I have seen the future and it is in my mouth!


I broke a tooth. You'd expect to break a tooth by doing something violent, opening a bottle cap with your teeth, chewing ice, etc. I was eating a bagel. I hit a hard spot in the bagel and thought a nut had gotten into the one I was eating. It wasn't a nut. It was my tooth. I didn't feel a thing. It broke free and got caught in the bagel.

I broke #14 I believe. It's the molar on my upper left, second tooth from the back. One of the cusps broke off. Roughly a third of my tooth snapped off and exposed the filling underneath. No pain. As soon as it happened I assumed I would need a crown. Then I started to think about what things I could sell so I could afford a crown.

I just recently switched dentists. I used to go to a general dentist. Now I go to prosthodontist. Prosthodontists specialize in dentures, implants, crowns, etc. I'm glad I took my broken tooth to Dr. Robert Stewart in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI. I live in Ann Arbor about an hour away. It's worth the drive for me. At Dr. Stewart's office they do typical cleanings, fillings and all the other things you go to a dentist for. But when you need more, like a crown or something more serious I think your better off with a prosthodontist.

First off, Dr. Stewart told me I didn't need a crown. What I need is an 'onlay'. A mesial occlusal buccal onlay to be exact. Dr. Stewart is most concerned about saving the teeth I have. The best thing you can have in your mouth are your own healthy teeth. The onlay, he suggests, only replaces the portion of the tooth that's missing. I'll still have 2/3's of a strong tooth which is working fine. He says he can do it in about 2 hours and I will walk out with a new tooth. A crown takes at least 2 appointments and cost more. I agreed to try the onlay.

So how do you replace a third of a tooth? With lasers, computers and a high tech milling machine, of course. He has a Cerec 3 - 3D unit. To make a long story short, this is what he did.

He first prepped the tooth. He cleared out the old filling and then sculpted my remaining tooth so it would accept the new third he'd be making. Then he dried out my mouth with air and dusted my tooth with powder. The powder takes away all the optical reflection from the tooth. Next a laser scanning device goes in my mouth over the tooth. It's about the size of a roll of Mentos. It's a lot have in your mouth, but the scan takes just a few seconds. He then injects a silicon impression compound into the opening he's created. No pain. I bite down on it to mark where my lower teeth meet with my upper. He scans this silicon plug. This establishes how large to make this new piece. Now it's on to the computer.

He brought up the scans on the computer right next to me. It looked like a computer model of a canyon or a cliff, but it was my tooth. It was fascinating watching Dr. Stewart working on a 3-D model of my own tooth, broken or not. He shaped a new piece for my tooth right in front of me. Then he sent this information to the milling machine. This mill cuts a piece for my tooth in about 15 mins. I ran out to the car and got my Casio S500 (Hey look over on the left there, it's a review of that very camera!) to take a video.

In the video you'll see the replacement piece he designed and then the mill cutting the piece out a block of dental material which is color matched to my tooth. You'll need Flash Player 8 or higher to watch this video.

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After it was done he polished it a bit and put it right in my mouth. It fit perfectly. He then took it out and back to the lab for more polishing and color matching. He glued it in place and I was on my way. The color match is perfect. Looks like my old tooth. Feels like it too.

It is less expensive than a crown and I didn't have to come back for another appointment. I also walked out with most of the tooth I came in with. That wouldn't be the case with a crown. If you need work like this, give my dentist a call.

Dr. Robert Stewart, DDS

19635 Mack Ave.

Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236