Dental Crowns Fast!

July 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you've ever needed to have a permanent crown put on one of your teeth, you know it usually takes more than one appointment, more than one shot of novocain and more than a little bit of patience. But now, technology is giving patients new, permanent crowns in just one day!With a busy work schedule, Lillian Singleton barely has time to read a magazine, much less go to the dentist. But as a dental assistant, she knows how important it is to take care of her smile. So when her dentist told her she could get a permanent crown in just one day?

"I mean, it's wonderful. I tell you, time has changed!" Singleton says.

Getting a new crown used to start with impressions ? messy and uncomfortable. Then, the patient had to live with a temporary until the permanent crown was ready. With a new computerized system, Singleton can get a new, permanent crown in about an hour and a half.

First, the tooth is prepped ? then sprayed with titanium dioxide to create contrast. Next, the dentist uses a tiny TV camera, to take a series of images.

"It takes a three dimensional picture so not only giving you X and Y coordinates -- how wide and how thick it is -- it also gives you length and depth," says Alan Ripps, D.M.D., a dentist with the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry in New Orleans.

Putting the TV images together, then adding a bite record that shows how the teeth fit together, the computer designs the crown. It can be adjusted on the spot for less contact or a better bite. The computer sends the plan to a machine, which cuts and refines the custom crown in about 15 minutes.

"It's extremely accurate," Dr. Ripps says. "It's as accurate as any other techniques we have."

A few final adjustments and the permanent crown goes in. One new crown ? one very happy patient.

The system that makes the same-day crowns costs about $150,000 -- and because it's so expensive, researchers say it may be awhile before it's in use all over the country. Cost for the crowns is about the same as the conventional variety and they are generally covered by insurance.