Can CNC Bring Dentistry Into the 21st Century?

There’s just something chilling about the dentist’s office.

When we step into our physician’s office we’re surrounded by high tech machinery. There are instruments with lights, gauges, and computers attached to them. The doctor might carry a tablet computer to record his or her notes.

The optician’s office is much the same. There are devices that look like they came from science fiction. Pre-programmed robotics take measurements of your eye and relay custom specifications to cut precision corrective lenses just for you.

But, then we get to the dentist. One look around the dentist’s office at the scrapers, chisels, hammers, wrenches, pliers, and other seemingly low-tech solutions and it’s almost as if we’ve stepped back in time; or perhaps into a horror movie.

One dentist is using CNC to change that. The Democrat and Chronicle, a newspaper out of Rochester, New York, tells the story of Dr. Randy Raetz. Dr. Raetz is a dentist in Brighton, New York. Using a combination of a 3D scanner and an in-house CNC machine, he is able to produce custom crowns while his patients wait.

The machines, part of a PlanScan combination of scanner and CNC milling machine, is one of several models now available in the newly created industry of “digital dentistry”. The mill itself is about the size of a large breadmaker.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, CNC mills are able to work with a variety of raw materials. Steel, alloys, wood, and plastics can all be milled to exact specifications when the machine is used properly. In the case of digital dentistry, the material is porcelain. The 3D scanner take all of the appropriate measurements and sends them to the CNC mill. The mill, in turn, works with a piece of raw porcelain and shapes it to the real-time specifications it just recieved.

A small amount of work, done by hand, is still necessary to add the appropriate final touches. But, in the end, the dentist has created a custom crown for the patient, during the initial visit, that is more accurate that any of the chalky, disgusting form-fitting molds that we have been told to bite down on in the past.

It is hard to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by CNC. CNC milling and turning has been used to create parts from the very large to the very small. Just on this blog we’ve seen industrial applications, of course, but we’ve also seen art, medicine, and using CNC to make the world a better place.

Regardless of your use of this technology, one thing that can’t be overlooked is the impact it has had on our ability to manufacture goods and provide excellent service for customers. Precision milling must be done with precision for serious reasons. At Excello, we are proud to produce the tools and other precision-machined goods that make our customers as successful as they can be.

Excello Tool Engineering & Manufacturing Company located in Milford, CT