Modern Dentistry: Digital Systems

Along with many technological advances, dentistry has evolved towards becoming more digital in the past few years. The newest systems include computerized methods, and new materials are constantly being introduced in the market with promising results, ensuring increased success and longevity of restorations.


CAD/CAM means computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. Through digital methods like digital x-rays, scans, and photographs, a computer is capable of designing restorations, and building them up through 3D “printing” so that they can be placed in the patient’s mouth according with an exact fit, meeting their specific needs.


CEREC stands for Ceramic Reconstruction. It is a brand name of Sirona, a company that specializes in dental materials and equipment. CEREC is a method of CAD/CAM.

This innovative system allows the patient to get a restoration such as a veneer, inlay, onlay or a full crown, all in a single appointment.

The material for these restorations is usually porcelain, however a new hybrid ceramic is also now being used. Vita ENAMIC is the name for the newest restoration material, a combination of ceramic and polymer; particularly useful because it is capable of absorbing biting loads, offering great strength and flexibility as well as excellent durability.

With CEREC systems, there is no need for a dental laboratory because the final restoration is built immediately after the dentist is done preparing (grinding down) the tooth.

The digital process is as follows:

  1. The dentist grinds down the tooth to the desired characteristics.
  2. A digital impression is taken using the CAD/CAM system. This method is powder free, consisting of an intraoral camera that photographs the tooth and other desirable areas, such as the opposing teeth and the patient’s bite. This impression system by Sirona is called Omnicam. The computer software processes the pictures taken and creates a virtual 3-dimensional model of the teeth that can be studied in every possible angle.
  3. A perfectly fitting restoration is designed by computer, and just like a common computer’s printing command, the grinding and milling machine carves the restoration out of a small, color-matched block of the chosen material. All of this is performed inside the dentist’s office.
  4. After this process is completed, the dentist can add any finishing touches to the restoration and then it is simply cemented onto the tooth and the work is finalized.

What is the Benefit of Modern Digital Dental Technology?

For dental clinics that don’t have modern digital systems, they must rely on a reliable, yet old-fashioned process that requires a minimum of two appointments. During the first appointment the tooth is prepared to receive the restoration, and a temporary material is placed. In the interim, a dental technician at a dental laboratory is responsible for building the restoration with the chosen material. At the second appointment, the temporary material is replaced with the final restoration. One or two control appointments are recommended to ensure a proper fit. Upon successful completion of the control appointments, the treatment is finalized.

If you are interested in getting dental restorations using CAD/CAM systems in Costa Rica, please fill out the “Help me find a Dentist!” form and a participating dental specialist will contact you to discuss your case.