CAD/CAM technology finds its way into dental education
JENA, Germany: While a number of dental laboratories use CAD/CAM technology these days, the computer-assisted design and fabrication of inlays, crowns and smaller bridges is not widely taught at dental schools yet. One of the first university hospitals in Germany to do so, the Jena University Hospital teaches dental students to use state-of-the-art digital technology.
The small camera head passes over the teeth without touching them to obtain a 3-D digital image, which is immediately displayed on the screen. In this way, the patient is spared the usual biting into an impression compound. “We are very proud to be able to use this camera for a project,” says Prof. Harald Küpper, Director of the Department of Prosthodontics and Dental Materials Science at the hospital.
“The oral cavity is a dark, enclosed space and therefore difficult to represent visually,” said Küpper. It is not possible to capture the entire dentition with just a single shot in all three dimensions. The dentist scans the teeth by moving the camera with its finger-sized head in a smooth motion over the teeth at a short distance to create a number of frames that can be joined to form a complete 3-D image.
“Camera and computer output are so good nowadays that the image appears almost simultaneously and in natural colours on the screen,” explains Küpper. For the patient, this digital impression taking is not only more pleasant than the conventional method, which may cause an unpleasant gag reflex, but also much quicker. Shortly after dentist Dr Oliver Shepherd has captured the teeth of his patient in the treatment room of the dental clinic with the camera, a suggested crown design is created with the associated software. Once the dentist has determined the final design, the data is wirelessly transmitted to a milling machine in the adjoining room, where his colleague controls how the crown is milled from a ceramic block.
The entire process is quick. “For patients, this means they need to attend one appointment only,” says Christian Black, product manager at dental manufacturer Sirona, which has supplied the camera to the Jena University Hospital dentists. Since the restoration can be placed immediately, the placement of temporaries and the usual waiting period of several weeks for permanent restoration are avoided. The camera is very precise and captures the opposing teeth, which is necessary for establishing good occlusion. “This is important because malocclusion can cause TMJ disorders in patients, which may be partly responsible for headaches or severe migraines,” explains Küpper.
Teaching CAD/CAM technology has become essential in dental education, Küpper says. He feels that being able to teach the 60 dentistry students at the hospital to use the ultra-modern technology makes a significant contribution to the quality of the dental department. “An education without this innovative technology is simply not up to date.”