When a tooth undergoes trauma or has decay, it sometimes becomes necessary to protect it. Dental crowns, also called caps, are placed over teeth to protect them from further damage and to restore it to its normal function. Traditionally, getting a dental crown has been a time-consuming process, requiring multiple trips to the dentist over several weeks. Fortunately, new technologies, such as CEREC®, allow dentists to shape crowns in-house, making the procedure faster and less time consuming.
Traditional Tooth Crowns
When a person requires a dental crown, the process usually takes two trips to the dentist. During the first visit, the dentist will grind down the tooth to prepare it for the cap. After that, they’ll take scans of the tooth. Last, they’ll prepare a temporary crown, which the patient will wear until their permanent crown has been created.
Between visits, the dentist will send the scans of the tooth to a dental lab, which will create the crown or work with manufacturers to produce it. The process usually takes about ten days.
When the permanent crown has been made, the patient will return to the dentist to have their permanent crown fitted and cemented in place.
The process for a CEREC® crown is not unlike that for traditional crowns, but it’s done right in the dental office, allowing for single-appointment fits. (CEREC®, by the way, stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics, or CEramic REConstruction.) Getting a crown fitted in a single appointment reduces pain, sensitivity, and stress for patients.
During a fitting for a CEREC® crown, a dentist takes precise measurements using 3-D scanning technology. The scans are then transferred to a processor which creates a model for the all-ceramic tooth, which is then sent to a milling and grinding machine, which creates the single-piece crown in the office. Once that is completed, the dentist can place and fit the tooth in the patient’s mouth.
Comparing CEREC® Crowns and Traditional Crowns
In the hands of a skillful dentist, CEREC® crowns match traditional porcelain and zirconia crowns in terms of durability and appearance. Evan a basic internet search reveals that very few people have problems with these crowns, as long as their dentist knows what they’re doing. The primary benefit of CEREC® crowns is that dentists can create and place them in one session. For people who suffer from dental anxiety, this can be an excellent solution.
While preparing and placing the crown takes as much as with a traditional crown, no temporary crown needs placed and removed, and they don’t have to return to the dentist more than once. Ultimately, that means less time in the dental chair.
In terms of cost, there’s minimal difference. Because the dentist doesn’t have to send an order in to a dental lab, they don’t have to pay any lab fees. However, the dental lab fees are replaced by the dentist’s charges, as they have invested in the CEREC® technology and equipment and training, which they have to pay for.
In terms of appearance, there are reports of CEREC® crowns not being as aesthetically pleasing as traditional ceramic caps. However, this mostly has to do with the skill of the dentist. Cosmetic dentistry takes finesse, and a good dentist is not always a great cosmetic dentist. For front teeth, this may be a consideration. For molars, it won’t make too much of a difference because they’re not as visible, anyway.