When it comes to designing and manufacturing dental prostheses and appliances in contemporary dentistry, it’s hard to beat computer-assisted design and computer-assisted manufacture (CAD/CAM). For dental practices, having this technology in-house can provide a boost to the bottom line, through increased efficiency and patient satisfaction.
CAD/CAM systems are used in dental service organizations, as well as in smaller, private practices. In fact, by some estimates, the global CAD/CAM market in dentistry will reach $3.33 billion by 2027.1Market Research Future. Global Dental CAD/CAM Market Research Report-Forecast to 2027. Available at: https://www.marketresearchfuture.com/reports/dental-cad-cam-market-1410. Accessed August 24, 2018.
CAD/CAM can Improve Patient Comfort
Used in conjunction with intraoral scanners, which capture digital impressions, CAD/CAM units can be used chairside or at a dental lab. They facilitate treatment planning and perfection of designs, before transferring them into reality via the manufacturing arm of the system.
The beauty of having a CAD unit chairside is its educational component. Patients can see their own digital impressions magnified and projected onto the screen of a monitor, and they can be involved in treatment planning and the ultimate design. This enhances understanding and helps engender treatment acceptance.
As far as impressioning goes, for patient comfort, hands down, the digital route is a winner. With digital impressions, the patient isn’t subjected to a tray full of impression material, and all the gagging that can entail. And if any information is missing in a scan, the digital version can simply add in the missing information, rather than having to repeat the whole process.
Patient comfort during scanning can be increased exponentially with the use of systems such as Isolite 3, which can improve patient experience via a bite block to ease jaw fatigue during scanning. This system also provides illumination as well as continuous evacuation of saliva, oral moisture, and any excess reflective powder, helping to enhance image clarity.
Beyond comfort, other benefits of digital impressioning include a reduction in chair time, thanks to the brevity of scanning, and elimination of the need for disinfection of impressions, because, hey, they’re virtual. In addition, there are no issues involving bubbles, voids, distortion, shrinkage or tears that might plague traditional impressions. Therefore, digital impressions have a reputation of being more accurate than those taken with impression materials. And thanks to their electronic nature, shipping costs to the lab and the need for storage space are eliminated, while case presentations and collaboration with other professionals are expedited.2Stone R. Life in the fast lane. Mentor. 2018;9(5):10–14.
CAD/CAM Units Up Standard of Care
But CAD is only part of the equation. CAM units are milling machines that use subtractive manufacturing to fabricate restorations out of blocks of ceramic material such as zirconia or lithium disilicate.
Some clinicians enjoy manufacturing their own prosthetic designs. CAD/CAM systems, used in-house, even allow some dentists to offer same-day indirect restorations. This eliminates the need for provisional restorations.
But even those who prefer to leave fabrication to the lab technician can benefit from this technology. Many labs, having embraced CAD/CAM because of the resulting efficiency, profitability and quality, will digitally scan traditional impressions so restorations can be digitally designed and manufactured.3 Varlotta S, Syme S, Bloom I. The digital advantage. Mentor. 2017;8(5):32–37.
Either way, clinicians can rest assured that they are providing patients with the highest standard of care. Based on digital — or digitized — impressions and designs, CAD units can turn out beautiful, highly accurate dental prostheses ranging from crowns, inlays and onlays to implant abutments, bridges and veneers.4 Varlotta S, Syme S, Bloom I. The digital advantage. Mentor. 2017;8(5):32–37.
And by using such technology, practitioners cultivate patient perception that the practice is cutting-edge.
Talk about a practice builder.