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CAD/CAM

CAD/CAM technology in the Prosthodontics Laboratory

CAD-CAM is an abbreviation for “Computer-Aided Design” and “Computer-Assisted Manufacturing”. It is the ability to digitally scan the patient’s oral situation and transfer it to the software as a 3D model.

This technology carries the Prosthodontics Laboratory into the digital world – creating a Digital Laboratory – and is an excellent asset for Dentistry. This will improve the results of Oral Rehabilitation, such as inlays, onlays, crowns, dental veneers and total fixed prostheses.

CAD-CAM technology has existed since the 70s but has undergone several reinventions over the years to optimise dental prosthetics. It comprises three main components:

Digital impression through the intraoral or extraoral scanner (CAD).

  • In the first phase, the patient’s mouth is scanned, which allows the data collection and its processing by the software. It can either be done directly, through an intraoral scanner or indirectly, from a conventional impression and a plaster model that goes through an extraoral laboratory scanner;
  • The scanning can be performed at two different moments – during the dental preparation (pre-operative) and after the treatment (post-operative);
  • The scanning generates a file that is then sent to the laboratory and is subsequently handled by software to design a virtual model of the smile to be elaborated.

Software (CAD)

  • Responsible for processing the data acquired and received by the scanner. From that record, the images are transformed into geometric shapes for the creation of the rehabilitation designs;
  • Therefore, through this software, it is possible to construct, mould, size and adapt the design to the patient’s needs;
  • This technology can also be used in the digital planning of implant placement and to design and develop a surgical guide for placing the implants more precisely, safely and correctly.

3D printer and milling machine (CAM)

  • Printing: The wax-up models used for mock-ups and tooth try-ins for full rehabilitation on implants (total fixed prosthetics) can be printed in resin quickly and accurately.
  • Milling: the virtually created dental pieces will be milled and materialised into physical dental pieces. This transformation uses specific milling machines that make high-precision cuts in blocks of the chosen material (Zirconium, Lithium Disilicate, Metal, PMMA, etc.), originating and shaping the prosthetic pieces initially designed.

There are several advantages associated with the use of this type of technology and digital methods, such as:

– Increased speed – these technologies make it possible to simplify processes and reduce execution times;

– Greater precision – due to the CAD/CAM process;

– Customising the case – through the design work and a vast library that the software provides, allowing for individual and unique characteristics to be created in oral rehabilitation;

– Increased comfort;

– Memory – the design is saved in the software, allowing a faster execution in signs or corrections.