Dental technology is advancing faster than ever these days, and much of that progress is focused on the types of materials dentists use every day to repair broken and decayed teeth. In the past, restorations such as crowns and bridges were primarily made of metal, and while these materials are very strong and durable, they look unnatural and can negatively affect the appearance of a person’s smile. Thankfully, progress has now given dentists an alternative: the all-ceramic restoration.
These crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, and veneers are made of a high-quality ceramic that not only restores a tooth’s lost structure, but it can also be colored to match a person’s natural smile. These restorations are continuing to get better as the years go by, and below, you can read about some of the recent improvements the latest research has shown.
1. More All-Ceramic Restorations Are Being Made By Computers
Previously, when you needed a dental restoration, the actual crown or bridge would have to be fabricated by hand in a dental lab. While labs usually do great work, this process drastically increases the amount of time a patient needs to wait to have their tooth fixed. In recent years, more and more practices are using in-house CAD-CAM (computer-aided design/manufacturing) technology to make their own restorations right in the office. The most common system is called CEREC, and it allows a practice to design, mill, and place a completely custom-made all-ceramic restoration in about an hour.
2. The Ceramic Material Itself Is Getting Better
Dentists are constantly trying to improve the materials they use every day so that they can help their patients faster and provide better results. With the higher proliferation of CAD-CAM technology mentioned above, more practices are now able to use a material called polycrystalline zirconia. This kind of ceramic, in addition to being able to look just like a natural tooth, is also extremely strong and durable. It allows a dentist to use less of the material when restoring a tooth, enabling them to preserve more of a patient’s natural enamel. It also helps in the fabrication of longer bridges and partial dentures that can be located in the back of the mouth (which was not previously possible).
3. Lab Testing Is Becoming More Accurate
Whenever a new material is introduced into any medical field, extensive amounts of laboratory tests are performed, and this is no different for dentistry. Previously, lab results concerning all-ceramic restorations were not the best indicator of how they would actually perform in the real world, but that is changing. Now, the findings in the lab are now matching up more closely with what dentists and patients are experiencing firsthand. This means a dentist can help a patient have more accurate expectations as to how long their restoration will last, and dentists will be more likely to use newer, better materials sooner because they can trust that they’ll know how they will fare in a real patient’s mouth.
What Can I Do With This Information?
So how can this information help you the next time you type in “dentist near me” into a search engine? Simple, all you need to do is see if a practice offers all-ceramic restorations and see if they use CEREC. Most practices will feature this prominently on their website, so you can trust that if you need to have a tooth repaired, they’ll be able to do it in just one visit, and the results will look great and stand the test of time.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Haag is a general, family, restorative, and cosmetic dentist based in Lincoln, NE. He has used CEREC in his practice to make all-ceramic restorations since 2001, and he has served as a mentor in the CEREC program at the Scottsdale Center for Dentistry. He currently practices at Pioneer Greens Dentistry, and he can be reached via his website or at (402) 483-7502.