Patient awareness of dental implant procedures is increasing and more people are requesting this treatment. Consequently, dentists are faced with the choice of whether to offer this service in-house, or to refer patients to an oral surgeon. With a greater number of implant courses available, it is often more appealing to offer the complete service. Patients generally prefer to be treated by a dental team they already know and trust, and may be reluctant to travel to other clinics.
Deciding Whether to Offer Computer Guided Dental Implants
Today, more dentists are choosing to offer computer guided dental implants, requiring advanced diagnostics to plan and place these implants. This service has become more common since the introduction of increasingly affordable cone beam CT scanners, allowing many more practices to purchase this technology. Another option is to send patients to a local radiographic laboratory who will take the images for you. You will need to know how to correctly interpret cone beam images or have an oral surgeon or radiologist interpret them for you. However, before cone beam CT scanners were introduced, many dentists were still able to successfully place dental implants. This raises the questions, is it worth spending the additional time and money on computer guided surgery?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Computer Guided Implant Surgery
One of the main advantages of computer guided surgery is the ability to provide predictable results. When correctly performed, the technique is practically foolproof and is considered highly accurate. Additionally, the technique all but guarantees an optimal esthetic outcome.
Spending time planning the surgery beforehand can mean implant placement is faster and more comfortable which can very reassuring for a patient who is at all nervous or anxious about implant surgery. A good dental lab is able to collaborate closely with a dentist during this planning stage, ensuring the proposed placement plan will provide the very best results. This can be invaluable for cases that are slightly more complex.
The time required to plan computer guided surgery may also be considered a disadvantage. Creating the guide involves additional lab costs and even the most efficient dental lab will still need some time to fabricate the guide. Another factor to consider is the need for an accurate impression, whether virtual or conventional, as the guide will only be as accurate as the impression.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Conventional Freehand Implant Placement
Freehand implant placement is faster and eliminates the cost of making a surgical guide along with time spent planning the surgery. Although it is possible to save time beforehand, the actual surgery is likely to take longer since you will need to make clinical judgements when placing the implants. It can be more challenging to correctly place parallel implants and the technique is not as predictable as using guided implant surgery. Many clinicians may lack the confidence to place implants freehand and would prefer to use a guide.
Using a freehand technique for placing single dental implants may work well for an experienced clinician, particularly where implant placement is straightforward and the patient has adequate, existing bone. A single dental implant can often be correctly centered in between the adjacent teeth using periapical x-rays and your clinical judgement. It can be quite different when faced with placing multiple dental implants, particularly when adequate bone is limited. In this situation, using computer guided implant surgery can be invaluable for quickly and accurately placing dental implants. The advantages would seem to far outweigh the additional time and expense required in taking a cone beam CT scan, planning surgery and making a surgical guide.
Ultimately, your choice of dental implant procedures is likely to be based on your skill level, training and clinical experience, as well as individual requirements of a particular case.
Please be reminded that should you wish to discuss an implant case in more detail, our experienced technical team is here to assist you.