In Dentistry, Newer Technologies Offer Better Outcomes

One of the reasons why I enjoy the practice of dentistry so much is that there are significant, ongoing technology improvements that make the work more gratifying. New materials, diagnostic and procedural technologies enable us to provide more accurate, long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing dental solutions, while assuring patient comfort and safety. I would like to share with you just a few of these that make your dental outcomes and in-office experiences better than were available even just a few years ago.

Implants are permanent replacements for missing teeth or those likely to need replacing, whether an individual tooth in a narrow space or for anchoring a full arch bridge or denture of replacement teeth. The newer implant designs and procedures for implanting them provide more accurate placement which produce a much better appearance, speech and feel in a shorter time.

Originally, implant anchors were cylindrical polished titanium with an external hex screw. The success rate of these initial implants approached 94%. However, their initial stability was not always ideal. An additional concern was screw loosening, which could result in fractured screws or damaged implants, as well as increased patient discomfort, complications and office visits.

The advent of tapered implants and more aggressive threads allows for greater implant stability and a higher success rate, especially in poorer quality bone. Changes in implant shape and their surface texture have made these procedures more predictable, with success rates over 98%. Patients are well served because there is a reduction in the number of surgeries as well as treatment time, a win-win for both dentist and patient.

Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) imaging provides 3-dimensional scans right in the dentist’s office that give In Dentistry, Newer Technologies Offer Better Outcomes BY DR. ADAM BIRK, DMD dentist and patient a clearer picture of the quantity and quality of jaw bone to anchor the implant prior to surgery. Previously, surgeons operated at a disadvantage because the bony anatomy could not be determined pre-surgery. CBCT enables better planning of the procedure and selection of the implant size to use.

Patient safety is improved, because vital structures are identified in three dimensional images prior to surgical care. Patients are better informed, allowing them to more actively participate in the treatment. On a computer screen, implant placement in the patient’s bone is visualized prior to the procedure. A guide is made from the patient’s scan and will be used on the surgery date to guide the implant into the perfect position. Patients appreciate the ability to see their treatment in advance.

Zirconia crowns represent another breakthrough in tooth restoration. These are all-ceramic crowns that have quickly become the preferred material for dental restoration. Unlike traditional porcelain crowns, in which porcelain is fused onto a metal substructure, there is no metal in a Zirconia crown. These materials are more translucent, and can blend in with the adjacent teeth. Previous porcelain materials were popular for cosmetic dentistry in more visible front teeth, but they were not as hard as zirconia and had a tendency to break or chip.

In the past, molar crowns were all-metal, either gold or other metals. However, as all ceramic crowns have become stronger in recent years, all-metal crowns are not as widely used. Porcelain fused to metal have been the most widely used crowns over the past 10 years. The disadvantages are the metal must be covered with an opaque porcelain to hide the dark metal color, giving the tooth a look that is not translucent like real teeth. Also, a benefit of a zirconia crown is that there is no dark metal line at the gum line as the gums recede.

Dr. Adam Birk is owner of Westport Dental, located in the 77 Building in Westport Plaza. Dr. Birk employs these and many other advanced technologies to enable more accurate, safe, longlasting and aesthetically pleasing dental solutions, while assuring patient comfort. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Birk, you can call his office at 314-434-7300, or visit their website at www.westportdentalstl.com.