Traditional crowns and inlays are made in laboratories using a centuries-old “lost wax” technique with cast metal and sometimes a layer of porcelain on top. For many years our offices have been using all-ceramic restorations in many situations. The current technology to produce these is mainly CAD/CAM, an acronym for “computer aided design/computer aided manufacture”. Some of the types you will hear us speak about are Cerec®, Procera, E4D, and Lava restorations.
What is a Cerec® crown or inlay?
The Cerec® machine uses an optical scanner (camera) to take a picture of the shaped tooth, and the computer designs the ideal crown or inlay as a 3 dimensional image. Then a milling machine grinds the crown or inlay out of a solid block of an incredibly strong ceramic material. After the bite is adjusted to fit your opposing teeth, the crown or inlay can be stained and glazed and is ready to insert. In some cases, this can be all done at the same appointment.
Why does it take a couple weeks to get my crown back from the laboratory?
In some instances, the office or laboratory will scan a model of the shaped tooth, design the crown or inlay, and the computer will send the file over the internet to a dedicated production facility off-site. The “core” or inside of the crown, will be made by a robotic manufacturing facility and then shipped to our laboratory for the ceramist to custom-build the porcelain on top for the most life-like result possible. This is especially important for front teeth where aesthetics are of greatest importance.
What is a custom implant abutment?
Using the same CAD/CAM technology, we will often custom-make the post for your dental implant that the eventual crown is cemented to. This allows us to have the edges of the crown just under the edges of the gumline, we can make the angulation of the post perfect, and in many cases we can use zirconia, an extremely strong ceramic material, that will not show darkness through the gum tissue.
What does the future hold?
This technology continues to evolve and improve at an amazing rate. The next big step in this technology is likely to be the mainstream integration of optical impressions (again, taken digitally with a camera or scanner) to replace the typical models taken with impression material. But whatever the future holds, you can be sure that our dentists will investigate each new develop and bring in those technologies when we feel they will improve the health and care of you, our client.