Area dentist promotes new technology…for a 40-year-old procedure
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When someone has worked in a profession for 30 years, the job typically turns into the same old routine, day after day. Even for dentists. But not for Dr. Robert Anderson of Glenwood Springs.
Anderson’s excitement regarding recent advancements in computer-guided implant placement is enough to convince most skeptics that going to the dentist is fun.
“[The computer] is a big tool and a big part of the surgery nowadays,” Anderson said as he reviewed a three-dimensional digital image of a patient’s implant. The image is a sort of blueprint for Anderson to use so he knows precisely where to place the implants.
“This program is the biggest leap in technology I’ve seen in my 30-year career. It’s really melding the new technology with older implant techniques.”
The actual implant procedure isn’t new; it’s been around for close to 40 years, according to Anderson. But using a computer program and patients’ X-rays to determine the best option for positioning the implants is revolutionary.
“[The program] takes the guesswork out of the equation and gives me a precise plan of attack,” Anderson said. “I’m able to see exactly where to place the implant and where it will be. I know it’s correct because it’s precise, rather than thinking it’s correct.”
The digital image allows him to evaluate the patient’s bone structure to determine the best anchor points for the titanium implants, and where not to place them. The implants are embedded in the facial bones so the fixed teeth will be secure. The porcelain teeth are fixed and cannot be removed by the patient, but they can be taken out by the dentist.
Prior to the digital imaging blueprint, there was a level of uncertainty involved that no longer exists.
“There’s some stress involved with placing implants in a person’s head,” Anderson said. “This eliminates the guesswork because we’ve already been able to see where the implants go.”
Once he knows where the implants will go, he e-mails the information to Nobel Biocare, a Swedish company that creates the guides and the porcelain teeth replacements. The guide is an imprint of the patient’s gums and existing teeth but has several holes in it where the implants will be placed. The guide also determines the implants’ depth.
Anderson uses a small ratchet, similar to a mechanic’s, to tighten the titanium implants into the facial bones. Each of the titanium implants are tightened to 35 Newton centimeters, a measure of torque smaller than foot pounds, with a small torque wrench to ensure the implant is secure.
“It’s a great feeling to sink the implant with precision and know that it’s done,” Anderson said as he torqued one of the implants into a patient’s gums last Tuesday.
Anderson attached a complete set of upper teeth to that patient’s gums, but a single tooth or just a section of teeth can be implanted as well.
According to Anderson, the new technology has been around for only three years. He has been using the computer program for the past couple of years and said he is the only dentist in the Roaring Fork Valley who uses the Nobel Biocare technology.
The cost of the procedure can range from $20,000 to $30,000 and isn’t covered by most dental insurance. But the positive aspects, according to Anderson, are that the fixed teeth don’t get cavities, they allow for better chewing and they give the person a full smile again. However, the patients do have to clean them just as if they were real teeth.
“I don’t have a lot of people coming back with problems,” Anderson said. “The implants work well and the patients are happy.”
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