New techniques make implants cheaper, more secure and with more natural look
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Introduced in the mid-1960s, dental implants have come a long way in the materials used and the procedure to place them.
Implants can replace a missing tooth to fill a gap in the smile. Strategically placed implants can also help secure a bridge or denture so the wearer feels more comfortable with the prosthesis since they won’t need adhesive to hold them in place.
Implants can also replace up to a full mouth of teeth with a natural look that’s undetectable from natural teeth in both form and function. Eliminating dentures improves the patient’s ability to enjoy food, since dentures cover the taste buds on the soft palate. Patients also don’t need to worry about dentures slipping, since implants are considered permanent tooth replacements.
David Pierce, dentist at Baldwinsville Gentle Dentistry, said that a pre-surgery CT scan helps the surgeon better visualize and plan the implant before performing the surgery and achieve a more precise placement.
“That allows you to design the tooth ahead of time and place the implant,” Pierce said. “It all flows pretty smoothly.”
Pierce also uses platelets to help improve healing speed. Before the procedure, the patient’s blood is drawn. Spinning the sample in a centrifuge extracts the platelets that are put back into the surgical site “for quicker healing,” Pierce said. “The recovery time is less and there’s less chance of infection. Platelets drive the healing process.”
Todd E. Shatkin, cosmetic dentist and director of dentistry at Aesthetic Associates Centre for Plastic Surgery and Dentistry in the Buffalo area, serves as president of the International Academy of Mini Dental Implants.
Along with CT scans, he uses mini dental implants which require what he described as “pinhole sized openings” unlike the larger incisions required for many traditional implants.
The smaller incision lessens pain, healing time and the risk for infection, Shatkin said.
Some people with long-term tooth loss lose bone over time. Using mini dental implants, a procedure for which Shatkin said he has developed and taught to dentists worldwide, does not require as much bone nor the need for bone grafting and sinus lift surgery, which are common with larger-sized implant screws.
In fact, Shatkin calls it a “non-surgical technique” that requires no sutures or stitches. Patients need only local anesthesia and can resume normal activity right away.
“You can put a crown or a denture on almost immediately,” Shatkin said.
He added that mini implants cost 30 to 50 percent less than traditionally sized implants because patients spend less time in the chair. General dentists trained in the procedure can insert them, which means that patients won’t require referrals to dental surgeons.
Once the screw is secured into place, the crown is added. The two-part mini implant is stronger and more secure than the multiple parts of the traditionally-sized implant.
Shatkin also operates Shatkin FIRST, a dental lab that makes the appliances for his dental office and offices worldwide. He said that using a titanium screw instead of steel has helped create a stronger bond to the bone, as well as decrease the healing time. Many of Shatkin’s patients can leave with new teeth within an hour–even a full mouth of implants.
Shatkin said that most patients accept implants well. Even older patients who cannot tolerate surgery well are usually good candidates for the procedure since it’s minimally invasive. His success rate is more than 95 percent.