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Imagine this: An implant surgeon is performing a thorough examination of your mouth. The surgeon rotates your jaw from side to side and up and down, looking for the optimal sites in which to place dental implants — and the proper size, shape and orientation for the implants to have. He or she may test several alternatives, considering the underlying anatomical structures, and the bone density and quality that the examination reveals. Finally, a surgical plan is developed: This includes a set of precise specifications for implant position, size and depth, and a template for creating a perfectly fitting set of replacement teeth. But no invasive procedures of any type have been performed so far. In fact, you aren't even present.

Welcome to the world of computer-guided dental implant surgery. What we have described is one step in the process that allows you to receive a set of replacement teeth with the minimum amount of surgery (and time spent in the dental chair), and the maximum level of preplanning foresight. It can result in faster overall treatment time, less discomfort, and an outcome that pleases everyone. Let's look a little more closely at the entire process of computer-guided implant surgery — a procedure at the forefront of dental implant technology.

The First Phase: Making A Virtual Model

It all begins with a complete examination and modeling of your existing teeth, gum and jaw structures. In many cases, a physical impression (replica) of the jaws is made, which will aid in planning the location of the new teeth. But the modeling doesn't stop there: A high-tech, three-dimensional CT (computed tomography) scan is also performed. This allows us to examine the structures (including bone, nerve tissue and sinus cavities) which lieinside the jaw. It is often accomplished using “cone-beam” CT technology, in which the scanning device quickly captures a complete digital image of internal structures as it rotates around your head.

The next step of the process relies on powerful computers and sophisticated software to take the raw CT scan data and translate it into a 3-D model of the jaw. This virtual model can be manipulated on a computer screen — rotated, measured, even “operated” on — so that we can visualize the placement of dental implants and determine their optimum position with a high degree of accuracy. Using this technology, it's now possible for us to evaluate anatomical structures virtually — structures it once would have taken surgery to reveal — and to plan out the implant procedure accordingly.

The 3-D model we have developed is then used for two purposes: to create a precise guide for the implant surgery, and to allow the dental laboratory to pre-manufacture a set of replacement teeth that will fit precisely in the jaw. An advanced set of CAD/CAM (computer aided design/manufacture) processes is used to generate the physical objects — in this case, the surgical guide and the prosthetic teeth. Depending on your individual situation, the new teeth may be attached the same day as implant surgery, or after a healing period of 6 to 12 weeks. In either case, our precision modeling ensures that they will fit perfectly with the implants and the jaw.

Implant Surgery: Following the Plan

The implant surgery itself is typically performed under local anesthesia, and often requires no sutures (stitches). In the surgical procedure, the template we have produced (which resembles a nightguard or athletic mouthguard) is securely (but temporarily) fixed in position on the jaw. The openings in this template form precise guides for the placement of the implants — accurate in terms of position, width and depth. In fact, the implants fit so perfectly into these prepared sites that we can have new teeth placed the same day as implant surgery.

Since so many of the details have been accomplished in the planning stages, computer-guided implant surgery is typically uneventful for the patient. It can result in shorter time in the chair, less discomfort during recovery — and a highly pleasing result. It has even been called the most significant innovation in implant technology since osseointegration — the fundamental process by which a dental implant becomes fused with the bone.

Of all the ways modern dentistry has to replace missing teeth, dental implants are by far the best. There is no tooth-replacement option that will give you a longer-lasting result. Implants also help preserve tooth-supporting bone that naturally deteriorates when a tooth is lost. Loss of bone is one of the major hidden consequences of losing teeth.

Dental Implant.

A dental implant most often takes the form of a small, screw-shaped titanium post that replaces the root-part of a missing tooth. The surgical procedure used to place an implant is actually quite minor and routine, requiring only local anesthesia in most cases. After a healing period, the implant is topped with a lifelike crown custom-made to match your existing natural teeth. Implants have a documented success rate of over 95%, which is significantly higher than any other tooth-replacement option.

How Implants Work

During a minor surgical procedure done in the dental office, your dental implant is inserted directly into the jawbone in the space vacated by the missing tooth. We schedule about 45 minutes to an hour to place one implant but much less time is required for additional implants. Initially, time is spent reviewing medical history, taking your blood pressure and providing you with the proper anesthesia. Any postoperative discomfort can normally be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. Your implant will then be left to heal for a period of months before the final crown is attached. During this healing period, the implant actually fuses to the bone surrounding it. We use implants made by the BioHorizons company because of the technological innovations they have made to ensure the best possible healing, success rate and final result. Learn more about how dental implants work.

Dental Implant Treatment Options

Dental Implant Treatment Options.

You'll be amazed to learn more about the variety of ways dental implants can be used to replace one tooth, multiple teeth or even all teeth in your mouth. Implants are so strong, they can support bridgework or a fixed denture, meaning a full row of teeth (top or bottom) can be anchored by as few as four implants. And as few as two implants can be used to stabilize a lower removable denture so it won't slip while you're eating or speaking. Learn more about your dental implant treatment options.

Immediate Implants

If you need to have failing teeth removed, we may be able to place dental implants into the tooth sockets immediately after removing the teeth if circumstances allow. This has some definite advantages — the major one being that you will need just one surgical procedure rather than two. Depending on how many implants you received and where they are in your mouth, we also may even be able to give you a temporary dental crown or a set of temporary teeth to wear during this healing phase. That way, you will not only walk out of the dental office with new implants, but possibly new teeth as well! But please be assured that we will not rush anything; if your unique situation requires us to allow more healing time and to finish your new teeth in stages, that is what we will do. Learn more about immediate implants.

Computer-Guided Implant Surgery

Computer-guided implant surgery can result in a shorter implant-placement procedure with minimal discomfort and a very precise result. A three-dimensional CT (computed tomography) scan of your jaw is used to create a template that resembles a nightguard or athletic mouthguard with holes in the plastic where the implants will go. This template is securely (but temporarily) fixed in position on the jaw to provide a precise guide for the placement of the implants. Since so much has been worked out in the planning stages, computer-guided implant surgery is typically uneventful for the patient and very predictably achieves the desired result. Learn more about computer-guided implant surgery.

Implant Care and Maintenance

There are only two ways an implant can lose attachment to the bone and fail once it has successfully fused: poor oral hygiene or excessive biting forces. Poor oral hygiene and/or a lack of regular cleanings can lead to a destructive bacterial infection called peri-implantitis. Flossing and brushing your teeth on a daily basis, along with regular professional cleanings, can prevent this. Excessive biting forces can come from either a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, or an insufficient number of implants to handle the forces generated by your bite. We will make sure you receive the correct number of implants so this does not happen. And if you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, we will recommend wearing a nightguard to protect your implants. After all, implants are a long-term investment in your smile, your health and your well-being, so let's do our best to protect your investment.

Learn more by reading frequently asked questions about dental implants.

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