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CEREC or Cerec (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics, or CEramic REConstruction) is a method of CAD/CAM dentistry developed by W. Mörmann and M. Brandestini at the University of Zurich in 1980 for creating dental restorations. Using CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing), this process allows dentists to construct, produce, and insert individual ceramic restorations directly at the point of treatment (chairside) in a single appointment, rather than over multiple appointments with lab side working between. The first applications were successfully carried out on patients in 1985. The Cerec name is also a brand name of the Sirona companies (as of 2016 Dentsply Sirona) (Sirona Australia, Sirona Germany, Sirona USA, and others), because Sirona grew out of the exclusive licensing of the system by Siemens.
CAD/CAM dentistry involves a digital impression from one or more scans (using visible light scanning, digital radiographs, CT scans, or other methods), designing the restoration on the computer (computer-aided design, leading to a 3D model), and manufacturing the restoration (computer-aided manufacturing, whether by CNC milling, 3D printing, or other means). In order to carry all of these steps out in the dentist’s office – chairside – the dentist requires an image acquisition unit with an intraoral camera, the corresponding designing software, and a milling machine or a printer. If the dentist does not have a milling unit in their office, they can send the data in a digital file to the dental laboratory via an online portal. The lab designs and manufactures the restorations according to the dentist's prescription and then sends the finished restorations back to the dentist’s office. Around 38,000 dentists worldwide use the CEREC method and thus produce some 6.9 million restorations each year (as of October 2013).
The CEREC method was developed by Prof. Werner H. Mörmann and Dr. Marco Brandestini at the University of Zurich in 1980. The first patient was treated with CEREC using VITABLOCS Mark I ceramic blocks in 1985. Siemens obtained the license to market and further develop the method in 1986 and launched the world’s 2nd CAD/CAM system in dentistry in the form of CEREC 1 in 1987,  intended for inlays, onlays, crowns, and veneers. In 1997, the sale of Siemens AG’s dental division resulted in the company Sirona. The Windows-based CEREC 3 system was introduced in 2000. While these first three models were based on 2D technology, 3D software introduced in 2003 allowed dentists to construct restorations based on virtual three-dimensional models using the computer. While for some time it was only possible to attach all-ceramic crowns adhesively, the increased precision of the new generation of milling machines made it possible to attach crowns using dental cement. In 2009, Sirona switched to a new imaging technology,s based on short-wave blue light, significantly increasing the level of precision in comparison to previous 3D cameras. Since 2010, the use of Biogeneric has made it possible to individually reconstruct the occlusal surfaces of damaged or missing teeth, while achieving a natural look. An interdisciplinary research group headed by Prof. Dr. Albert Mehl of the University of Zurich and Prof. Dr. Volker Blanz of the University of Siegen discovered that all of a patient’s teeth have individual characteristics that can be applied from one tooth to another. Launched in 2011, the 4.0 version of the software simplified the user interface with intuitive menu navigation. Since then, it has also been possible to work on several restorations within a single process (multiple restorations). The latest development is the CEREC Omnicam intraoral camera, which was launched on the market in 2012 and facilitates powder-free digital impressions in natural colors.
During a chairside treatment, the dentist carries out all the steps, from digital impressions and computer-based construction of the restoration to the milling process, inside their office. The dentist uses an intraoral camera to take a photo of the preparation, the antagonist teeth, and the bite situation. Based on the images, the CEREC software creates a virtual model of the patient’s tooth situation. The dentist uses this model to construct the tooth restoration on the screen and then passes on the finished construction within the office’s network or sends it wirelessly to a milling machine. Depending on the type of restoration, it is then milled out of a color-matched ceramic block in just 6 to 15 minutes using diamond-coated milling units. The dentist can then add the finishing touches to the restoration by painting, polishing, and glazing it, before cementing it (the more traditional option) or adhesively integrating it, depending on the type of ceramic used.
Indications and materials
Silicate ceramics (feldspar and glass ceramics) in particular are ideal for single tooth restorations (inlays, onlays, crowns, and veneers) in the front and on the sides of the mouth. The comparably low flexural strength of 100 to 450 megapascals makes adhesive attachment necessary. Lithium disilicate is a glass ceramic, yet exhibits the material characteristics of oxide ceramics. It is exceptionally hard, yet non-brittle, and translucent. Oxide ceramics in particular are ideal for manufacturing high-strength bridge frameworks and crown copings in the front and on the sides of the mouth. Flexural strength of 300 to 600 megapascals (infiltration ceramics) or 600 to 1,300 megapascals (polycrystalline oxide ceramics) ensures a high level of long-lasting durability and breaking strength.
CEREC technology makes it possible to produce and integrate ceramic restorations in a single appointment. Unlike other materials such as amalgam or gold, ceramic is more biocompatible and boasts tooth-like physical and aesthetic qualities. In addition, digital impressions are more comfortable for patients than traditional impressions.
By further developing the process, it was possible to reduce the amount of follow-up work and occlusion adjustment. According to studies, the ten-year lifespan of CEREC inlays polished and milled with the aid of a computer is significantly longer than that of gold inlays, and also exceeds that of individually laboratory-manufactured ceramic inlays. Further clinical studies have reported a success rate of CEREC restorations is 95.5 percent following a period of nine years  and 84 percent after 18 years.
Other potential applications
Combined with three-dimensional X-ray technology, it has also been possible to use CEREC for implants since 2009. The dentist can combine the CAD/CAM planning based on CEREC with 3D X-ray data to coordinate the prosthetic and surgical implant planning. Based on this so-called integrated implantology, the dentist is able to order the drilling templates from the drilling template manufacturer SiCat or – if they have their own milling machine – produce them on their own at the office using CEREC Guide. Furthermore CEREC has been expanding into the orthodontic market with a special software package creating a virtual patient for orthodontic treatment planning.
- W. H. Mörmann: Keramikinlay – Die Seitenzahnfüllung der Zukunft. Vortrag am 30. März 1985, Karlsruhe, „25 Jahre Akademie für Zahnärztliche Fortbildung, Karlsruhe“. 4. Internationales Quintessenz-Symposium 1985
- W. H. Mörmann et al.: Marginale Adaptation von adhäsiven Porzellaninlays in vitro. Schweiz Mschr Zahnmed 1985; 95: S. 1118–1129
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- W.H. Mörmann: Innovationen bei ästhetischen Restaurationen im Seitenzahngebiet (Keramik): Computergestützte Systeme. Dtsch Zahnärztl Z 1988; 43: S. 900-903
- https://www.welt.de/gesundheit/article5776551/Ein-Inlay-eine-Krone-in-nur-zehn-Minuten.html, Ein Inlay, eine Krone in nur zehn Minuten.
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- A. Mehl / V. Blanz: New procedure for fully automatic occlusal surface reconstruction by means of a biogeneric tooth model. J Comput Dent 2005; 8:13–25
- Mehl, A / Blanz, V. / Hickel, R.; Biogeneric tooth: a new mathematical representation for tooth morphology in lower first molars. Eur J Oral Sci 2005; 113:333-340
- M. Kern et al.: Vollkeramik auf einen Blick. Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Keramik 2010; S. 2-4
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- B. Reiss: Klinische Ergebnisse von Cerec Inlays aus der Praxis über einen Zeitraum von 18 Jahren. Int J Comput Dent 2006, 1:11-22
- CEREC pages of the manufacturer
- The article 'CEREC' CAD/CAM in Dentistry  original dissertation Data capture stabilising device for the CEREC CAD/CAM chairside camera fully explains all pros and cons of the system and is detailed in (materials, fit, software, hardware etc).