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New technology takes pain out of major dentistry

A camera scans a casting or mold and sends an extremely high-resolution, three-dimensional image to the modeling computer Jan. 26 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The item needed is then created in a virtual environment and either transmitted to the Area Dental Lab, or created in-house on a precision milling machine. The $64,000 computerized milling system shortens the processing time to create crowns and bridges from six weeks to a couple of hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

A camera scans a casting or mold and sends an extremely high-resolution, three-dimensional image to the modeling computer Jan. 26 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The item needed is then created in a virtual environment and either transmitted to the Area Dental Lab, or created in-house on a precision milling machine. The $64,000 computerized milling system shortens the processing time to create crowns and bridges from six weeks to a couple of hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

A new precision milling machine uses two fine diamond-coated burrs to grind away at a ceramic block to create crowns, bridges or veneers Jan. 29 at the dental clinic on Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The $64,000 computerized milling system shortens the processing time of the dental work from six weeks to a couple of hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

A new precision milling machine uses two fine diamond-coated burrs to grind away at a ceramic block to create crowns, bridges or veneers Jan. 29 at the dental clinic on Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The $64,000 computerized milling system shortens the processing time of the dental work from six weeks to a couple of hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNEWS) -- Dental work for deploying Moody AFB Airmen that once took six weeks can now be accomplished at the dental clinic in a number of hours because of a new computer-based system now in use.

The $64,000 system frees laboratory technicians from the time-consuming process of molding plaster, shaping wax, forging metal and then overlaying porcelain, said Tech. Sgt. Jason Shirey, a 23rd Aerospace-Dental Squadron laboratory technician.

"Prior to the usage of the new system, if you made any mistakes in certain parts of the process, you needed to start over from scratch," Sergeant Shirey said.

With the new technology, a silicone mold of the prepared area and the teeth around it is made and scanned into a computer-aided manufacturing system. The dental assembly is created digitally from a database and adjusted virtually in minutes.
With a single press of a mouse button, the milling machine grinds a $20 block of machine-millable ceramic into an inlay, overlay, crown or veneer in about 20 minutes, Sergeant Shirey said.

"All that's required after it comes off the machine is a 15-minute glazing of shaded porcelain and the tooth repair is ready to be permanently cemented into place," he said.

The new system gives the dental clinic more options on how to handle each individual situation, said Staff Sgt. Victoriano Aurea, a 23rd Aerospace-Dental Squadron laboratory technician.

"If you need something for a single tooth, we can do that all in-house," he said. "If you need a bridge or a larger assembly, our laboratory can still make it the traditional way, or we can design it digitally and send the file to the area dental lab at Peterson AFB, Colo. The ADL is equipped with a special, high-temperature oven that cures and strengthens the composite materials you need to use for those pieces."

The system is also a force multiplier for the laboratory staff.

"It's like having two technicians in the laboratory," Sergeant Shirey said. "I can hit the 'grind' button and design another crown while the first is being made by the computer."

The process is not intended for every customer, but the high number of short-notice deployments from here made the system a good match for Moody AFB, Sergeant Shirley said.

"If you don't need to leave on short notice, your dentist may prefer to stick to more traditional methods," he said. "But now, if you need to get on that plane and deploy with your team today, we can fit you a permanent crown about six hours after your dentist orders one. This is an amazing improvement for our patients."

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