CAD/CAM Uses Computer to Make New Teeth

The stuff of science fiction is showing up in dental offices. Dentists and prosthodontists are using computers to make teeth, implants and dentures.

It's a process called computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing, or CAD/CAM.

Irene Hasal has been through the wringer with her teeth. She had many procedures to fix problems and finally got implants. Within a month, her teeth were breaking.

Then, Dr. Mamaly Reshad, a prosthodontist at the Anacapa Dental Art Institute, told her about CAD/CAM. A computer scans the patient's mouth to make a custom image of what's needed.

"We put it inside the computer like a cartoon – an avatar – and from there, we create a tooth, a virtual tooth. The virtual tooth becomes a real tooth through a manufacturing process," Reshad said.

A computer-aided milling machine makes teeth out of a block of ceramic or composite resin.

Reshad used CAD/CAM for Hasal's whole procedure. It helped him to find the best placement for her implants and to make a prosthesis.

Hasal's case was complicated and took almost a year. But CAD/CAM can do one to two teeth in a morning.

"Now, because it's going through this avatar, the computer, it can be done almost instantaneously – the same day. At least within two hours," Reshad explained.

The result brought a perfect smile to Hasal's face.

"I can do anything I want now. They fit great, they're beautiful and my face is the proper shape. So I couldn't be happier," she said.

The CAD/CAM process takes much less time than a conventional procedure, which can take weeks. Reshad said on average, it costs about 30 percent less as well. But the procedure is not typically covered by insurance.

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