MedUni Vienna: The high-tech method to perfect, digitally manufactured dental implants

In a few years time, the conventional method of taking dental impressions using an impression tray could be a thing of the past. The MedUni Vienna Clinic of Dentistry, Oral and Orthodontic Medicine already uses CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) for taking impressions for and making many of the dental implants required in a special outpatient clinic. The scope of application of this method ranges from single tooth implants to complete dentures. In this respect, the Vienna University Clinic of Dentistry is one of the leading clinics in Europe.

"MedUni Vienna is already using digital impressions for particularly demanding oral surgeries and complex prosthetic restorations. At the same time, we are generating important input for the further development of CAD/CAM technology, both in our research and in our clinical practice," explains Andreas Moritz, Principal of the University Clinic of Dentistry, Oral and Orthodontic Medicine.

As in the previous method, the teeth are first of all prepared – for example by polishing – and then the prepared teeth, the adjacent teeth and the opposing teeth are scanned in a contactless procedure using a small, ergonomically-shaped optical scanner. The graphical data obtained are then converted into a 3-D computer model, which is then digitally processed by a dental technician.

"The software performs all those steps of dental technology, which previously had to be done manually. Nowadays a dental technician is much more a dental designer and can accurately perfect the dental implant virtually," says Tom Vaskovich, head of MedUni Vienna’s dental laboratory. Once the optical impression and virtual design have been completed, the computerized milling machine (CAM) manufactures the dental implant. Often a physical model is no longer required for single tooth restorations. It is possible to work "model-free" without any loss of quality. The model is then only really used for control purposes.

"The main advantages for the treatment team are the enhanced precision of the impression, the ability to check the quality of the impression very quickly and the reproducibility and availability of datasets," says Moritz. The advantages for patients are that the impression-taking process is much more pleasant, impressions can be taken quickly and contact-free, even following operations, and digital impressions for dental implants ensure an even more accurate fit.

According to the MedUni Vienna experts, in around three years time this new technique will be refined to such a stage that it will be possible to take all impressions digitally. For information: CAD/CAM technology was initially developed for the aerospace and automotive industry and was subsequently incorporated into modern dental technology.

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