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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.

Antibiotic premedication for dental treatments.Antibiotics are widely prescribed to control bacterial infections. Sometimes they are given before a medical or dental procedure, to prevent a possible infection from occurring; this practice is called “antibiotic prophylaxis.” In the recent past, physicians and dentists advised that people with certain medical conditions — including a number of heart problems and several types of bone or joint replacements — should always take antibiotics before many routine dental procedures. Today, their advice may be different.

A growing body of evidence now indicates that far fewer patients need to take this preventive step than was previously thought. As a result, the guidelines for prescribing antibiotic prophylaxis have recently changed — and they may do so again in the future. Why are the recommendations changing… and what do you need to know about taking antibiotics before coming to the dental office?

The Risk of Infection

We all know that bacteria — both helpful and harmful types — thrive in many parts of the body, including the mouth. Whenever circumstances make it possible for these microorganisms to enter the bloodstream, there's a slight risk that a bacterial infection may develop. This could occur in many dental procedures — and it could also occur during routine activities like chewing, brushing and flossing. In most cases, the risk is so small that the chance of a having bad reaction to antibiotics (while rare) is far greater than the chance of developing an infection; therefore, antibiotics aren't routinely used.

Some people, however, need to take extra precautions before having dental procedures. If you have been treated for some types of heart disease, or have had certain orthopedic procedures (including total joint replacement), we may advise taking antibiotics to protect against even a remote chance of infection. Recommendations are made on an individual basis, taking into account your medical history and a clinician's healthcare experience.

Guidelines for Antibiotic Premedication

Prophylactic antibiotics might be recommended before dental procedures if you have one or more of the following heart conditions:

  • A heart transplant
  • Artificial heart valves
  • A history of infective endocarditis
  • Some types of congenital heart problems — particularly if they haven't been completely repaired, or if their treatment involves prosthetic material

If you have undergone a joint replacement procedure, prophylactic antibiotics might be recommended if you also have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • A systemic inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosis
  • A weakened immune system resulting from HIV, cancer, radiation or chemotherapy, or another cause
  • Insulin-dependent (type I) diabetes or hemophilia
  • A history of previous infection in a prosthetic joint
  • Undernourishment or malnourishment

There are other circumstances where taking prophylactic antibiotics would be a prudent step; there are also a number of situations where these medications might have been recommended in the past, but aren't currently required in all cases. For example, the presence of a benign heart murmur, a pacemaker or defibrillator, and certain heart diseases or congenital defects don't automatically mean that antibiotic prophylaxis will be needed.

In recent years, reports of drug-resistant bacteria and harmful side effects from some medications have increased public awareness of the consequences of overusing antibiotics. Fortunately, new scientific research is helping healthcare professionals make better, evidence-based treatment decisions on antibiotic use. If you have questions about whether you should take antibiotics before dental procedure, don't hesitate to ask.

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Premedication - Dear Doctor Magazine

Premedication for Dental Treatment If you have had a total joint replacement in the past, you may be advised to take antibiotics before have dental work. That's because certain preexisting health conditions may make you more susceptible to infection during a dental procedure. Find out what the risk factors are... Read Article