— Most people dread going to the dentist to get a crown on
one of their teeth.
procedure can be long, tedious and often uncomfortable. Once
in the chair, patients must bite down on a putty-like material
— which can trigger the gag reflex — to create an
impression of their teeth. Patients must wear temporary crowns
for a few weeks until their permanent crowns have been made
from the impressions, sometimes returning to the office for
corrections if one falls out or is uncomfortable.
crown fittings take three weeks and multiple visits to the
dentist to complete. These permanent tooth-shaped
"caps" — made of durable material such as steel,
porcelain or ceramic — are put on to protect a weak tooth,
restore a broken tooth, cover and support a tooth with a large
filling, or serve other uses.
this clunky, gooey and slow process may soon be history in
most dental offices.
video imaging technology is speeding up the time it takes for
dentists to create lab-quality dental restorations — from
weeks to a couple of hours.
design and computer-aided manufacturing — known as CAD/CAM
technology — consists of a scanning wand no bigger than a
large toothbrush, and an on-site milling machine.
system allows dentists to create and insert crowns, inlays,
onlays and veneers in a single appointment. The scanning wand
takes a 3-D image or video of a dental region in as little as
of a durable material such as lithium disilicate is then
milled into shape and baked before it is inserted into the
always the sense of amazement when patients experience
(CAD/CAM technology) for the first time," said Jeffery
Verner, a dentist in Bethel Park. "I’ve even had some
patients put the block in the machine themselves, and others
call back afterward saying it was a cool experience."
Trice, office manager for dentist Rick Rivardo in Monroeville,
Pa., said that the condensed time makes it easier for working
people to better care for their teeth. Finding time in
patients’ schedules for several appointments is the main
reason treatment is delayed or even avoided, she said.
Hazel, 60, who had 10 crowns replaced in fewer than two years,
agreed. Hazel works full time as an office manager in a
Pittsburgh gynecology practice. With three crowns fitted per
day, she was able to replace her crowns and miss few days of
work. The traditional method would require at least 20 visits
for 10 crown fittings.
had all mine done in five visits," Hazel said.
said that because the new technology eliminates the need for
putting in temporary crowns, there is also a reduced risk of
irritation and increased tooth sensitivity.
Dailey, 63, a retired chemist who has a rare nickel allergy,
said that the technology has spared him from the severe gum
irritation and bleeding he had with his old crowns. "This
new procedure is much better from a patient point of
view," he said.
these advantages, use of the new technology is not yet the
standard in most dental practices, said Charles Sfeir,
director of the Center for Craniofacial Regeneration at the
University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.
the cost to patients using this technology does not change
compared with the traditional approach, dental practices must
pay roughly $100,000 for the equipment. Additional training
also is needed to operate the new devices, which may dissuade
some older practitioners from adopting it, Trice said.
growing number of dental practices in Allegheny County are
making the investment.
Fennell, a dentist in Chicora, Pa., has had the equipment for
nearly two years, and Rivardo, the Monroeville dentist,
introduced it recently. Pitt dental students have been getting
training on the new equipment over the past few years, Sfeir
don’t think a lot of people know about this," he said.
"We really are moving into the digital era and increasing
convenience for patients."