CROWNS (OR "CAPS")
When you combine the computer advances with the advances in materials science you get the CEREC®. It is for larger restorations (where a resin filling might not be strong enough to hold the tooth together safely). Don't worry, if you just have to do it the old fashioned way, some teeth are still appropriately restored with gold or porcelain caps (dentists call them "crowns" because they sound more elegant!). Of course, the old fashioned way is using messy impression trays, casting up a plaster model (that you never saw), putting in a temporary restoration while we wait a few days for the crown to be made at the dental lab, prying off the temporary restoration, and then finally seating the finished crown.
The modern solution employs the CEREC and it is so cool that even my video game enthralled children sometimes stop by the office just to watch it work. It is a Computer Assisted Design/Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) system that allows me to make 3-D images to record the dimensions of the tooth that will get the crown better than any sticky impression tray full of goop ever could. Then, instead of the dental lab, I carve the perfect restoration for your tooth (the perfect crown) on the computer. When I'm satisfied that it is just right (structurally, anatomically, and esthetically), I make a click or two and the CEREC actually carves (The CEREC engineers say "mills" because they think that term in more elegant!) the crown right there in the office. From the time that I start imaging your tooth until the finished crown is ready to seat in your mouth is about 30 minutes! Is that cool or what?
The CEREC system has been in development since 1980 so it is nothing experimental. If you are interested in the history of the development of CEREC, they feature a very interesting Flash presentation but before you play it, you must turn off your pop-up blockers. Also, it gets a little boring watching the company develop from 1980 on so you can skip ahead by moving the date indicator with your mouse to the year 2000 or so. Click Here to go to their website.