What is CAD CAM?

CAD CAM stands for Computer-aided Design/Computer-aided Manufacturing. This technology has been around for at least 50 years. It is mainly used in the manufacturing industry to produce high precision tools and parts. It was not until recently that it started being further developed and incorporated into other fields, such as dentistry. Some will say that CAD CAM has been used in dentistry for over 20 years, but only now do we have the technology to support and utilize it to its fullest potential.

CAD CAM technology allows dental professionals to digitally scan the patient’s teeth and with that digital impression, design the restoration on the computer. There are many advantages to this method:

  • There is no need for a traditional impression, therefore it can be a lot more comfortable for the patient. (Check out our earlier blog post about Digital vs Traditional Impression for more details.)
  • CAD CAM technology allows dentists the ability to create a porcelain restoration in only one appointment (same day dentistry). The whole process takes about 2 – 2.5 hours.  There is no need for a second visit to the office as the crown is designed and created in house.

There are 4 main steps involved in the CAD/CAM process

Step 1:

The first step is to take the digital impression. This is done using an intra-oral scanner which takes hundreds of pictures and converts it into a 3-D digital model. This step only takes a few minutes. Again, please refer to our earlier blog post about Digital vs Traditional Impressions for more information about this step.

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Digital Scan

Step 2:

Next, the restoration is designed on the computer.

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The designed restoration on the computer

Step 3:

Then the data from the design restoration data is sent to a milling machine, where a ceramic block that matches the patient’s tooth color is placed.

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Ceramic Block

Step 4:

About 10+ minutes later, the tooth-colored porcelain is ready to be tried in to ensure proper fit. The restoration is then custom glazed (to match the tooth’s natural color/shade), fired and ready to be bonded to the prepared tooth.

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The tooth-colored porcelain, before firing it in the oven

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Final Crown that matches patient’s teeth natural color













The video below illustrates the entire process:

It’s important to point out that, even though this technology is available, it is still a fairly large investment for most offices to obtain it. We, at Chicago Beautiful Smiles, are proud to have the ability to offer innovative, state-of-the-art technology to our patients.

Lastly, refer to our CAD/CAM page for even more information about this technology.