CAD/CAM Added to Dental School Curricula

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Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) have revolutionized modern dentistry, paving the way to better outcomes for patients and dentists alike. While CAD/CAM has been available to dentists since the 1980s, it’s not until more recently that these techniques have been discussed in the context of dental education.


CAD/CAM Dentistry

CAD/CAM are software that make complex dental procedures faster, easier, and more accurate. CAD/CAM dentistry uses digital scanning to produce 3-D images of your teeth, which are then used to create a variety of restoration devices, like crowns, veneers, inlays, onlays, and bridges. The digital scanning machine is connected to milling equipment that precisely carves restoration devices based on an individual scan. The milling machine can carve restorations from a single block of ceramics, ensuring a more precise fit compared to traditional methods. All of this can be done in a single appointment of 40 minutes to two and a half hours.


Dental CAD/CAM Training

76 percent of American dental schools have at least one CEREC unit from Dentsply Sirona, the most common CAD/CAM equipment found in dental practices. Advancements in the software, hardware, and clinical performance of all-ceramic blocks have caused interest in CAD/CAM to soar among dental schools. Many students now receive lectures, preclinical hands-on training, and clinical experience in CAD/CAM restorations. While more senior dentists often have to learn these technologies on their own, today’s graduating classes are better prepared to integrate CAD/CAM into a clinical setting.

The University of Tennessee College of Dentistry is considered a pioneer of CAD/CAM training, as they were among the first dental schools in the United States to integrate this technology into their pre-graduate curriculum. This pilot program proved to be a major success, and a wave of dental schools quickly followed suit. Today, many schools offer courses dedicated entirely to CAD/CAM, with titles like “Introduction to CAD/CAM Dentistry” and “Ceramic Reconstruction.”

Despite the widespread recognition of CAD/CAM as one of the most important developments in modern dentistry, access to machines remains limited. They are too costly for most dental practices, and just eight to 10 percent of American dentists have an in-house CAD/CAM facility. Nonetheless, practicing dentists as well as dental school instructors agree that this technology will play a key role in the future of dentistry.


Dental CAD/CAM Courses

There’s good news for more senior dentists who graduated long before CAD/CAM courses were the norm: Continuing education courses that focus on CAD/CAM training are popping up everywhere, with both online and in-person instruction available. It’s easier than ever for practicing dentists to take courses that teach this increasingly valuable skill and enhance their practice. From the Institute of Digital Dentistry to 3Shape Academy, there’s no shortage of CAD/CAM courses that work with your schedule.