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Dentists around the world are tasked with helping patients take care of their teeth and gums. The dental profession has come a long way over the past century, with new treatment methods, new options, and new technologies allowing dentists to provide expert care. Researchers in the United States, Europe, and Asia are continually developing advanced technologies, improving patient outcomes with the very latest in dental techniques and equipment. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the emerging technologies, particularly that of the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry and their groundbreaking work in the area of dental restorations.

Dental Restoration Technology at Loma Linda University

Located in the San Bernardino Valley region of California, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry has long been known for its rigorous approach in training the next generation of dental professionals. Digital dentistry – the process by which tooth and tooth structures are restored using computer-based technology, has made significant advances over the past decade. In an effort to provide its dental students with the hands-on training and knowledge needed to flourish in modern dentistry, the School recently added the Ivoclar ProgaMill 7 (PM7) to its dental laboratory. The PM7 is one of the industry’s most advanced digital dentistry production machines and can be found in leading dental laboratories around the world. 

The PM7: Training Students in Advanced Dental Restoration Practices

The Ivoclar PM7 uses a concept called “subtractive manufacturing” to create replacement teeth and teeth structures like veneers, crowns, and bridges. Users input a digital model of a given patient’s teeth, then mills in the PM7 accurately craft the replacement structures. This system relies on Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing, better known as CAD/CAM. It can create restorative tooth appliances from a wide range of materials in wet or dry modes, and the user interface is PC-based with a touchscreen monitor and intuitive controls. 

Prior to the development of advanced technologies like this digital milling system, dentists and technicians had to employ complicated and laborious procedures to create replacement tooth structures, including dentures. Molds were taken of the teeth, and replacement teeth and structures were cast, then hand-fitted to the patient’s mouth. Any changes, such as a dentist needing to shave down a tooth to allow for the fitment of a crown, would require a new mold and a new handmade replacement structure. The PM7 and systems like it do away with the time-consuming and complex fitting and trimming processes; instead, the dental professional makes a digital scan of the patient’s mouth with a wand-like device, and that information is used by the mill to create the replacement structure. With digital dentistry adding a new dimension to the modern dental practice, patients experience less discomfort and fewer follow up visits for fitting of bridges, dentures, and other restorative appliances.

Adding the PM7 to Loma Linda University’s Training Program

A team of administrators, teaching faculty, and technicians were instrumental in bringing the Ivoclar PM7 to the Loma Linda University dentistry program. The School’s Hugh Love Center for Research and Education in Technology recognized that tomorrow’s dental professionals would need experience and training in digital dentistry processes, and the PM7 was a perfect fit. Since the system is one of the most advanced on the market and able to be upgraded easily – the manufacturer refers to the system as “future proof” – it is the ideal training platform for dental students. In the highly-competitive field of dentistry, being able to use advanced technologies helps new professionals stand out and makes them more attractive to established dental practices that may not have the same level of experience using computer-aided dental restoration systems. 

The PM7 system also allows the faculty and administrative staff to develop new teaching protocols, including the development of best practices in the area of digital dentistry. This gives students the ability to thrive in private practice; with their hands-on training opportunities at Loma Linda University, they are equipped with the latest technology and knowledge needed to succeed.

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