It is a great time for patients to consider implant therapy. Whether it is to retain a full denture, replace some or all missing teeth, the technology of the planning and implementation of implant placement is evolving.

As dental implant retention becomes more and more popular, there are numerous emerging technologies that help in the planning and predictability of an implant supported case. 3D dental imaging has been used routinely for accurately planning the placement of dental implants for more than 15 years.

Digital planning for one-day crowns in the dental office has been in widespread use for about the same period. The two technologies seem to now be converging in the overall planning and execution of dental implant support for fixed teeth.

The advantages of dental imaging versus the old way of making dental impressions and reading X-rays are that the images are very accurate and repeatable. They can be combined to overlap each other, allowing for the entire case to be visualized in one view. This allows examination and inspection from every angle.

The images can be manipulated to allow for the best position. The images also can be enlarged to inspect the finest of details.

The ultimate outcome of this preliminary planning is to create a surgical guide that can be transferred to the patient and used during surgery to re-create the overall plan to the patient. This saves a lot of time in the surgical phase and increases the accuracy immeasurably.

This technique can be used no matter how many or what kind of implants are to be placed.

The latest and greatest provides the ability to do full-mouth cases, referred to as “teeth in a day,” or “all on four.” From digital images, a frame is constructed to fit the patient’s arch during surgery. This third point of reference shows the surgeon the final shape of the final boney arch and the exact position of implant placements.

Due to its accuracy, the temporary prosthetic is made ahead of time in conjunction with this frame. The temporary prosthesis is screwed to the final implants without having to retro-fit a denture type of temporary.

The advantages of this technology are many. Preplanning saves time, which saves money. There is much less chair time required by the patient, resulting in less discomfort and recovery time. The results are accurate and esthetic.

The technology is combined and supported by the strength, longevity and predictability of dental implants.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.