CAD/CAM dentistry is not one single career but consists of a number of dental professionals who use a relatively new kind of technology to deliver positive patient outcomes.
What is CAD/CAM Dentistry?This type of dentistry refers to computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing in dentistry. It’s somewhat of a subfield of dentistry that uses these technologies to create dental restorations. These include crowns, bridges and dental implant restorations.
Industry Demand for CAD/CAM Dental ProfessionalsThere is currently a major industry demand in this area and it is expected to continue growing at a significant rate. The reason such growth is anticipated is because CAD/CAM dentistry helps dental professionals to design individualized shapes and sizes of dental restorations.
It means patients get an incredible precision of fit that was not possible before this technology. A better fit leads to more comfort and lasting durability of the restoration too. It also speeds things up, meaning that what once could take two-visits from the dentist side, for instance, may now just take one visit. This efficiency continues to place the career in high demand.
Professionals Needed in the CareerWithin the workflow of CAD/CAM dentistry, there are a number of dental professionals required. This gives you choices in terms of where you want to fit in if this subfield is one for you. Dentists will obviously require more extensive training given the broader scope of what they do but they also make a higher wage.
Dentists and Laboratory TechniciansTypically, the two key areas in CAD/CAM dentistry include the dentist and the dental laboratory technician. Some dentists and laboratory technicians will receive training within their general coursework while others later go on to take specialised courses after having worked within the general fields for some time.
Workflow and Choosing a CAD/CAM RoleDentists usually provide laboratory technicians with the anatomical set-up. This is done after assessing the patient and deciding on the best course of action for the specific patient’s restorative needs.
The technician takes a scan of the mould and then within a 3-D image on a computer, precisely designs the tooth restoration. Some dentists have the equipment directly on-site and can avoid a mould and having it sent directly to a laboratory.
The dentist or laboratory sends the restoration image away for milling. Or, it is done on-site, depending on the laboratory and dentist. The machine essentially creates a virtually perfect replica of the computer drawing.
Career ControversySome people have a misguided fear that CAD/CAM technology actually takes away from the role of the dentist or laboratory technician. The opposite, however, is true. It does not replace the dentist or even the dental laboratory technician.
In fact, they are needed more than ever to use this technology to create the precise design. What it means is that they are more efficient, provide a better result and can thus potentially make more money.
Studying CAD/CAM DentistryMany laboratory technician and dentistry degree courses include training in this area. The vast majority, however, can expect to first become qualified in their chosen dental profession before taking a postgraduate course in CAD/CAM dentistry.
Career prospects remain high and income can largely depend on your patient base and ability to attract new patients or for laboratory technicians, dentists. If you relish the idea of designing precision restorations to help patients get a better quality of life, then a career in CAD/CAM dentistry is worth considering.