This year is the year of the technical advancement. Elon Musk has been offered land in India to test out his Hyperloop, rockets can now be reused and the fastest iPhone ever is going to be available to the world. Progress is being made across ever sector and the cosmetic dentistry sector is no different. The mechanical tool used to rule the roost when it came to odonatological work but this has been upset by the rise of “Digital” dentistry. Digital dentistry refers to any dental technology or device that makes use of digital of computer-controlled components, in contrast to mechanical/electrical elements alone. Another common practice is to call digital dentistry CAD dentistry.
What is CAD Dentistry?
CAD (or CAM) is the practice of using Computer Aided Design (or Computer Aided Manufacturing) to assist with the process of dental reconstruction or restoration, specifically: dental crowns, dental implants, orthodontic braces and veneers. Although seen to be a very modern practice, it has in fact been around since the ‘80s, though the technology has been significantly reduced in size and increased in capability since then. Since the turn of the millennium the technology for digital dentistry has really taken off, allowing for tooth restoration to be better tailored to the individual, look more natural and increasing the durability of any restoration done.
Three Steps to CAD Dentistry
- Orthodontic restorations are designed on any sort of platform, commonly a computer, by capturing a model of the mouth using and optical scanner. An example of a high end scanner available is the CERC Omnicam. The hand held scanner takes a precise replica of your mouth, removing the need for oral coatings that previous scanners used to enhance the capture of the details of a mouth. It also removes the need for any impression material to be placed in the mouth for a long period of time, eliminating unpleasantness and a slight safety concern.
- The restoration is then designed using CAD software; the time taken for this depends on the complexity and extent of the situation and whether or not the dentist has in-house access to CAD software and CAM technology.
- The CAD design is then machined using CAM technology, typically either by printing or milling the appropriate material.
Benefits of CAD Dentistry
Fear of the dentist is more than just a long running joke. Dental phobia afflicts 7-13% of the population in western countries, with women being twice as likely to be afflicted. Other figures put the general disquiet caused by a potential visit to the dentist at nearly 50%. Either way, this is partly due to the invasive aspect of a dental visit. Removing relatively large amounts of impression material from the mouth and reducing the size of equipment operating in the mouth begin to remove some of the unpleasant aspects of dental restoration. If the dentist has in-house CAM facilities, it also removes the need for a return trip for an anxious client. CAD/CAM dentistry is also more efficient, both in cost and time, more accurate in the construction of restorative work and more durable due to the precision of the work.
Dr Mike Gow, BDS (Glasg) U.K. MSc Hyp (Lon) is the Clinical Director of Dental Anxiety & Dentist, Anxiety Management for dental implants Glasgow clinic, The Berkeley Clinic explains how CAD/CAM technology is changing dentistry:
All of our dentists use the CEREC 3D system. This revolutionary system allows single visit crowns, veneers and ceramic reconstructions. This is ideal for patients who suffer dental anxiety as it reduces their time in the chair.”
Looking Forward with CAD Dentistry
As with many fields, technological advancement in digital dentistry can only go forward. Every increase makes the technology more accessible, both in availability and cost. The resulting orthodontic restorations are longer lasting and better quality, with overall patient care being dramatically increased. With further advancements certain, digital dentistry is here to stay, so look forward to more pleasant dentist visits coming to a practice near you soon.