Natural Looking Fillings

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

A new technology called CEREC, or chairside economical restoration of esthetic ceramics, is lessening the time it takes dentists do their job. Instead of those old silver fillings, you get a natural ceramic looking one that's custom made to fit inside your teeth.

A misfortunate flossing accident for Laura Parsons, one of her fillings has fallen out. Dr. Terry Vibbert says that's the problem with those old metal ones, foods and drinks make them expand and retract until they just crack.

And to fix it, "You would always go from one size filling to another larger size filling," says Dr. Vibbert. "Each time you do that, you're weakening the tooth. So, in the long run we're kind of defeating the purpose of what we're trying to do. We're trying to restore the tooth."

Under local anesthesia, Dr. Vibbert drills out the remaining metal in her tooth so he can put in a ceramic inlay, material that looks and acts more like real tooth structure.

Now, Dr. Vibbert is dusting the tooth with titanium dioxide, not only is it ingestible, "It's the lettering on the M&Ms."

That's right, the chemical used to monogram M&M candy is the same stuff that dentists use to make a tooth optically reflective so that an infrared camera can snap a picture that captures every detail. Instantly, a 3-D picture appears on the monitor.

Dr. Vibbert: "Here is a suggested design for that hole," says Dr. Vibbert. "The computer will suggest something and it leaves it open for me to perfect."

Dr. Vibbert makes sure it's a perfect fit, even modifying its height so it rubs the upper tooth just right. Then the computer guides a machine to make the inlay.

About 15 minutes later, it's ready to be touched up and cemented into Laura's mouth, erasing what she used to hate about her smile.

Before this technology, if you needed a crown, you had to go to the dentist for a temporary one and then go back a week later after the lab made your permanent one. Now, you can get a ceramic crown in one visit. One drawback though, is CEREC is a little pricey. A common restoration cost around $650. A metal filling usually cost four times less.