Keep your eyes open and your feet moving forward. You’ll find what you need. – Anonymous
Why You Should Read This
This is the third installment of the original article that I wrote more than seven years ago. Many tens of thousands of views later, it has become the most popular writing about used CERECs on the Internet! If you are in the market for a used CEREC system, be sure to read this article in its entirety as I’m going to share what I’ve learned from a decade (and hundreds of transactions) in the used CEREC business.
Not that B word. I’m talking about a budget. The word budget has a somewhat negative connotation in the sense that being on a budget seems to take the fun out of shopping. At least I used to believe so until financial expert Dave Ramsey introduced me to the idea that a budget is actually a license to spend GUILT FREE!
A budget means that somebody has done their homework. When speaking with a prospective customer, I often ask what their budget is. Would you believe that the most common reply is that they do not have one? Of course, everybody has a budget. By definition, if you earn and spend money then you have a budget. Those who say they don’t have a budget are really saying they need more information before they can make that decision.
That’s where this blog comes in. Everybody’s situation is unique, but to start with, here are a few basic questions you’ll want to answer:
What are your practice needs/trends?
How many and what type of restorations will you be able to realistically perform same-day?
How will CEREC impact your practice workflow?
Will you need to modify your schedule to perform same-day dentistry?
What new services/revenue streams will CEREC enable you to add to your practice?
How much CEREC education will you need to invest in yourself and/or your staff to efficiently reach your production goals? (Pro Tip: Unless you are a CAD/CAM fanatic, you will like your CEREC a whole lot better if you train and retain good assistants to use and maintain the equipment.)
What will your material costs be?
How much are your current lab bills? What impact will CEREC have on them?
Overall, how much time and money will you save by going digital?
Drill into the numbers. I would also highly recommend you consult with your accountant and perhaps a practice management expert to help you make the most informed decision. Answering these questions will not only help you figure out how much you should spend, but discover what you truly need.
Which CEREC is Right for You?
After you have determined your budget, the next step is to identify the CEREC generation that will do the job. As a helpful guide, I have produced a general price range of CEREC components based on our recent sales history:
CEREC AC with Bluecam: $1,000 – $2,500
CEREC AC with Omnicam: $10,000 – $18,000
CEREC AC with Primescan: $35,000+
2007-2012 MC XL (2-motor/wet): $7,000 – $12,000
2013-2015 MC X (2-motor/wet): $12,000 – $18,000
2016-2019 MC X (2-motor/dry): $20,000 – $25,000
2016-2019 MC XL (4-motor/dry): $25,000 – $35,000
Ivoclar Programat CS: $2,000 – $3,000
Ivoclar Programat CS2: $3,000 – $4,000
Ivoclar Programat CS3: $3,500 – $4,500
Sirona CEREC SpeedFire: $5,500 – $8,000
If you are new to CEREC you may have little idea which generation suits your needs best. The best way to figure that out is to give me call and have a discussion about your practice, but I’ll outline some basic information for you here.
A chairside Compact mill, also known as a Classic milling unit, was unveiled in 2000 along with the CEREC 3 Redcam. This mill is limited to single unit restorations (inlays, onlays, crown and veneers) and can mill a crown in about 17-24 minutes.
In 2007, Sirona rolled out the MC XL- appropriately named as it is 37% larger and 54% heavier than the Compact. In addition to inlays, onlays, crowns, and veneers, the MC XL can mill bridges, abutments and drilling guides. The MC XL also mills faster than a Compact- it can mill a single crown in 7 to 11 minutes.
In 2013, Sirona introduced 3 versions of their chairside milling units:
CEREC MC: the least expensive of the trio. This mill fulfills the role formerly occupied by the Compact milling unit: single unit inlays, onlays, crowns, and veneers utilizing block sizes up to 20 mm. You won’t find very many MCs on the used market as it wasn’t as popular as its more productive siblings.
CEREC MC X: your standard chairside mill and nearly identical to the first generation MC XL. The MC X offers the entire range of chairside treatment including inlays, onlays, crowns, veneers, 4-unit bridges, abutments/screw-retained crowns, and surgical guides. This mill is capable of grinding or milling blocks up to 40 mm in size.
CEREC MC XL Premium Package (aka Practice Lab): the most expensive chairside mill with additional labside capabilities. The new MC XL offers the convenience of four motors so you don’t have to change burs when going back and forth from milling to grinding, a touch screen display, the “extra-fine” grinding option, the ability to use all CAD/CAM materials (plastic, ceramic, and metal), and milling or grinding blocks up to 85 mm. In addition to inlays, onlays, crowns, veneers, and 4-unit bridges, the MC XL can produce abutments/screw-retained crowns, surgical guides, copings, frameworks (up to 12 units), bars, attachments, and telescopes.
In 2015, Sirona updated their mill lineup with dry milling technology to speed up the processing of zirconia. This was accomplished by adding a dust vent on each side of the milling chamber and a suction unit to remove and store the zirconia dust. According to Sirona, there is no difference in accuracy or quality between wet and dry milling. Also, there is no difference in the time it takes to wet or dry mill, except for the elimination of the pre-drying time during sintering of zirconium oxide (about 10 minutes in the SpeedFire).
In 2020, the company now known as Dentsply Sirona introduced the Primemill, which you can read all about in another article I wrote here. Essentially, the Primemill adds a block scanner, RFID chipped burs, a “super fast” milling mode, a smaller 0.5 mm milling tool, updated electronics, and redesigned mechanical components. Think of a smarter and faster MC XL.
My suggestion: The Primemills suffered some early setbacks due to software “bugs”, but a handful of subsequent updates seem to have remedied most of them. This is to be expected with new technology and I imagine Dentsply Sirona will continue to improve their firmware. The problem is there are so few available. As of this writing, I have sold two Primemills (as part of complete CEREC packages) and have seen less than a handful available for sale from other sellers. The same could be said for wet/dry MC Xs and MC XLs. It seems most users have hung onto their dry MC Xs and MC XLs for redundancy in light of the early Primemill issues. For the time being, I would recommend a 2015 or newer MC X or MC XL (if you can find one) over the Primemill because of its tried and true production history and superior ROI. For those who will primarily mill e.max and other ceramics, 2014 and older MC Xs and MC XLs are great value options as well.
The CEREC 3 Redcam acquisition unit was introduced in 2000 and utilizes infrared light to acquire images. It has 8 MB of image acquisition memory and can process an image in 0.133 seconds. This system uses individual images to create a 3D model.
The CEREC AC Bluecam acquisition unit made its debut in 2009 and utilizes blue LED light to acquire images. At 16 MB, it has twice the image acquisition memory of the Redcam and as a result can process an image nearly 2x faster at .070 seconds. While this system also uses individual images to create a 3D model, the Bluecam performs the image capture, or “click”, automatically. Both the Redcam and Bluecam require the use of white contrast powder.
The CEREC AC Omnicam was launched in 2012 and reigned supreme until 2019, when the Primescan was released. The Omnicam allows for continuous capturing of 3D color scans. This “color streaming” results in a natural color 3D model without the need for contrast powder.
The CEREC Primescan is the latest and greatest scanner from Dentsply Sirona. The Primescan’s camera utilizes high-resolution sensors and shortwave light (what DS calls Smart Pixel Sensor technology) to capture up to 1 million 3D data points per second at depths up to 20 mm. Other new features include: continuous self-heating for fog free scanning; an increased field-of-view; 3 optional camera sleeves; instant data transfer; ergonomic touchscreen controls; and hours-long battery operation. By all accounts, the Primescan performs well and looks good while doing it. Primescan users report fast and accurate scanning without many complaints…except for the segment of users who still prefer the track ball instead of the touchscreen controls.
My suggestion: The size of the Primescan camera allows it to take in more data at a faster rate than the Omnicam, which objectively makes it a better scanner (especially when scanning larger cases), but the question is HOW much better? And is the upgrade worth the cost? I think that’s debatable.
I think we can all agree that a 2012-2015 stock Omnicam running Windows 7 and 4.6 or older CEREC software seems obsolete when compared to the Primescan. But what about an Omnicam with a comparable (or even superior) PC, the latest CEREC 5.2 software, and a touchscreen?
With a set-up like the latter, the Omnicam makes up significant ground in performance while remaining 75% cheaper than its successor. Not so obsolete now is it? If I’m a dentist/owner trying to decide if a Primescan is worth $50,000+ more than a modernized Omnicam, it would seem that emotion, not math would be the main argument for the Primescan. This is especially true when you consider that from a production standpoint, you’re really not getting much more from a Primescan than you are from an upgraded Omnicam. My vote goes toward the upgraded Omnicam.
The 4 Pillars of Used CERECs
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully you now have a better understanding of which CEREC generation would be the best fit for your needs and budget. Next I will lay out some critical evaluation criteria to help you sort through the gems and the junk.
Pillar 1: Model Year
The first thing you want to know about every unit is its year of manufacture. Don’t allow a seller to get away with simply telling you the year they purchased the CEREC. Oftentimes, Patterson or Henry Schein will sell their oldest inventory first, so it’s possible the seller purchased a 2015 CEREC in 2016 (I’ve seen differences of 3-4 years before!). Also, it is common for sellers to forget when they purchased their equipment, oftentimes being off by several years.
The only way to be sure about the model year is to ask for a picture of the serial sticker on the back of each unit. Just like with a vehicle, you will want to take both the age and “mill-age” into consideration as they are the primary determinants of resale value.
ProTip for Compact Mills: Check for signs of leaking fluid on an older compact mill by inspecting or asking for a picture of the front panel pulled down. If you see an oily brown substance along the edges or behind the face plate, there’s a good chance the hoses and gaskets are leaking. Stay away as this is not an easy fix!
ProTips for MC Xs & MC XLs: Ask for a picture of the milling chamber. Is it clean? A clean milling chamber is a pretty good indication that the recommended maintenance was performed on a regular basis.
If the spindle motor housing is bright and shiny versus being caked in block dust, this could be a sign that the motors and their housing have been replaced recently.
Be sure to inspect the bottom rear of the milling chamber lid near the tension springs for signs of cracks/leaks.
If the seller reveals that they haven’t used the CEREC in a while, ask for a picture of the inside of the water tank. If the tank was not completely dry prior to being stored, expect it to be coated with black mold. This is not only gross, but the contaminated water could also be present in the hoses and impeding the flow of water to the burs.
Speaking of water flow, ask for a picture with the water jets turned on to verify all 3 jets are hitting the end of the bur on each side. If not, these blockages can usually be cleared with an endo file, but sometimes it is so bad that the nozzle plates need to be replaced.
Pillar 2: Hardware
The model year is important to know when evaluating acquisition units too, but nowadays it’s not always indicative of what might be “under the hood”. There is a PC Hardware version sticker on the removable PC housing, visible by removing the lower rear vent panel. The higher the code in the series, the newer and more capable the motherboard, CPU, graphics card and memory will be. Aside from the CEREC running Windows 10, this is the easiest way to find out if the acquisition unit has been upgraded or not. For your convenience, I have cross-referenced some Bluecam, Omnicam, and Primescan hardware specs with their PC Hardware versions:
Without a doubt, the most critical piece of information when evaluating any CEREC system is its number of mills.
The number of mills on a compact milling unit is expressed in “minutes”. To determine the general number of mills on a compact, we divide the number of minutes by 24 (the maximum amount of time it takes to mill a single unit). When looking at the Milling Info screen, be sure to pay attention to the serial number shown in the top bar to make sure it matches the serial number on the back of the unit. If the numbers do not match, this means the board inside the milling unit has been changed and the milling time may not accurately reflect that machine’s actual use. In cases like these, we recommend you use your best judgment and consider the milling unit’s overall condition in comparison to its unit counter.
The number of mills on an MC, MC X, or MC XL is more clear cut. After accessing the Machine Data Type screen from within the service program, you will see a “Unit Counter” value. What you see is what you get, no math required. Keep in mind that a mill counter can be reset if someone knows the password. Again, we recommend you examine the milling chamber to determine if the unit counter seems authentic.
FYI: In 2007-2012 MC XLs you will sometimes see an impossibly high mill time value such as 45,039,943 minutes, but the unit counter value is only 548 (this is an actual example). Trust the unit counter value. We have found that mill time values often become corrupted following software updates and thus are not as reliable as the unit counter value.
With the compact, MC, MC X, and MC XL mills, you are sure to get many thousands of mills out of the machine (the most we’ve seen is over 7,000) with regular maintenance. The single most important wear-and-tear item to be aware of are the spindle motors. They cost around $2,000 per side to replace and last around 1,500-2,000 mills depending on maintenance and materials milled.
Pillar 4: Software Version
The importance of software when evaluating a CEREC varies with the type of acquisition unit you are considering.
In order to conserve space, I elected not to include Redcam or Bluecam software considerations in this version of the article. If you’d like information on Redcams and Bluecams, you can read my original article here.
As for Omnicams, you will typically find them running CEREC SW 4.5, 4.6, 5.1 or 5.2 (latest). A stock Omnicam with Windows 7 is limited to running 4.6 software or older. In order to make the jump to 5th gen software, an Omnicam will require a Performance Package hardware update or a brand new PC with Windows 10 (more on that here). This upgrade can be pricey depending on the Omnicam’s current PC Hardware and its CEREC Club status, ranging in price from $1,000 all the way up to $11,500. The potentially high cost of upgrading to 5.2 is now playing a major role in influencing used Omnicam values.
ProTip #1: Before you fork over $5,000 (non-club price) to Dentsply Sirona for a software update, you can usually find various software versions, license keys, dongles, and vouchers for sale by secondhand sellers on eBay.
ProTip #2: In order to run CEREC SW 5.2, you will need an SVD (Single Visit Dentistry) license in addition to the CEREC SW 5.2 license.
ProTip # 3: The CEREC Pro Module license for CEREC SW 5.2 enables production of CEREC Guide 2 and 3, Smile Design, a complete individual articulator, and several settings for the high-end use of the CEREC workflow. Additionally, the CEREC Pro module license includes the Open GALILEOS Implant license.
Look at you! You made it to the end and are now 3,000 words the wiser in the art of CEREC shopping. Armed with this new treasure trove of CEREC knowledge, you are well on your way to scoring that killer deal! If you need help along the way, feel free to reach out to me through my contact page or give me a call at (844) DTL-HERO. Now go forth with confidence! And a budget. :)
CAD/CAM HERO wants you to have the best possible purchasing experience! So in addition to top notch packing/shipping, we now offer CEREC installation services. You do not have to purchase the CEREC from us to use our installation service.
Your installation service includes:
The cost for this service is $500 + travel costs from Fort Worth, TX (this service is only available to residents of the contiguous United States at this time).
To get a quote for CEREC installation, please e-mail email@example.com.
Starting September 1, 2018, CAD/CAM HERO, LLC is now offering a 30-day parts and labor warranty with all CEREC systems we sell. This is in addition to unlimited TeamViewer and phone support (normally $100/hour for non-customers).
We understand that purchasing high-value equipment sight-unseen over the Internet can be a worrisome experience. We take the needed time and follow a detailed process to ensure that our listings are up-to-date, accurate, and honest. Whether it be updating optimal drivers, deleting old patient data, or simply wiping down the exterior of the machine, we go the extra-mile for our customers. We are your eyes, ears, and hands as we perform our due diligence on your behalf. Not only that, your CEREC will come expertly packed and shipped in an export-certified wood crate (built to withstand 10,000 lbs of force!) so you receive your investment safe and sound. You can feel confident in your decision to purchase any CAD/CAM HERO CEREC system.
If you are considering selling your CEREC machine, the same process that reassures buyers also protects our clients. We assist in getting your equipment into pre-sale condition and address any issues up front, so there are no headaches later. We take care of the entire process beginning with a free inspection all the way to packing and shipping. This business model has led to hundreds of happy clients and we hope you’ll join them as well.
Last but not least, we appreciate your support of CAD/CAM HERO for the last 3+ years and helping us sell more than $3.06 million worth of used CERECs and counting! We hope to continue helping both buyers and sellers with their CEREC-related needs for many more years to come.
The latest iteration of CEREC software was officially announced June 7, 2018, although as with previous software versions, rollout is likely to be done in phases through Q3 and Q4 2018. With this new software version Dentsply Sirona has made it faster and easier to produce a restoration than ever before, claiming an excellent restoration can be accomplished with just 5 clicks of your mouse. Previously tedious processes such as setting the preparation margin and model axis have been fully automatized using artificial intelligence. This systematic automation in addition to a 20% faster calculation time, improved proposals from the Biojaw algorithm, and seamless integration with both CEREC Connect and inLab software make this update quite the accomplishment. Watch the video below for a visual demonstration of the improvements.
*CEREC 4.6 SW is not compatible with CEREC AC Bluecam systems.
As was the case with the 4.4 release, the 4.5 software is geared almost exclusively towards the Omnicam scanner. Automatic shade detection is perhaps the most attractive new feature in the latest version of CEREC design software. Unfortunately, it looks like the early Omnicam cameras (2012-2013) don’t have the hardware components built into them to take advantage of this feature. In response to this, Dentsply Sirona is offering CEREC Club members without a compatible camera a “low-cost” exchange option. For $3,400, you can trade in your Omnicam camera for a new one (REF 6625797) that is shade detection compatible.
To find out if your Omnicam camera is compatible with this new feature or not, visit https://my.cerec.com/en/products/cerec-sw.html and submit your Omnicam’s serial number. The website has instructions on how to find out your Omnicam’s serial number as well as additional information on other software changes.
Bad news for Compact Milling unit owners: your trusty old workhorse is officially no longer supported in the 4.5 software version. The MC, MC X and MC XL are the only mills able to take advantage of the improvements to the BioJaw algorithms and completely new milling/grinding strategies for the internal surfaces and external contacts. If you have both a compact mill and one of the compatible milling units, you can run both 4.4 and 4.5 software on the same acquisition unit and switch back and forth on a case-by-case basis. If you want to trade in your compact mill for a 4.5 compatible milling unit, Patterson is offering up to $20,000 in discounts through September 1, 2017.