Crown Me!

So I broke a crown on a molar last week. Fortunately, it wasn’t hurting, just painful when my tongue dragged across one of the barbs left at the break-point. I was anticipating having to have a replacement made, and I dreaded that process.

Ya know the deal…. drilling, shaping and cutting on the tooth to get it ready for a crown, filling your mouth with goo that has about as much taste as melting tires to make an impression, getting a temporary, and then coming back in a few weeks for the final fitting of the new crown. It’s a long process, and not particularly comfortable.

I went to a neighborhood dentist that’s been taunting us with junkmail and fridge magnets since we moved to the new neighborhood a few years ago. He’s just down the street, so return visits, etc., would be easier for this process of replacing my broken crown.

After I plopped into the chair, the dentist confirmed that the crown was broken (I hope I didn’t pay extra for that particular piece of sage wisdom), and that they would have to replace it. Not unexpected. However, the process at this place was sooooo different than my last round with crown-dom.

First off, they did x-rays of the broken crown while it was still installed. Historically, that’s been film, processing and then a lighttable reading of the picture. These guys still do the x-ray, but with some kind of sensor that displays the x-ray on a display instantly. It still uses x-rays, but at a much lower dosage (so I was told). So that shaved a bunch of time off the process. Somewhere in here, they also took pictures of the broken crown.

After that, they cut the remnants of the old crown off the tooth. Not thrilling, but a necessary evil.

Here’s where the process really gets cool. They applied some kind of reflective dust to my tooth — supposedly, it’s made of the same stuff that the “m” is printed with on M&Ms — and then put a tiny camera over the tooth, shooting three shots. That instantly went to a PC-based workstation, and there on the screen was an overlay of my broken crown and the area after the crown was removed. The system built a 3D image, and the tech “built” my crown on the spot, designing it on-screen, making the bite better, adjusting the width a bit to allow for flossing, and then sending it to a milling machine in another room.

The tech took me down there, and I was able to watch this fantastic machine carve my new crown out of a block of porcelin (sp?). This box had two arms, one with a sharp tool, and one with a duller tool, and both of them were going to town on this tiny block of material, carving a crown from it. Of course, the bits had a constant spray of water to keep them cool, and help with the carving process.

In twelve minutes, I had a new crown ready for installation. After a little fine tuning at the chair, it was installed, and inside 90 minutes, I went from a busted crown to a brand new one. Now that’s cool!