Inside Dentistry
March 2016
Volume 12, Issue 3

Practical Integration of Chairside CAD/CAM Technology

Learning and applying new skills for a better practice

Dennis J. Fasbinder, DDS, ABGD

There is a growing array of digital technology and computerized systems for dental treatment with continually expanding clinical applications. This creates an ongoing demand for clinicians to determine what technology to adopt and when to integrate it into their dental practices. Some adopters of chairside CAD/CAM systems have been incorporating a digital workflow in their practices for more than 30 years and can be looked to for suggestions in transitioning to this digital technology.

What to Consider When Integrating Chairside CAD/CAM

One key element is to avoid considering what chairside CAD/CAM technology may replace in the practice. Instead, consider it for what it may transform in the practice. For example, intraoral digital impressions are often compared with the time and cost of making a conventional polyvinylsiloxane (PVS) impression. While both conventional and digital impressions are accurate and useful for making restorations, the replacement approach overlooks one of the most significant advantages chairside CAD/CAM technology contributes to a practice. The real question is: what is it worth to prepare and deliver a crown in a single appointment so a patient does not need a temporary or to return for a second appointment? This is the transformation chairside CAD/CAM technology offers—the opportunity to deliver a significantly improved patient experience in a more efficient workflow for both the patient and office. The impact on the patient experience should not be discounted or overlooked. The improvement in the comfort and convenience of the patient experience can have a powerful impact on a practice.

The entire dental team needs to be included in integrating chairside CAD/CAM technology. While the dentist needs to lead the process, success is significantly influenced through the inclusion and support of the entire dental team. Chairside CAD/CAM technology offers an excellent way for the dental team to become more engaged in patient treatment.

Plan for an incremental integration of chairside CAD/CAM technology to the practice. There is an ever-expanding range of clinical applications, including implant planning, implant surgical placement, crowns, veneers, bridges, implant restorations, orthodontics, and oral appliances, among others. It does not all need to be implemented at the outset. Consider what clinical applications may fit optimally into the practice or those that may lead to a greater initial impact. As knowledge and skill develops, the confidence in applying the chairside CAD/CAM technology will progress as well. Additional clinical applications will naturally evolve and become integrated in the practice while making maximum use of the equipment. Chairside CAD/CAM technology is only of value if it is used for patient treatment and not sitting idle in the corner.

Final Considerations

Training and support are critical for effective implementation. Chairside CAD/CAM technology involves learning and applying some new skills while refining existing clinical workflows. This applies to the whole dental team, as the team often plays a very active role in imaging, designing, and fabricating chairside CAD/CAM restorations. The educational investment in the dental team also improves their job satisfaction, as they become increasingly more integral to treatment and the patient experience.


Dennis J. Fasbinder, DDS, ABGD, has received research grant funding and educational honoraria from a number of companies involved with chairside CAD/CAM systems, including 3M ESPE, Ivoclar Vivadent, DENTSPLY, and Sirona Dental.

About the Author

Dennis J. Fasbinder, DDS, ABGD, is a clinical professor of cariology, restorative sciences, and endodontics and the program director of the computerized dentistry program at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Before You Buy: CAD/CAM Equipment

Reasons to Invest

• Deliver an improved patient experience
• Experience a more efficient workflow
• Enhance team job satisfaction

Pre-Purchase Considerations

• Speak to colleagues who have integrated CAD/CAM
• Identify protocol that can be transformed rather than replaced
• Research the amount of training you and your staff will receive

Keys to Integration

• Involve the entire dental team in the integration process
• Be systematic and integrate in stages
• Start with high-impact applications

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