News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
Virtual Reality Has Become Reality In Dentistry - For Implants: Dentist Places Virtual Implants Into 3-D Computerized Image Of Your Jaw Then Computer-Generated "STENT" Guides Implants To Place- No Incision Needed
Virtual reality has become reality in dentistry - for dental implants. Virtual reality in the form of 3D imaging is changing the practice of dentistry. With state-of-the art digital imaging, dentists can analyze the anatomy of the patient's jaw without surgery, which saves time and money and shortens implant recovery time, according to the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI). ICOI further states that it's like having the patient's jaw on the computer screen and helps make implants the most predictable procedure in dentistry today. By incorporating advanced, highly precise computer-guided technology, dental implant surgery has made implant procedures faster, highly predicable and long-lasting with a success rate of 97 percent.
Life-like 3D images are obtained by means of specialized CAT-scans. Assisted by specialized software computer systems, the dentist is able to precisely measure volume, shape and density of the bone and location of sinuses. Just as importantly the precise location and distribution of nerves and blood vessels are also determined and measured with high precision. This eliminates uncertainty about which spots in the jawbone are the right sites for the placement of implants and what angulation of the implant ought to take. In this way the precision of the CT scan and implant surgical planning software gives the dentist a vivid, precise 3-D simulation (virtual reality) of the patient's mouth to pinpoint potential problems and plan the entire implant procedure in advance with confidence.
In planning the procedure, the dentist considers the computerized data and the clinical examination results and general health information of the patient, as well as the subjective preferences of the patient. The dentist then determines which, out of a myriad of types, shapes and sizes of implants, would be the most appropriate and optimal for the best long-term function of the implants. Furthermore, where anterior teeth are involved the dentist will particularly assess and control the cosmetic effect the implant will have on the smile. The dentist may also generate a simulated image of the implant crowns during the consultation appointment. This way the patient can see a virtual reality of the new smile and further indicate preferences in terms of appearance. Based on the totality of information, the final implants are chosen. Then the dentist prescribes a "stent" or a guide that will precisely direct the implants into the correct location at the correct angulation. According to the prescription the implant manufacturer will fabricate this stent.
At the implant placement appointment the stent is used to guide the implants into the exact spot and at the exact angulation that the dentist had pre-determined on the computerized 3-D image of the jaw. Generally no incision or cutting or lifting (flap elevation) of the gum is necessary. Rather, the implant is simply inserted, with a minimal disturbance to the site. Most single implants do not take more than one hour. Routinely, healing is rapid and uneventful.
If you have questions regarding your particular needs, consult with your dentist.