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Updated on October 3, 2022

What Is CEREC in Dentistry? (Procedure, Pros & Cons)

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What is CEREC in Dentistry?

CEREC refers to computer-aided technology used to create dental restorations. It's popular because it eliminates the need for messy putty-based impressions and allows for crowns to be completed in just one appointment.1

The acronym stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics and can be better understood as follows: 

  • Chairside — Does not require a dental laboratory. Traditionally, crowns require at least two trips to the dentist since a dental laboratory makes the crown. 
  • Economical — CEREC crowns and bridges are typically less expensive than certain types of traditional crowns and bridges, such as those made out of gold alloys. 
  • Restoration — Used to restore damaged teeth. 
  • Esthetic — Natural-looking results that dentists achieve with CEREC. 
  • Ceramics — The high-quality materials used in CEREC that are strong, durable, and biocompatible.  

CEREC is one of the most popular, evolving dental technologies available.

Types of CEREC Dental Restorations

CEREC can be used to create a variety of tooth restorations, including:2 

Crowns

A crown covers the entire surface of a tooth. It is used to strengthen a tooth damaged by decay or injury. Crowns can also improve the appearance of teeth that are misshapen or discolored. 

Traditionally, dentists remove the damaged or decayed part of the tooth, shape it for a crown, and take an impression. They then fit a temporary crown over the healthy tooth structure and order the permanent restoration from a dental laboratory. 

After one to three weeks, the dentist removes the temporary crown and fits the permanent crown. However, a CEREC crown is placed in a single appointment.

Bridges

A bridge is a restoration that replaces one or more missing teeth. It is anchored to the natural teeth on either side of the gap.  

As with crowns, bridges typically take multiple, time-consuming appointments. With CEREC, dentists can complete the fabrication process and fit the finished product in a single appointment.

Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays are indirect tooth restorations that dentists use to restore damaged teeth. They are similar to fillings, but instead of being applied directly to the tooth, they are custom-made and then cemented in place.

Although fillings are the most common treatment for tooth decay, inlays and onlays have several advantages, such as superior strength and a customized fit. 

CEREC restoration allows for the creation of inlays and onlays in a single appointment.

Veneers

A veneer is a thin piece of porcelain that a dentist bonds to the surface of a tooth. Dentists may recommend veneers to improve the appearance of teeth that are discolored, misshapen, or chipped. 

Traditionally, veneers require two dental office visits. The first appointment is to prepare the tooth and make an impression. The second appointment is to bond the veneer to the tooth.

With CEREC, veneers can be fabricated and placed in a single appointment.

The CEREC Process

The revolutionary CEREC system centers around computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). It uses a 3D camera to take digital images of the tooth that needs to be restored.3

The digital images are then transferred to a computer where the dentist uses special software to design the restoration. 

Once the design is complete, it’s sent to a CAM machine, which creates the restoration out of a block of ceramic material. 

In the final step, the dentist bonds the restoration to the tooth with a special dental cement. 

The entire CEREC process takes about 2 hours.

Pros and Cons of CEREC

CEREC has many advantages over traditional methods, including:4

  • Convenience — a single appointment is far more convenient and time efficient than multiple office visits. CEREC procedures can be done in one visit in about 2 hours.
  • Comfort — there's no need for uncomfortable impression materials or temporary crowns with CEREC.
  • Accuracy — CEREC uses digital CAD and CAM technology to create an exact replica of your mouth. This ensures your restoration will fit perfectly.
  • Appearance — CEREC restorations are metal-free, making them look and feel like natural teeth and blend seamlessly alongside other teeth.
  • Strength — research suggests that CEREC restorations are reliable. CEREC crowns are typically sturdy and resist abrasion, making them likely to last.

The main disadvantage of CEREC is availability, as it's not as widely available as traditional dental crowns. This is because the equipment is costly, and not all dentists have comprehensive training in using the technology.

Also, CEREC restorations may not be strong enough for molars because of the chewing forces these teeth experience. 

How Much Do CEREC Restorations Cost?

The cost of a CEREC procedure varies depending on several factors, including:

  • Your location
  • The expertise of the dentist performing the procedure
  • The type of restoration being made 
  • Your insurance coverage

In general, CEREC procedures are comparable in price to traditional ones, although they may cost slightly more. The national average cost of a dental crown is $500 to $2,000.And, veneers can cost up to $2,500 per tooth.6

Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage for CEREC restorations varies by plan. Some dental insurance plans may cover the entire cost, while others may cover only a portion. Coverage may depend on whether or not the insurance provider deems the restoration medically necessary.

The best way to determine your coverage is to contact your insurance provider directly.

If insurance doesn’t cover the cost or out-of-pocket costs are too high, speak to your dentist. They may have a payment plan or offer discounts.

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Alternative Restorative Materials

Not all CEREC restorations are made from the same material. Some of the most common materials used in CEREC procedures are:7

Zirconia 

This is a strong and durable ceramic that resembles natural teeth. However, it’s far less translucent, so it isn’t a highly cosmetic option. This makes it more suitable for back teeth.

Because zirconia can withstand considerable pressure, it’s suitable for molar crowns. Zirconia crowns are also a good option for people who grind their teeth (bruxism).

Zirconia's strength also means that a thin layer is strong enough to withstand grinding and shearing forces in the mouth. Therefore, dentists only need to remove a thin layer of enamel from the teeth to make space for these crowns. 

E.max Ceramic Crowns

E.max is a ceramic material made from lithium disilicate glass. It's a good choice for front teeth, as it's highly translucent with a natural appearance. 

It's also suitable for crowns and short-span bridges toward the front of the mouth. However, E.max crowns may break when placed on biting surfaces because they are brittle.

Composite Resin

CEREC milling machines can carve restorations from blocks of composite resin. Dentists can use this tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture to fill cavities and build up chipped teeth. They can also use it to create veneers, inlays, and onlays.

Composite resin is a good choice for small cavities and repairs, but it isn't as strong as other materials. However, it typically costs less.

Summary

CEREC is a type of dental procedure that uses computer-aided technology to create custom dental restorations. Dentists can create crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, and veneers with CEREC. 

The procedure is convenient and requires only one visit. Plus, it produces results that look and feel natural. 

Although CEREC has many advantages over traditional methods, it's not as readily available. In addition, not all dentists have the training or equipment necessary to perform CEREC procedures.

7 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. What Is CEREC Dental Technology?” Muscaro & Martini Dentistry. 2020.
  2. Sannino, G., et al.CEREC CAD/CAM Chairside System.” ORAL & Implantology. 2015.
  3. How Does a CEREC Machine Work?”J.D. Murray DDS & Associates.
  4. The Advantages of CEREC Dental Crowns.”  South Waterfront Dental. 2016.
  5. The Cost of CEREC Crowns (Are They Worth It?).” Keystone Dentistry. 2022.
  6. Veneers Vs Dentures: Which One is Right for You?” American Dental Association.
  7. Marchesi, G., et al.Chairside CAD/CAM Materials: Current Trends of Clinical Uses.” Biology. 2021.
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