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June 2013
Volume 34, Issue 6

3M ESPE: Easing the Transition to CAD/CAM Dentistry

The impact CAD/CAM technology has had on the day-to-day operation of dental laboratories and practices—as well as on the development of restorative materials—has been profound, observes Colin F. Norman, PhD, Global Lab Manager Digital Materials, 3M ESPE. First, he says, “[CAD/CAM] enables laboratories to generate high-quality restorations—even those based on traditional impressions—with higher productivity.” At the same time, he adds, “Easier-to-use systems enable chairside doctors to make good quality restorations using a wide range of materials, from zirconia ceramic to new hybrid materials like 3M’s Lava™ Ultimate Restorative.”

The result, he says, is a win-win situation for all, including patients, who benefit from “precise, esthetic, long-lasting restorations.”

The main advantage of CAD/CAM systems, in general, Norman says, lies in their use of digital data, which, in theory, provides for more accurate and reproducible final restorations. However, he warns, achieving this goal depends on several factors—all of which boil down to quality of the data and the systems that generate and use it.

“Clearly, the accuracy of the digital scan that is used to capture the original information is critical,” says Norman. “Once obtained, good, sensible restoration design will enable the final part to have the correct function.”

“In addition, the accuracy of milling machines to convert this information into accurate physical constructions and the control over material properties to provide uniform, homogeneous shrinkage are both key for good fit and perfect margins,” Norman states.

A large part of enabling CAD/CAM users to reap these benefits, says Norman, is to ease clinicians’ transition from traditional to digital workflows, starting with providing their dental technicians with digital impressions. As an innovative and leading provider of impression materials, 3M ESPE is poised to help, he says. “3M ESPE continues to invest in material science and digital technology to make the impression procedure as seamless as possible.”

The 3M™ True Definition Scanner was designed to provide dentists “with their best first step to digital dentistry,” Norman explains. The system, he says, is highly accurate, affordable, and “open to other systems.” 3M ESPE, which created its first CAD/CAM system specifically for its Lava™ Zirconia, simplifies clinicians’ conversion to chairside dentistry by providing materials that are easy to use and do not require special training. Among them is Lava Ultimate Restorative, a resin nanoceramic material that, he says, offers many advantages over traditional glass ceramics, providing restorations with higher esthetics and durability. The product, he adds, is easy to mill and finish.

For the growing laboratory market, Norman says, innovations in materials include Lava™ Plus High Translucency Zirconia, which “enables technicians to offer one of the most esthetic monolithic restorations on the market today.” To support this product, the company provides training through its partner, Jensen Dental, in addition to a wealth of literature and online materials.

Looking ahead, Norman suggests that due to “the sheer number of companies that are moving into the digital CAD/CAM market space” some challenges to greater adaptation and integration of CAD/CAM technology must be overcome. “This proliferation of new systems offers great opportunity, but the lack of universally accepted software/hardware platforms has made the connection of scanners, design centers, and milling machines challenging,” he says. He believes, however, that the industry has “finally reached a tipping point and will see the adoption of open systems, which will greatly simplify connectivity.”

Meanwhile, Norman says, 3M ESPE will continue to focus on digital technology, including impressioning for the dentist, as well as innovative materials. “We are already working on advances in ceramics and nanoceramics that will lead to significant improvements in esthetics and usability,” he says. “The ultimate goal is to produce materials that have excellent ‘tooth-like’ properties while providing easy handling—all the way through milling, finishing and polishing, and cementing.”

3M ESPE Dental Products
3M Center, 275
St. Paul, MN 55144-1000

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