What is CAD/CAM Dentistry and How Does it Work?

What is CAD/CAM Dentistry and How Does it Work? image

The use of CAD/CAM in dentistry has sparked a new era in personalised restorations that makes high-end cosmetic work accessible to smaller dental practices.  


The use of CAD/CAM in dentistry has increased steeply over recent years. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) are powerful tools dentists can use to deliver high-quality dental restorations efficiently and with improved patient outcomes.

At Avant Dental, we use the latest digital CAD/CAM technology to design and manufacture all our restoration products. Expert Avant technicians work closely with dentists to help pre-plan implant treatments, and dentists can make on-the-spot design adjustments in our online virtual lab.

That’s the power of CAD/CAM technology in digital dentistry

What is CAD/CAM dentistry?

CAD/CAM technology in dentistry is used to design and manufacture dental restorations, such as splints, crowns, bridges, veneers, inlays, and onlays. It streamlines the traditional workflows by reducing the time and effort required to produce high-quality dental restorations.

The use of CAD/CAM in dentistry begins with a digital scan of the patient’s teeth and oral structures. The dentist uses an intraoral scanner to capture precise 3D images of the teeth and gums, which are used to create a digital model. Avant also accepts manual impressions, which we digitise in our state-of-the-art lab. 

This digital model is then sent to a dental lab that typically uses specialised CAD dental software to design the custom dental restoration. At Avant, highly-skilled lab technicians work with the dentist to modify the restoration’s shape, size, and fit to ensure a precise and accurate final product.

After the design is finalised and approved by the dentist, the CAD software sends the design to a CAM machine – such as a dental milling machine or 3D printer – that uses the information to manufacture the dental restoration from a block of suitable material like ceramic, resin, or metal.

Once the dental restoration is manufactured, it may undergo some additional finishing touches at the lab in order for the restoration to accurately match the patient’s natural teeth. 

What are the advantages of CAD/CAM in dentistry? 

There are numerous advantages of CAD/CAM in dentistry for both dental professionals and patients. It improves the quality of dental restorations, reduces treatment time, enhances patient comfort, and helps to increase the overall efficiency – and therefore profitability – of dental practices. 

Precision and accuracy: Digital scanning reduces the risk of errors and ensures a perfect fit for the restoration. Then CAD software enables Avant technicians to make precise adjustments to achieve optimal aesthetics and functionality.

Enhanced patient experience: Digital dentistry eliminates the use of traditional impression materials that can be quite uncomfortable for patients. CAD/CAM digital dentistry also streamlines the entire restoration workflow, and reduces appointment and waiting time for patients.

Superior aesthetics: CAD/CAM restorations can be highly customised to closely match the patient’s natural teeth. CAD software enables Avant technicians to precisely manipulate  shapes, sizes, and shades to create restorations that blend seamlessly with the patient’s smile. 

Improved efficiency: Digital scans can typically be completed faster than physical impressions, which means less chair time and shorter appointments per patient. CAD/CAM dentistry also drastically reduces the need for remakes – and associated expenses.

What are the key components of a CAD/CAM system used in dentistry?

A CAD/CAM system typically consists of several key components that work together to design and manufacture dental restorations. An intraoral scanner serves as the foundation of the CAD/CAM process, and CAD software allows Avant technicians to digitally design the dental restoration based on the intraoral scan. 

CAM software then takes the digital design created in the CAD software and generates instructions for the milling machine or 3D printer to manufacture the dental restoration. It determines the toolpaths and milling parameters necessary to fabricate the restoration accurately. Depending on the specific CAD/CAM system, the restoration is either milled from a solid block of material or 3D printed layer by layer. 

Materials are also a key component of CAD/CAM systems. The choice of material depends on factors such as the type of restoration needed, aesthetics, and the location in the mouth, but commonly include ceramics, composite resins, and metal alloys.

Shade matching tools may also be used as part of a CAD/CAM system, and many systems feature a library of pre-designed restoration templates for common dental procedures. These templates serve as a starting point for customisation and can save time for routine cases.

Finally, CAD/CAM systems often have in-built quality control tools to ensure the accuracy of the final restoration. This may include simulation features that allow the dentist or technician to preview the fit and occlusion of the restoration before manufacturing begins.

How does CAD/CAM technology improve the accuracy and precision of dental restorations? 

CAD/CAM technology significantly improves the accuracy and precision of dental restorations through several key mechanisms. These include:

Digital scanning: This process eliminates the need for traditional dental impressions, which can be prone to distortion and inaccuracies. The digital scan captures the exact 3D shape and contours of the patient’s teeth, and provides a highly accurate and detailed representation of the oral anatomy.

Precise measurements: The digital scan also allows for precise measurements of the teeth and surrounding structures. This level of accuracy enables the CAD software to create dental restorations that fit perfectly within the patient’s mouth, and minimise any gaps or inaccuracies that might occur with conventional impression-based techniques.

Digital occlusion analysis: Some CAD/CAM software includes occlusion analysis tools that simulate how the restoration will interact with the patient’s opposing teeth during biting and chewing. This helps identify any potential interferences or occlusal issues before manufacturing, and contributes to a more accurate final result.

Collaborative design process: The digital nature of CAD/CAM allows for a collaborative design process between the dentist and Avant lab technicians. Dentists can easily make adjustments to the restoration design in our virtual lab before finalising it for manufacturing. This ability to fine-tune the design ensures that the end product meets the patient’s specific needs and aesthetic preferences.

Consistency in reproduction: With CAD/CAM technology, once a successful restoration design is achieved, it can be precisely reproduced every time it is needed. This ensures that each product matches the original design accurately, which can be particularly useful for manufacturing replacement splints and retainers

What level of training or expertise is required for dental staff to operate CAD/CAM systems?

Training for CAD/CAM digital dentistry systems is typically provided by the manufacturer of the equipment or through third-party training programs. These training programs often cover various aspects of the CAD/CAM workflow, including hardware operation, software utilisation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and best practices for achieving high-quality restorations.

However, the level of training and expertise required for dental staff to operate CAD/CAM systems can vary depending on the complexity of the system and the specific tasks they need to perform. Generally, there are different roles within the dental team involved in CAD/CAM dentistry, each requiring different levels of training. These include:

Dentists: Dentists are typically responsible for treatment planning, and determining the need for dental restorations. They need a comprehensive understanding of dental anatomy, restorative materials, occlusion, and digital design principles. Avant technicians have training on the specific CAD software, which takes the technical CAD knowledge burden off dentists. 

Dental assistants: Dental assistants play a crucial role in the CAD/CAM workflow. They may assist in capturing digital impressions using intraoral scanners and may help with the initial setup and calibration of the equipment. Dental assistants usually receive specific training from manufacturers or through continuing education courses.

Dental technicians: Avant’s dental technicians are responsible for the design and fabrication of the dental restorations based on the digital scan provided by the dentist or dental assistant. We have developed a deep understanding of dental materials, milling and 3D printing technology, and use specialised CAM software. 

Front office staff: Front office staff may not directly operate the CAD/CAM systems, but they need to understand the workflow and scheduling processes related to CAD/CAM digital dentistry. They play a role in coordinating appointments, managing patient records, and communicating with patients about the benefits of CAD/CAM technology in dentistry.

Can CAD/CAM systems integrate with existing dental software and equipment?

Absolutely. Many modern CAD/CAM systems are designed to integrate seamlessly with existing dental software and equipment. Integration is essential to ensure a smooth workflow and efficient communication between different components of the dental practice or lab.

CAD/CAM systems can obviously integrate with intraoral scanners to seamlessly upload scans to the CAD software for design. But CAD/CAM systems can also often integrate with the dental practice’s existing digital imaging and patient records software. Having all patient data in one place streamlines the treatment planning process and enhances the overall patient experience.

Some CAD/CAM systems can even integrate with practice management software. This integration streamlines case tracking, scheduling, and communication between the dental practice and its patients. 

Additionally, some advanced CAD/CAM systems offer integration with billing and inventory management software, which allows automated invoicing and tracking of materials used in the manufacturing process.

Manufacturers often provide information on compatible software and equipment, and in some cases, may offer software development kits (SDKs) or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for more extensive custom integration.


Want to learn more about CAD/CAM dentistry? Read 5 Ways Digital Dental Impressions can Transform your Practice.

Avant Dental provides quality CAD/CAM restorations to suit every patient’s needs. To find out more about working with us, please email contact@avantdental.com.au or phone 1800 287 336.

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