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The prospect of major dental work can be pretty rough—long afternoons spent in the dentist’s chair, weeks waiting for a lab to fabricate necessary crowns or implants and repeat visits are nothing to look forward to.
But digital imaging and new technologies have revolutionized procedures such as implants, bridgework, veneers, orthodontics and crowns, enabling dentists to do in a day what used to take weeks.
Dr. Phillip Yancho, of Yancho Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Traverse City, explains that the traditional process for these procedures involves taking impressions with polyvinyl siloxane putty (a.k.a. “the mouth full of goo”) to create a mold that is sent to a lab where impressions are made and then the restoration pieces are fabricated. “But that process is time-consuming and intolerable for many patients, especially children,” he says.
Instead, Dr. Yancho utilizes digital intraoral scanning technology and the CEREC (chairside economical restoration of esthetic ceramic) method of creating dental impressions and restorations right in-office—no goopy mold, no shipping to a lab, no temporary crowns and no second visits.
“You can think of this process as ‘one and done,’” he says. “It’s highly accurate, so much more convenient and minimizes post-op discomfort.”
Dr. Yancho explains that CEREC procedures go through three primary steps:
1. The dentist numbs the patient’s mouth and prepares the tooth needing restoration, then scans the mouth with a tiny camera in a hand-held wand, which takes about a minute.
2. The image is uploaded to a computer with specialized software to design a customized model of the needed dental restoration.
3. The designs are sent to either an off-site lab or to the in-office milling equipment. These specialized machines use diamond burrs to mill the dental restorations (like a crown or veneer) from a solid block of porcelain, which takes about 12 minutes. The restoration goes into a small kiln, and in Dr. Yancho’s case, his dental assistant, who is trained as a stain and glaze lab technician, customizes it to perfectly blend in with the patient’s teeth. It’s then fitted and bonded, and the patient walks out the door—typically within 90 minutes.
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Dr. Lisa Siddall, of Lake Leelanau’s Lisa Siddall DDS Holistic & High-Tech Dentistry, was also an early adapter of CEREC technologies and is particularly excited about their applications for bridges and implants.
“There’s a newer procedure for implant-supported bridges that secures the teeth directly to the jawbone,” she explains.
She utilizes the digital scan and a type of 3D X-ray called a cone beam, marrying the two images to find the best place in the bone for the implants to have the most stability.
In addition to working with implants, Dr. Siddall is excited to pair high-level imaging with a machine she recently purchased that allows her to mill zirconium restorations in her office—a more durable alternative to porcelain. “Zirconium is literally unbreakable,” she says, which will make it natural for things like crowns on teeth that receive a lot of bite pressure, such as molars.
Sophisticated imaging allows her to provide orthodontics as well, creating perfectly fitting clear plastic aligners that are changed out weekly to move your teeth. “I had a patient for years with really crooked teeth,” Dr. Siddall says. “This technology was a game-changer. Her teeth were straight in about four months.”
The benefits of CEREC and new imaging techniques are undeniable—not just in the convenience, durability and quality of the dental work that results, but also in one more crucial way: “They create less discomfort and anxiety,” Dr. Yancho says. And less stress in the dentist’s chair is always something to smile about.