Hudson Valley Top Dentists 2011: 5 Reasons Why Going to the Dentist is Easier, Safer (And Less Painful) Than Ever
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#4: ONE-VISIT DENTAL CROWNS
Getting a crown normally requires at least two trips to the dentist. Not to mention having to wear a temporary one — which may be unstable or unsightly — while waiting days or weeks for an outside laboratory to make the permanent crown.
But now, a new high-tech procedure allows dentists to create crowns right in their office — in one visit. The makers of CEREC technology — it’s short for Ceramic Reconstruction — offer a dental restoration system now used by more than 12,000 dentists nationwide.
Here’s how it works: After a tooth has been prepped for treatment, the dentist takes a series of special computerized photos of it. The image is then digitally transformed into a 3-D model of the tooth, which is viewed on the computer screen, in a process sometimes known as computer-assisted-design/computer-assisted-manufacture or CAD-CAM technology (it was first used in electronics and car manufacturing).
Next, the dentist (who receives special training to use the equipment) designs the crown to exact specifications, fine-tuning its shape with the digital imaging system. The final design is then uploaded to a special milling machine, right in the dental office, which molds and trims a tooth-colored ceramic block to the precise tooth shape required. When that’s complete (usually in less than half an hour), the dentist fits and anchors the crown, and voilà; the patient is good to go — all in one visit.
While not inexpensive — a CEREC unit can cost upwards of $100,000 — the system’s makers tout other advantages of its “one-stop shopping” dental procedures. In addition to saving time for busy patients, the process requires less drilling and anesthesia, no messy impressions, can sometimes preserve more of a damaged tooth, and is a boon to dental-phobic patients who fear spending long amounts of time in the chair.
The CEREC system can create fillings, inlays, and partial crowns, too. A few dentists also use the technique to create porcelain veneers, but achieving the perfect color match desired for front teeth can be trickier; the so-called “instant crowns” are most often used on less-visible back teeth.
Edwin O. Wiley, D.M.D., of Galloway Dental in Warwick, has been using CEREC technology to make crowns, inlays, and onlays for about a year. “Many patients prefer them, especially the fact that there’s no need for a follow-up visit to complete the crown,” he says. The procedure usually involves taking about nine computerized photos, from which the crown is designed — and the cost is usually comparable to a traditional crown, Wiley adds. “There’s no real downside to the procedure. The only question would be whether the tooth itself is suitable for a crown.”
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