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Inside Dental Technology

January 2011, Volume 2, Issue 1
Published by AEGIS Communications

Efficiently Designing Custom Zirconia Abutments

With 3M ESPE’s Lava™ Design software, laboratories can now maintain more control over the fit and appearance of zirconia restorations.

By Robert Slominski

Laboratory professionals require tools that offer them control and flexibility in the design and fabrication of restorations. A product that delivers one without the other has limited usefulness to the technician, but a system that provides both can serve as a key component in increasing productivity. As digital tools have become more integral to dental laboratory processes, these factors have grown increasingly important.

Manufacturers like 3M ESPE have responded by taking their products to the next level. The company recently introduced an upgrade to its Lava Design Software that enables users of the Lava Scan ST to scan abutment links without using a scan locator. This software has streamlined the process of creating custom Lava zirconia abutments and copings, giving laboratories new opportunities to maintain control of the design and deliver restorations quickly.

By eliminating the need for scan locators, the Lava Scan ST Design System gives users access to the entire implant market. In the past, laboratory technicians had to place a scan locator into a model, scan it, create a wax-up, and then scan the wax-up in order to fabricate a custom abutment. With this system’s new capabilities, the technician can simply place the abutment link in the model, scan it, and proceed directly to digital design of the abutment and coping. Both zirconia pieces can be designed from one scan, saving time and increasing accuracy. By eliminating wax-up scanning, it can save laboratories about 10 to 12 minutes per case.

The software’s compatibility with a broad variety of implant brands makes it easy for laboratories to collaborate with dentists on the implant systems of their choosing. Any abutment link that meets the link shape and contact surface requirements can be scanned and restored with a zirconia abutment. Additionally, labs can create implant abutments and copings from the same shade of Lava zirconia, producing restorations with the esthetic qualities zirconia is known for.

The software simplifies the design of the coping as well. The correct tooth number is automatically placed on the digital die, after which the technician can modify the opposing and adjacent teeth. Once a full-contour design is created, it is cut back to create an anatomically designed coping that gives the proper support for veneering porcelain. Occlusion is easily adaptable, as technicians can use the bite registration to reposition the cusps and then, with just one click of the mouse, digitally trim them to fit the bite.

Mouse-based design features make it easy to modify designs by clicking and moving arrows on the screen. The cement gap is automatically placed when designing crowns, helping technicians ensure they fit properly. A virtual wax knife tool lets the user fine-tune connectors, easily measure the connector cross-section, and add or remove wax, as necessary. With this level of flexibility, laboratories can quickly design and mill custom implant abutments and copings that offer both strength and a good fit.

Case Presentation

A case was received with instructions to create a custom zirconia abutment and crown for an upper second bicuspid. A titanium abutment link was placed in the model, which was then scanned in the Lava Scan ST. Upon completion of the scan, a digital model was displayed on the device’s screen (Figure 1).

The margins of the links were automatically detected and marked by the software. The software was used to detect any undercuts in the link, and fitting and cement functions were performed. The software can automatically identify sharp corners of abutment links and create extra space if necessary to allow the abutment to fit smoothly. Cement gap space was then created according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

After these steps, the software displayed a view of the abutment in the mouth for further customization (Figure 2 through Figure 6). The location and shape of the cementable margin were specified. A three-dimensional view in the software then showed a preview of the abutment’s fit over the titanium base. After the design was confirmed as complete, the case was sent for milling. Digital design of the Lava coping could then be performed. After milling was completed, the abutment was tried on the model, cemented, and polished (Figure 7 through Figure 12).

The author’s laboratory can now produce a zirconia abutment and coping in just 2 days, allowing the staff to turn cases around more quickly and efficiently. With software systems like Lava, it is now much easier for labs to maintain control over the fit and appearance of their zirconia restorations. Rather than spending time transmitting information to another facility or creating and scanning a wax-up, the ability to efficiently design an implant abutment in-house enables technicians to ensure quality and produce faster results.

Robert Slominski, co-owns Dental Crafters in Marshfield, Wisconsin.


The preceding material was provided by the manufacturer. The statements and opinions contained therein are solely those of the manufacturer and not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dental Technology. The preceding is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval for the aforementioned products or services or their effectiveness, quality, or safety on the part of Inside Dental Technology or AEGIS Communications. The publisher disclaims responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas or products referred to in the preceding material.

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Image Gallery

Figure  1  The software displays the abutment overlaid on the abutment link.

Figure 1

Figure  2  The 3-D view displays the abutment, gingival ridge, bite registration, and adjacent teeth.

Figure 2

Figure  3  Occlusal view of the digital design

Figure 3

Figure  4  The system allows the operator to view zirconia build-up using silhouettes.

Figure 4

Figure  5  The abutment design with opposing teeth modeled

Figure 5

Figure  6  A view of interproximal contact areas

Figure 6

Figure  7  The milled zirconia abutment

Figure 7

Figure  8  The abutment in place on the titanium base

Figure 8

Figure  9  Lava’s patented shade system allows the setting of gingival margins at tissue level, without seeing a stark white zirconia abutment with gingival creep.

Figure 9

Figure  10  Jig used to aid the placement of the abutment in the patient’s mouth

Figure 10

Figure  11   Occlusal view of the milled abutment in place on the model.

Figure 11

Figure  12  The final fit of the abutment on the model was very precise.

Figure 12