An implant replaces a missing tooth, and is the screw-like device (usually titanium) that’s drilled into the jaw for a crown can be fitted, for the world to be none-the-wiser of the gap left behind by the parting of a permanent tooth. A crown can be temporary or permanent: made right in your dentist’s office to provide tooth coverage; or made off-site by a dental technician to precisely match the colour and contour of the surrounding teeth. Crowns can be all metal, all ceramic, porcelain-fused-to-metal, stainless steel or resin.
Whatever the material, when there is no natural tooth for a crown to crown, an implant is the artificial root structure.
It’s pretty clever, really. Dental implants are the inspiration and development of Swedish orthopaedic surgeon Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark, M.D., Ph.D., who died five days before Christmas 2014 in his hometown of Gothenburg, aged 85.
Almost 50 years before, he had performed the first titanium implant on “a man with a cleft palate, jaw deformities and no teeth in his lower jaw.” Brånemark’s brainstorm gave the patient four titanium implants that allowed him to use dentures for forty year from 1965 until his death.
It was a life-changing procedure that lightened the load of a most challenging life.
Most impressive is Dr Brånemark’s ability to think beyond his own medical specialty, take a serendipitous finding, and immediately recognise its application in the distant field of dentistry.
Implants became such a major advancement that Dr Brånemark is considered the father of modern dentistry. It was he and his team that accidentally discovered titanium safely fuses to bone. The original 1952 study was the blood flow affects of bone healing, and in in order to study the healing process Dr Brånemark and his team put titanium-encased optical devices into the lower legs of rabbits.
When they tried to remove the devices, they found that the metal had permanently fused with bone. Brånemark called that process osseointegration, and concluded titanium could be used to create an anchor for artificial teeth. However, it took years for both the medical and dental establishments to be convinced that this silvery gray metal of Group 4 of the periodic table could be integrated into living tissue.
Titanium is a lightweight, high-strength, low-corrosion structural metal now used in alloy form in any high-speed craft be it land, sea or air. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare approved the Brånemark implants. In 1982, Dr Brånemark made his case for osseointegration at a dental conference in Toronto and won widespread recognition for his materials and methods. His system of implants is manufactured and distributed by Nobel Biocare, and is still sold as the Brånemark System.
Dr Brånemark received an honorary ADA membership from the ADA Board of Trustees in 2008 for his dedication to the profession of dentistry.
Titanium implants have since spread well beyond dentistry. These biomedical implant devices are used widely in medical and veterinary procedures. Along with other honors and honorary degrees, Dr Brånemark was award the Swedish Engineering Academy’s medal for technical innovation, the Swedish Society of Medicine’s Soderberg Prize and the European Inventor Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Brånemark’s brain certainly made its mark on dentistry; and when you can fix the way someone can eat, smile, talk and interact with their world, then it’s about quality of life and the easier enjoyment of it just from the baseline of being able to eat and appreciate proper, healthy, nutritious food. To be able to laugh and smile spontaneously without crippling self-consciousness is a gift.
What is Guided Implant Surgery?
Guided implant surgery is performed by the highly trained dog of a blind dentist.
Of course every part of that is untrue but you can’t let a joke with a screaming neon sign over it just flicker and sigh to death in the background.
Undoubtedly there are risks and complications with every surgical procedure and having a dental implant is no exception. Cerainly its 95% success rate overshadows the risk of damage to other teeth, nerve damage, jaw fractures, delayed bone healing and prolonged bleeding but it should not be overlooked.
A dental implant is a procedure that requires meticulous planning and detailed execution.
And that’s precisely why guided implant surgery is so appealing.
Precisely. It’s the precision.
As one of the most advanced technologies in dentistry, digitally guided implant surgery enables better surgical forecast and formation, and hugely reduces both error factor, and time in the chair.
Previously, a 3D scan of the mouth would be made and the images printed in 2D slices. Using rulers and tape measures, the dentist would as accurately as humanly possible estimate the dimensions and the drill site of the implant. Advances in 3D technology now allow strategy and surgery of incredible accuracy. It allows an entire dental team to see a without interpretation, and approve a treatment schedule. Miscalculation is almost impossible; and it’s the results of those errors that produce less than favourable outcomes.
Prior to guided implant surgery – also known as digitally guided and computer guided; computer aided implantology (CAI), and guided implantology – implant surgery was freehand. Based on the x-ray, a dentist would estimate where the implant should be, and start drilling. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be impaired implant angulation, which automatically compromises the long-term success of the procedure. There are blood vessels and nerves the dentist also needs to avoid, and people have physical anomalies all the time. Not everyone has everything is in exactly the same place. Particularly where facial nerves are concerned.
With pinpoint accuracy, this new technology 3D prints patient-specific implant guides that strictly control the angle and depth of the implant in relation to bone volume and anatomical obstacles. Because the dentist has already run the surgery through their mind numerous times before the actual surgery, it’s a more relaxed surgery for the practitioner and a swifter surgery for the patient. Stitches are rarely necessary which means less post-surgical swelling and discomfort.
If that’s not a win/win then it’s difficult to determine what is.
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