family smiling after parent underwent CEREC procedure

What Is CEREC In Dentistry?

The term CEREC as used in dentistry stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic. This is a system that uses CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) to fabricate dental restorations. According to a review in the Journal of Dentistry and Oral Care, the system can be used to design crowns, inlays and onlays, fixed bridges, veneers, dental implants, dentures and some orthodontic appliances.

How It Works

Let's say that you're seeing your dentist for a digitally manufactured crown. The Journal of Dentistry and Oral Care review explains that your dentist will first anesthetize the area and prepare the tooth in question. Then, they will scan the tooth with the CEREC device, which takes a digital impression and use the image to make a computerized design of the crown restoration. Next, they will send the digital design to either a machine in the dental office or a remote dental laboratory where a custom crown will be milled from a solid block of restorative material — usually a type of ceramic.

If the final crown is manufactured in the office, it will also be sintered and polished before being bonded to your tooth during your visit. If the restoration was sent to be made at a dental laboratory, your dentist will provide a temporary crown for you to wear until the final restoration can be delivered and placed at a follow-up appointment.

Advantages for the Dentist and Patient

According to the Journal of Dentistry and Oral Care review, there are several advantages for both dental providers and patients to using the CEREC system:

  • The rapid design process allows for same-day service. Because treatment can often be accomplished in one visit, it saves you from multiple visits to the dental office.
  • This process eliminates the need for dentists to stock up on disposable impression materials.
  • There is no need for a temporary restoration if the treatment is completed in the dental office.
  • The dentist can often eliminate certain outsourcing expenses, because the technology reduces the need to send work to a dental laboratory.
  • The restoration is typically sturdy; according to a study in the International Journal of Computerized Dentistry, 87.5 percent of CEREC inlays and onlays fabricated using this technique lasted after 27 years of use.
  • CAD/CAM restorations usually perform and fit very well, as indicated by a study in the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry, which found clinically acceptable marginal discrepancy ranges (a measurement of fit) for these types of restorations.

Potential Obstacles

Although CEREC has been around for decades, not all practices have access to this in-office technology. As with all new technologies, things will eventually change as demand grows, prices drop and dentists start to realize how CAD/CAM technologies can benefit their practices and their patients.

If you are planning to receive a dental restoration, speak with your dentist to see if CAD/CAM might be their treatment method of choice. Whether your procedure involves CEREC or not, be sure to follow your dentist's aftercare instructions to ensure your restoration stays clean and healthy long into the future.

  • The technology may be cost-prohibitive for some dentists.
  • There can be a steep learning curve for members of the dental team — sometimes taking several months of training — which can make the entire process daunting.
  • Dentists may be less confident in their ability to use a computerized system over traditional methods.

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