BACKGROUND: A new product called iTero will render the traditional method of taking dental impressions obsolete. It is fast, painless and free of mess, creating an exact replica of the patient's teeth, resulting in a better fitted crown or bridge in 10 minutes. iTero allows dentists to generate a dental impression by quickly scanning the inside of a person's mouth with a handheld wand. Images of the patient's mouth are captured in real time, then magnified and displayed on a monitor while the patient is still in the chair. This enables dentists to make any necessary adjustments before completing the scanning process.
THE PROBLEM: Some 50 million dental patients require crown and bridge implants each year, and every one of them must have a physical impression created of the area to be restored. The process is unpleasant: the dentist inserts a soft goo into the patient's mouth which hardens over the course of several minutes into a putty that is then forcibly extracted. If the impression is imperfect, the crown or bridge may require excessive adjustment, or may need to be remade entirely. The end result is more time spent in the dentist's chair and even more discomfort for the patient.
ANATOMY OF A TOOTH: We think of teeth as being the part visible above the gum, but this is only the tip, or crown, of a tooth. There is also a neck that lies at the gum line, and a root, located below the gum. The crown of each tooth has an enamel coating to protect the underlying dentine. Enamel is even harder than bone, thanks to rows of tightly packed calcium and phosphorus crystals. The underlying dentine is slightly softer, and contains tiny tubules that connect with the central nerve of the tooth within the pulp. The pulp forms the central chamber of the tooth, and is made of soft tissue containing blood vessels that carry nutrients to the tooth. It also contains nerves so teeth can sense hot and cold, as well as lymph vessels to carry white blood cells to fight bacteria.
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Dental crowns, also referred to as "dental caps" or "tooth caps," are dental restorations that cover over and encase the tooth on which they are cemented. Dentists make use of dental crowns when need to rebuild broken or decayed teeth, strengthen teeth, or improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth. Crowns can be made out of porcelain, metal, or a combination of both. Other terms that are used to refer to dental crowns are "dental caps" and "tooth caps" A dentist might recommend placing a dental crown to restore a tooth to its original shape; to strengthen a tooth; or to improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth. The fundamental difference between porcelain veneers and dental crowns is the amount of a tooth's surface each respective type of dental restoration covers over. Dental crowns typically encase an entire tooth whereas porcelain veneers only cover over the front side of a tooth.