Simplifying computer-assisted and CAD/CAM Designed Implants

The revolution in digital imaging and CAD/CAM technologies has created a wave of restorative opportunities for dentists. Most recently, CAD/CAM dentistry’s forte of designing and producing onlays, inlays and crowns has been expanded to include custom implant abutments and crowns.

The manufacture of implant crowns and abutments can be outsourced to labs around the country using electronic imaging, color correction and 3D modeling. CAD/CAM and digital imaging technology is also enabling many dentists to produce abutments and crowns in the office. Whether created in-house or outsourced, the designing and frication of an implant restoration is usually achieved via a variety of manufacturer-specific proprietary programs.

What’s more, all of those processes currently reside outside the patient history. The process of designing and surgically installing dental implants is an additional information and workload burden because it is not integrated into treatment planning software. For example, imaging programs are proprietary, and don’t always interface directly with the patient record or a CAD/CAM machine. As a result, data must be copied and entered into multiple systems, or ported between systems that may not interface well.

An electronic dental record (EDR) that could accept all of those inputs and provide a comprehensive view of the patient’s proposed, accepted and installed implants would vastly increase usability and speed for office use of these technologies. This is especially true for computer-guided surgery, where the information needs are even more complex, the procedure is highly invasive and where timely access to patient medical history (are they on blood thinners?) is more crucial.

Even more dental imaging and modeling technologies are on the horizon. In England, researchers have just completed building a camera that provides “hyperspectral imaging” which provides much more information than traditional cameras, 3D images and all wavelengths of light (Dr Bicuspid, 2013).

That information could provide much more precise and improved information about oral health. All this data deserves to be in the patient record. The increase in affordability and usage of computer-guided surgery and dental imaging will lead to greater improvements in implant and restorative surgery. However, positioning the necessary data for easiest and safest use still requires work.

Lessons Learned:

  • Whether created in-house using CAD/CAM or outsourced to a lab, much data must be exchanged between software systems to create restorative dental implants.
  • Currently, design and surgical procedures for those implants is not integrated with the patient record, but resides in more than one software system.
  • Dental technology and modeling options continue to increase, but are usually in parallel and time-consuming software systems. Ease of use is not there yet.
  • Implant and restorative surgery would benefit from comprehensive Electronic Dental Records.

Orentlicher, Gary, Horowitz, Andrew & Abboud, Marcus. (2013) Computer-Guided Surgery: Indications and Guidelines for Use. Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Nov/Dec. Last Accessed Jan 15, 2013:

Dr. Bicuspid Staff. (2013) 3D Color X-ray Imaging Yields Better Biopsies. Dr. Bicuspid, Jan 14. Last Accessed Jan 15, 2013:

Sesemann, Michael (2012) Evolving Lab-Clinician Communication. Inside Dental Technology, 3(11): December. Last Accessed Jan 15, 2013:

Paquette, Jacinthe. (2012) Digitally Planned, Site-specific Implants. Inside Dental Technology, 3(11): December. Last Accessed Jan 15, 2013:

Feuerstein, Paul (2012) Trends in Technology. Inside Dental Technology, 3(11): December. Last Accessed Jan 15, 2013: