The rapid advances in technology have been changing the way we do things in many sectors and dentistry is no exception. One of the areas dentists are utilizing digital technology is in crowns. It used to be that if you had a cracked or broken tooth and needed a crown, you would have to go through the long process of having a mold made of your tooth and the surrounding area that was then sent to a dental laboratory where the crown was made. In the meantime, you had to have a temporary restoration placed, then return to your dentist a week or more later, after he or she received the finished crown and have your temporary removed and the crown cemented.

CAD/CAM Technology In Dentistry

Recently, more and more dentists have been welcoming a much quicker option: computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM). This technology allows the dentist to make the crown in the office and treat the patient in one visit. The process of taking a digital scan of the mouth, creating a 3D image of the teeth, perfecting the visual which is known as a restoration, and having the milling machine carve the crown from a ceramic block can take as little as two hours and is known as a “same-day crown.”

Is This Technology New?

Digital technology that assists dentistry isn’t entirely new. Some tech, like the original CAD/CAM system for making ceramic crowns and inlays in-office was has been around for as long as 25 years. According to John Weston, a cosmetic dentist and director of the Scripps Center for Dental Care in La Jolla, California, “Initially, it has been just a few early adopters” likely due to the high startup costs associated with purchasing the equipment (which can run $150-$200K). But now, more and more dentists are getting on board and incorporating “a full digital integration of clinical care, diagnostics and patient communication” says Weston.

Other Technologies & What It Means

Some other new digital technologies being embraced by dentistry include:

• Digital Radiography or X-rays
• Cone-beam Computed Tomography (CT) Imaging
• Digital Dentures

Prosthodontist Steven Spitz, of Smileboston Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry in Brookline, Massachusetts, says these improvements are all about trying “to improve the experience for patients.” The various technologies can make procedures much less invasive for patients. “That means less pain and trauma for the patient and often the need for little or no anesthetic,” explains Spitz.
While start-up costs for some technology can still be expensive, having the equipment eliminates lab costs and allows dentists to work more quickly and efficiently. Because of this, the same-day crown procedure is typically the same price as a traditional one.

The advancement and adoption of digital technology in dentistry is a win for both patients and dentists.