CEREC stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics. CEREC is a suite of hardware (machines) combined with specialized dental software that allows for fabrication of most single tooth restorations (crowns, abutments, veneers, inlays, onlays, etc.), and some multiple tooth restorations in the dental office, usually in under 45 minutes.
The hardware include an intraoral scanner, a milling machine, and a ceramic firing and glazing oven. The software allows for a dentist to use the scanner to scan the patient's teeth, design a restoration on a computer, and then manufacture that restoration with the milling machine. After milling, finishing touches can be made to the restoration - it can even be tried in the patient's mouth and adjusted - and then it is fired in the ceramic oven to achieve its optimal hardness. Because the materials are ceramics, they can be stained to look like real teeth.
In my mind, one of the biggest advantages of CEREC is that its technologies put the design and manufacturing of restorations back into the dentist's hands. No longer are we outsourcing important lab work to lab technicians that rarely see the inside of the patient's mouth. All steps of the restorative process are completed by the same person - your dentist. We use CEREC every day to make same-day crowns, restore implants, and even make same-day veneers for smile makeovers!