street in Asheboro.