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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.

Diagnodent.Laser technology is becoming quite commonplace in a wide variety of areas throughout the healthcare industry; but did you know that it can now be used to detect tooth decay? Today, using a small, handheld device, it is possible to detect tooth decay that is not yet visible and would otherwise be undiagnosed by conventional methods alone.

Plus, traditional methods of detecting tooth decay are much more accurate and efficient when laser technology is included by your dentist. You can expect:

  • dramatically improved early cavity detection
  • reduced size and possibly number of fillings that might be needed, thus possibly lowering the cost of dental treatments
  • reduced chances of unnecessary exploration of teeth that are suspected to have cavities

Laser decay diagnosis.

Here's how it works

Using this noninvasive technology, your teeth are scanned to examine their structure. Laser cavity detection is based on the fact that healthy tooth structure reflects light, or “fluoresces,” differently than does decayed tooth structure. Healthy teeth will have little-to-no fluorescence while teeth with decay display with a higher level of fluorescence. And the higher the fluorescence, the more advanced the tooth decay. Once the scan is complete, the fluorescence readings are converted into a digital numeric output. You will also “hear” when you have decay present, as changes in fluorescence and numeric value are emitted as an audio signal that goes up in tone as it denotes the presence of decay.

Why is this so important?

Tooth decay may be more difficult to detect today than it was in the past. Why? It's probably due in part to improved oral hygiene, and, ironically, the increased use of fluoride in toothpaste and in tap water. While fluoride has proven invaluable at protecting teeth by hardening their outer enamel surface, that increased hardness can sometimes conceal even aggressive decay. As a result, tooth decay can be difficult to find, even with the use of traditional x-rays.

Furthermore, prior to using a laser scanner, dentists depended upon x-rays and using fine picks to identify cavities. However, using laser technology provides about a 90% accuracy rate for identifying suspicious areas and cavities. This translates to earlier detection, less tooth structure loss resulting in stronger teeth, less time spent in the dental chair, and, ultimately, a financial savings to you.

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