Advances in Implant Dentistry

Imagine going to the dentist back in the early 1970’s and needing a tooth removed because you have a fractured root. The dentist tells you that there is this new technology to replace a tooth, and it is better than any other procedure to replace that tooth. He tells you that the tooth needs to be replaced some way because if the space is left vacant the surrounding bone starts to atrophy due to a lack of use.

They tell you that if you leave the space vacant, the surrounding teeth will start to tip inward toward the space because there is nothing there to hold the surrounding teeth upright. They’ll also tell you that the opposing tooth to where the space is will become compromised because it has nothing left to bite against, thus rendering it useless. They will go into why you shouldn’t have a bridge done because you will compromise the two virgin teeth surrounding the space by putting crowns on teeth when they aren’t needed. They’ll tell you that you could do a partial, and it is cheaper, but they are removable, and sometimes uncomfortable, and metal clasps tend to show, and every one of their patients that have had a partial  in the past have hated them, and so on and so forth.

They will tell you all of this (which is all true, by the way) because they want to try the newest procedure in dentistry. They want to blindly drill a hole in your jaw, not knowing if the have enough bone, and not knowing how close they will be to hitting an adjacent tooth, and screw in a titanium post, then they want to make you wait 4-6 months with no tooth while you heal from that procedure. Then they want to bring you back in that 4-6 months, hoping that the implant didn’t hit a nerve, or the root of a tooth, hoping that you had enough bone to integrate with the implant, and then you would get the crown put on.

Now I know this all sounds ludicrous, and crazy, and scary, and downright frightening. It sounds like that to me too. But that is how dental implants were done back in the early 70’s when dentists started placing them, and how a lot of dentists still do them today.

Dental implants were new back then, and technology hadn’t caught up to the research of Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, who accidentally discovered what is called “osseointegration”, which makes dental implants possible, back in the 1960’s. Dr. Branemark was doing an experiment for his thesis, studying bone regeneration in rabbits. He developed a titanium chamber to study wound healing, and implanted it into the bone of the rabbit. At the end of the study, when he wanted to remove the chamber from the bone, it could not be removed because the bone had fused (osseointegrated) to the titanium surface. The bond was so strong, that it could not be broken, and after he discovered this, dental applications were the first thing that came to his mind. That is how the modern-day dental implant came to be.

While osseointegration is still a big part of the implant process, it is just about the only thing that has stayed the same since the early days of dental implant placement. Technology has come so far since then, which makes placing implants pretty much a simple as placing as small filling on a tooth.

Now imagine coming to the dentist today and needing a tooth removed because you have that same fractured root. The dentist today tells you there is new technology to make replacing that tooth so much easier and less invasive than it used to be. Now, the tooth still needs to be replaced because all of the same reasons above still stand true, but implant technology has come so far just in the last 10 years.

The implant process, today, starts with a 3D Cone Beam scan of your mouth and jaw. This allows the dentist to determine if you are even a candidate for an implant. The 3D Cone Beam ensures that there is enough healthy bone structure, enough room for an implant, and that there are no anomalies that the dentist would run into during surgery. The Cone Beam allows the dentist to plan the precise placement of the exact right size implant to ensure the best esthetic of the final crown that will be placed.

That scan is then input into the CEREC software (the same software that allows dentists to mill same-day crowns in their office) that contains a 3D scan of the inside of your mouth that has been taken with the CEREC intraoral camera. The images from both technologies integrate seamlessly to provide the dentist with a view of what the implant and crown would look like in your mouth before any instruments have been picked up at all.

The CEREC software then sends the planning images to a dental lab. The lab’s software then reads the images and fabricates what is called a surgical stent. The stent is basically a mouth guard with an opening in it. The opening in the stent is the dimension of the hand piece that the doctor will use to place the implant. The positioning of the opening is at the exact location, angle, and depth that the software planned out for the perfect placement of the implant. The stent then gets shipped to the dentist a day or two after the lab receives it. The whole process from when the doctor takes the Cone Beam to when the doctor receives the stent can be done in as little as three days.

Now the doctor has the stent in hand and is ready to place the implant. You then come in for the implant placement appointment, which may or may not be done under IV sedation, depending on your preference. The time it takes to place the implant has been greatly reduced to about 20 minutes per implant due to all of the planning that now goes into implant placement.

Dentists placing implants today without the use of these technologies are literally taking a stab in the dark to whether the implant will be placed in the correct position in relation to the surrounding teeth, and at the correct angle to support the most esthetic crown placement. All of this technology is available at Legacy Dental Group, so call or click us today to set up a dental implant consultation. We would love to help you realize your dreams of having a perfect smile again.

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