New Tech = Faster, Better Dental Work

The 779th Dental Squadron is using new computer design technology to make dental operations more efficient and to assist Airmen in maintaining dental mission readiness.

Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining (CAD/CAM) has been used by the Air Force to design everything from mission essential equipment to base facilities and is now being used in the dental clinic to make crowns and other similar tooth restorations.

Michael McCombs, 779th Dental Squadron dental technician, shows the ceramic crown designed using Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining technology on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec 1, 2014. Dental technicians are using CAD/CAM technology to make daily operations more efficient and assist Airmen in maintaining mission readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matt Davis/Released)

Michael McCombs, 779th Dental Squadron dental technician, shows the ceramic crown designed using Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining technology on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec 1, 2014. Dental technicians are using CAD/CAM technology to make daily operations more efficient and assist Airmen in maintaining mission readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matt Davis/Released)

When a restoration is required, the tooth and surrounding teeth are photographed with a camera attached to a chair-side design unit using CAD/CAM technology. The images are incorporated into design software and a crown proposal is created.

The crown design is sent to a milling unit for fabrication. A new ceramic crown can be “milled” or cut from a block of ceramic in approximately fifteen minutes. Within an hour, a dental lab technician can have a new restoration ready to deliver the same day. The milling machine can produce multiple restorations in a day, while previous conventional fabrication methods took approximately 4-6 weeks.

The Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining fabricator designs a molar for tooth restoration on Joint Base Andrews Dec. 1, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matt Davis/Released)

The Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining fabricator designs a molar for tooth restoration on Joint Base Andrews Dec. 1, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matt Davis/Released)

“The success with CAD/CAM restorations is excellent and the procedure is more pleasant for patients. Patients generally do not require impression material in their mouth and there is no waiting time in which they are wearing a temporary crown while the permanent crown is being fabricated. The technology is especially useful when a member needs to deploy quickly,” said Capt. Luke Cantamessa, 779th Dental Squadron, dentist.

CAD/CAM technology is being integrated across the DOD and will likely follow the same path as digital radiology, which is present in all USAF dental clinics. While not every USAF dental clinic has a CAD/CAM unit, new models and new capabilities are already being developed.

“The cost savings with CAD/CAM can be applied to other more expensive practices such as implants and surgical procedures. This helps broaden the treatment options available to patients,” said Maj. Nathan Krivitzky, Director of the 779th Dental Squadron Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program.

Story and information provided by the U.S. Air Force Medical Service
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