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CAD/CAM Technology in Simulation Lab

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 This past month, I witnessed first-hand the dynamic field of computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing, also known as CAD/CAM. For the first time, second year dental students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry were offered the opportunity to use this state of the art technology. Using omnicams and a lab grade milling unit, this technology will help dental students in self-assessing how to properly prepare teeth for inlays and onlays. In pre-clinic, our teeth preparations are evaluated on typodont manikins for criteria including tapered proximal walls, axial and occlusal reduction, rounded line angles, and precise margins. Improvement of our skills when prepping teeth will continue to increase as we become aware of our mistakes and are able to self-assess our own work using this technology. 



CAD/CAM technology allows for the capture of tooth preparations and the eventual manufacture of a crown, inlay, onlay, or other restorations. Capturing the tooth preparation allowed us, as students, to assess a digital, three-dimensional picture of our prepared tooth. When imaging my own tooth preparation, I noticed aspects and mistakes of the preparation that I would have otherwise overlooked. Obtaining a three-dimensional image of my tooth preparation was almost as if I was looking at my preparation through someone else’s eyes. After imaging, milling the ceramic crown was the next step in the process. It was really interesting to see the CAD/CAM machine at work and the step-by-step process that it followed to create the restoration. After 13 minutes, the milling component of my ceramic crown had finally finished. This hands-on experience was one that gave me an insight into the ever-changing field of dentistry. As a dentist, it is important to keep up with developing technology and learning this new technique now will allow us to be prepared to embrace technology when we leave dental school.  

Proficiency in CAD/CAM helps students practice restorative dentistry more efficiently and accurately. Students now progress through their education while learning digital imaging, restoration design on software, and milling of ceramic restorations. I was very impressed with the work of the CAD/CAM machine and my milled ceramic restoration. The measurement of marginal fit, axial contours, proximal contacts, and occlusal contacts were of superior clinical quality.   


 

The fact that this same system is used in the clinic at the school where students design and mill restorations in a single visit for a patient enhances this pre-clinical learning experience. This training is directly related to improving student performance in the clinic. The advancement of technology in dentistry will always shape our clinical education as well as our future practice. This technology allows for the creation of unique restorations as well as conservation of sound tooth structure, supporting the future of dentistry as it moves towards a philosophy emphasizing minimally invasive dentistry. As the first dental class to experience this technology hand-on, we are all very enthusiastic about this addition to the curriculum at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. I hope that every dental student is given the opportunity to gain an experience and insight into this field just as we did.