Monday, May 14, 2012
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Dental machines that use computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing are making it possible to have a crown procedure done in one day, eliminating several visits over a few weeks. The May issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter explains this technology.
The dentist inserts a thin camera wand into the mouth to take many images of the tooth surface. This replaces use of a U-shaped rubber mold to create a tooth impression. Images are sent to a computer console where software creates a three-dimensional image of the needed crown. The dentist can manipulate the design and make adjustments if needed. Finally, a small cube of artificial tooth material is placed in a machine where computer-guided drills mill the material to the exact shape of the crown. A similar process can be used to create dental implants.
Dental offices are just beginning to offer this technology, but availability is expected to increase. It eliminates the weeks-long process of waiting for a laboratory to create a crown, as well as the need for a temporary crown. In addition, patients often don't need to return for a follow-up visit.
Same-day crowns or implants aren't the best option for every situation. For example, front tooth color matching is still best done by a highly skilled dental laboratory technician. And, if crowns are needed for more than three teeth, the traditional approach of making an impression is still recommended. While the computer-aided process offers same-day treatment, patients need to plan for a three-to four-hour appointment.
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