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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.

The word “surgery” often brings to mind a stay in the hospital, general anesthesia, and perhaps a lengthy recovery period. However, the experience of having oral surgery is usually very different from that. Oral surgery is often performed in a dental office setting, under local anesthesia, with minimal recovery time. Oral Surgery can range from routine procedures such as tooth extractions and implant placement to more complex jaw realignment surgeries and emergency care for facial trauma.

Oral Surgery Procedures

Oral surgery procedures may be performed to relieve pain, treat an infection or trauma, restore function or improve a person's appearance. Procedures and conditions treated include:

  • Tooth Extractions. There are a variety of reasons why you may need a tooth or teeth removed. You may have a wisdom tooth that is impacted; a diseased tooth that can't be saved; or overcrowded teeth that need to be removed so more room can be created to facilitate proper alignment during orthodontics.
  • Dental implant video Dental Implants. Today's preferred method of tooth replacement is a titanium dental implant, which is placed beneath the gum line and into the jawbone during a minor surgical procedure. The implant is then attached to a realistic-looking dental crown that is visible above the gum line and indistinguishable from a natural tooth.
  • Oral Diagnosis & Biopsies. When a suspicious oral lesion is found, a biopsy is often used to detect or rule out oral cancer — a disease that is treatable if caught early. A biopsy involves removing a very small tissue sample for laboratory analysis.
  • Corrective Jaw Surgery. Sometimes a person's jaws don't fit together properly. This can affect both jaw function and appearance.
  • Snoring & Sleep Apnea. Excess tissue in the back of the throat may need to be removed in certain individuals with sleep apnea.
  • TMD. When conservative remedies fail to relieve chronic jaw pain over a long period of time, surgery may be considered.
  • Facial Trauma & Reconstructive Surgery. Facial injuries can affect not only a person's ability to carry on basic life functions such as eating, but also his or her appearance. Knocked-out teeth can sometimes be re-implanted, or replaced with dental implants.
  • Cleft Lip/Palate. These birth defects are among the most common, estimated to affect around one in 700-800 babies born in North America. With proper surgical treatment, the child has an excellent chance of leading a healthy, normal life.

What to expect

Before your oral surgery is performed, x-rays will often be taken to aid in diagnosis and treatment planning. A step-by-step explanation of the procedure along with your anesthesia options will be discussed, and you should feel free to ask any questions you have. Your recovery experience will depend on what procedure you are having as well as your general state of health. It's always important to let your healthcare providers know what medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter), any chronic health conditions you have, and whether you smoke. This will help ensure your safety and comfort — always the paramount concerns.

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