Dental science is progressing quickly, with new techniques, technologies, and materials becoming available every year. This is especially true for dental prosthetics–not long ago removable dentures and bridges were the only real option for most people. Now there are a host of other choices, ranging from veneers and crowns to dental implants that function just like the natural teeth they replace. If you have a missing or damaged tooth, your dentist may suggest a CEREC crown as an alternative to a traditional crown or bridge. But what is CEREC and what role does it play in dentistry now? It’s an interesting and useful new technology, and learning more about it can help you talk to your dentist about how it might enhance your smile.

CEREC stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic. That’s a lot of words, but it is what it sounds like: an affordable way of creating a variety of dental prosthetics using digital modeling and CAD/CAM dentistry (Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing). CEREC works something like this. During an office visit, your dentist will take a digital scan of the tooth or teeth in question. This three-dimensional digital image will in turn be used to make another three-dimensional digital model, this time of the desired prosthesis. That design will be sent to a machine that automatically creates the prosthetic. That may happen in-house at your dentist’s office or they may send it out to a lab. Either way, it’s generally a fairly speedy affair, and your new prosthetic will then be implanted appropriately by your oral health care provider. CEREC and CAD/CAM can be used together to create a variety of dental prosthetics, including crowns, inlays and onlays, bridges, veneers, dental implants, dentures, and even some orthodontic appliances. The speed and affordability of CEREC make it a huge step forward in how these things are done. Dentists need no longer stock up on impression materials, or to work to create temporary restorations. Much CEREC work can be done on the same day, which eliminates the time and expense associated with multiple office visits. Perhaps best of all for the patient, CEREC prosthetics are better fitting than their traditional alternatives, and they last much longer–most CEREC inlays and onlays last for 27 years or more.

While CEREC is great, there are a couple of things to bear in mind when considering it as an option for your dental prosthetic. Not every dentist office offers CEREC as an option–the machines and devices needed can be pricey and extensive training is involved in learning to use them. For a CEREC prosthetic, you’ll want to seek out a dentist who specializes in that kind of thing to make the most of the technology involved. And while CEREC prosthetics are the best thing available right now, they still have the limitations inherent to each type of prosthetic, so you and your dentist will have to talk about which choices are right for you in terms of the kind of treatment you get. However, the right technology and the right dentist can do a lot for your smile, which can improve not only your oral health but your overall well being.