Popular elective introduces digital dentistry to learners

DDS students work on a CAD/CAM restoration

An elective course that centers on digital dentistry has quickly become one of the most popular offerings among dental students—with 111 student attendees in 2022.

Omar Zidan instructs DDS learners on a CAD/CAM device

Omar Zidan, BDS, HDD, MS, PhD, associate professor of restorative dentistry, teaches Introduction to CAD/CAM Restorations to approximately 50 DDS learners per semester. In the course, students learn how to fabricate Cad Cam Cerec restorations. The course is highly interactive, with group learning simulations and hands-on practice. Students report enjoying a particularly interactive lesson on luting agents, as well as gaining a better understanding of ceramics and levels of clinical decision making.

Zidan has been part of the School of Dentistry since 1982, and a faculty member since 1984. He has always been interested in embracing technology in dentistry, and he asserts that the use of such technologies is nothing new and nothing to be afraid of.

“The field of dentistry is not an exception to what is happening in the world around us,” he explained, noting that technological advances have moved very quickly over the past 50 years. Within dentistry in particular, technological advances in digital and artificial intelligence picked up quickly during the past 2 decades. with the first use of CadCam to create a ceramic restoration seated in a patient mouth in 1986.

Close up of cad cam restoration

Though it’s not magic or mystical, Zidan finds great delight in sharing the concepts of digital dentistry with his patients and his students. “In a more traditional model, for example, a crown may take multiple visits,” he explained. “When you create a virtual digital model, the patient can get a crown in one visit—and they’re amazed.” Similarly, he loves watching his students experiencing the joy of digital technology.

“For the student, it’s amazing to be able to use the technology to deliver that crown in one visit,” he said. “It’s dentistry empowered with the latest machines. It’s also fun for them.”

Zidan is grateful to see such interest from students in his elective course, saying that it means “they’re very smart. They know they need to develop their digital skills, that these are the future.” And he enjoys demystifying the experience for them.

students work on cad/cam restoration together

“I hope they understand after this class that digital dentistry is not magic,” he said, “and that it can be integrated very easily into their daily activities.” He noted that students already have much of the skill required for digital dentistry before they even begin the course, thanks to growing up in the digital age. “They sit at the machines and start to work, and within minutes, they are functioning.”

The students agree, and are fascinated by what they learn. “Dr Zidan's CAD/CAM course is essential for the contemporary dentist,” said Hunter Johnson, DDS ’22. “Dr Zidan's unique and energetic approach to teaching makes the learning process enjoyable and memorable. After taking the course, I was able to apply my knowledge and skills, delivering a same-day crown in the contemporary clinic.” He also shared that employers consider his experience with CAD/CAM to be a great asset.

Zidan has high expectations, and high hopes, for the students who take his class. But the most important takeaway is about more than the course material.

“I hope the students realize what is waiting for them, that they have to innovate and master the two languages of traditional dentistry and contemporary dentistry,” he said. “I hope they come to understand that this isn’t something they should fear: it’s just like their smartphone, their laptop or other pieces of technology they know and use.”


This story originally appeared in Dentistry Magazine 2022.