Hold On Tight: Implant Dentistry is Surging Forward
HOLD ON TIGHT: IMPLANT DENTISTRY IS SURGING FORWARD
New technologies and techniques allow clinicians to provide implant therapy to a broader range of patients in a way that is more accurate and expeditious than ever before
Recently, a Chinese dental clinic announced that a robot carried out the first successful autonomous implant surgery by installing 2 implants in a patient's mouth in just 1 hour. Although medical staff were present during the surgery, humans were not actively involved, which, if anything, proves the possibilities are limitless when it comes to digital implant dentistry.
Implantology has been on the receiving end of some of the most groundbreaking advancements over the past 40 years—making implant placement today not only precise and predictable, but faster and easier for both patient and practice than ever before. With more patients now regularly requesting this increasingly reliable and esthetic restorative option, many new products and technologies are available that are specifically designed to make placing dental implants a reality for a wider range of patients—including those previously considered to be poor candidates for implant therapy.
“More than 15 million people a year seek dental implants in the United States,” said Dr. Sharde Harvey, a Manhattan-based dentist who practices cosmetic and implant dentistry. “Offering implants allows dental professionals to provide a better service and greatly improve overall outcomes for patients.”
Typically placed by oral surgeons or periodontists in the past, more and more general dentists are adding implants to their roster of services. General dentists who receive the proper training and education are not only competent in placing implants, but also are quickly gaining the tools and confidence needed to routinely offer their patients in-house implant therapy.
Guiding the Way
Over the past 15 years, a combination of CBCT imaging and intraoral scanning technology has dramatically impacted the planning phase of implant treatment. “We have the ability to merge CBCT scans with digital impressions, and to mill abutments and crowns in one or two visits with such incredible accuracy that it makes the process practically seamless,” remarked Dr. Harvey.
Advanced imaging software can merge STL files from an intraoral scanning system with the DICOM files of a CBCT system to create an indispensable road map to treatment. “This provides greater predictability in the success of the implant and restoration by minimizing clinical errors," said Dr. Harvey. "It allows us to print surgical guides, customize abutments and crowns for our placed implants, and reduce costs."
Guided surgery using a 3D-printed surgical stent also has increased implant predictability, while saving additional costs when compared with freehand placement. “Prior to guided surgery, several different sizes of implants would have to be stocked in the event that they were needed,” Dr. Harvey added. “Guided surgery also allows dental professionals to perform flapless implant procedures, which greatly decreases healing time.”
The materials needed to regenerate inadequate levels of hard and soft tissue have seen enhancements to their porosity, biocompatibility, and mechanical strengths. Calcium phosphates and bioactive glass have been introduced, for example, and there has been a shift from biological to synthetic grafts.
What's more, bone graft materials now come integrated with growth factors or agents that promote angiogenesis and osteoconductivity. According to Dr. Harvey, “These advancements in the biotechnology of bone graft materials are paramount to establishing a solid foundation for surgical implant planning.”
Zirconium implants, which are less corrosive than metals and may offer a more esthetically pleasing outcome and increased longevity, also have made their debut. “Patients are now requesting metal-free implants due to existing allergies or fear of having metal implanted in their bodies,” said Dr. Harvey. “So, zirconium implants give patients more options.” Additionally, implants that slowly release antibacterial agents are now available, providing a healthier and faster recovery, while increasing the life of the implant.