Sirona's CEREC dental CAD/CAM system provides humanitarian aid

Sept. 29, 2008
The ship USNS Mercy receives same-day dental restoration capabilities.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina--Sirona Dental Systems, LLC, has donated four CEREC 3D chairside restoration systems, a dental laser, plus related materials and training to the University of California at San Diego's Pre-Dental Society.

The UCSD PDS is a student organization that promotes student interest in the field of dentistry, including outreach volunteering experiences. The donation was coordinated by Sirona's Government Sales and Marketing group headed by Buddy Auten.

The UCSD PDS, which works closely with the U.S. Navy base in San Diego, was in turn granted permission to provide four Sirona-equipped operatories and 50 Sirona-trained UCSD students for the latest humanitarian mission of the USNS Mercy, which is currently embarked on a five-month relief mission in southeast Asia and Oceania called "Pacific Partnership 2008."

Specifically, the humanitarian mission schedule includes visits to the Philippines, Vietnam, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Federated Islands of Micronesia. In addition, the USNS Mercy is treating military and government personnel based in Hawaii, Guam, Singapore and Darwin, Australia.

Dr. Richard Fox, a general practice dentist from Detroit and a longtime user of the CEREC 3D dental CAD/CAM system, and Dr. James F. Simon, chair of Restorative Dentistry, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Dentistry, trained the Navy dentists and UCSD students at the Navy base.

"I use CEREC every day in my office because it enables me to design and produce the most natural-looking restorations, such as crowns, in one convenient office visit," said Dr. Fox. "If CEREC's time-saving technology is a convenience to the average patient, it's a godsend to people in need of humanitarian aid."

"The USNS Mercy can treat so many more people thanks to the CEREC dental CAD/CAM system," explained Dr. Simon. "The more people we can help during one visit, the better, because who knows when they will be able to see a dentist again."

The USNS Mercy has the distinction of being the fifth-largest hospital ship in the world. It is well-equipped with the latest medical and dental equipment and materials, and is staffed by a wide range of professionals, including physicians, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, veterinarians and engineers.

Typically, when the USNS Mercy arrives at a destination, hundreds of local residents with medical and dental ailments line up for treatment at makeshift clinics set up on shore. The main focus of dental treatment is to relieve pain, which most often requires tooth extraction.

Extractions, along with basic "drill-and-fills" and cleanings, are usually done in these makeshift clinics that may consist of no more than a folding lounge chair and a beach umbrella.

When a patient is a candidate for CAD/CAM dentistry, they are transported by boat or helicopter to one of the USNS Mercy's four CEREC-equipped operatories, where they are fitted with all-ceramic CAD/CAM restorations, such as crowns, to replace existing worn-out or broken amalgam restorations.

Additional Navy dentists were trained by Dr. Richard Fox during an eight-day voyage from San Diego to Pearl Harbor. During the first three days of the voyage, training was impossible due to rough weather and 30-foot waves.

However, Dr. Fox's expertise and the CEREC 3D's ease of use enabled the Navy dentists to design, mill and fit crowns and onlays by the time the USNS Mercy reached its destination at Pearl Harbor.

Another certified CEREC trainer, Dr. Doug Schultz, provided hands-on clinical and supervisory services during the USNS Mercy's stops at Guam and Vietnam.

"This proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my career," stated Dr. Schultz.

According to Dr. Irvin Silverstein, UCSD Dental Director and advisor of the University of California at San Diego Pre-Dental Society, who is a civilian liaison to the U.S. Navy, "Sirona's CEREC 3D CAD/CAM system radically expanded the scope of dental treatment provided by the USNS Mercy. In the past, we could only relieve pain via extractions or fillings; now, we can restore smiles with crowns, bridges and partial dentures."

According to Dr. Silverstein, "We're hoping to get more dentists, whether they are proficient with CEREC or not, and specialists of all healthcare fields to volunteer for other humanitarian missions scheduled for 2009. There is a possibility that the program will be expanded to include Pacific and Atlantic itineraries."

For more information, including how to sign up for an upcoming Mercy Mission, contact Dr. Silverstein at Irvin Silverstein.

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