The Opportunities of Dental Implants
Patients everywhere have noticed how implant dentistry has become mainstream dentistry. The number of dentists overall who are restoring implants has rapidly risen also. Much of this interest and growing awareness can be attributed to the media and the evolving nature of dentistry. For example, contributing factors to implant growth has been flapless surgery and immediate restorations within a conveniently small time frame. Patients are demanding it. So with this in mind, let me express my thoughts.
The Obstacles: The challenge has been to move the patient through the implant process with ease. It can take a dozen visits and months where a patient starts with the general dentist, visits specialists, then returns back to the general dentist in a series of visits. Without coordination between the dentist and implant surgeon, it can be a ball of confusion for the dentist, specialist, lab technician, final prosthesis design and staff.
I would venture to proclaim that the biggest obstacle is not having a team approach where the implants planned are in harmony with the dentist’s comfort level. Each of us has a comfort level. Happy are those who have the willingness to be walked through the procedures of restoring the implant case, and better, to have the comfort in collaborating with the implant surgeon to determine which cases are suitable for implant dentistry. Like golf, you have to want to be good at something, do a lot of it, and simply improve with time.
The Innovations: We know that each patient is unique and different. Just as custom abutments are valuable to each individual case, there is a cornucopia of products and implant solutions to treat each patient. Access to milled abutments, angles abutments, the array of materials, and evolving technologies have given us tools to make our practices flourish. For instance, I have software that allows me, the referring dentist, and the laboratory to work together. A conference call to talk about a treatment plan or digital documents to assist in planning a case allows us to optimize care for our patients. Avoiding miscues will lead to decreased stress and increased profits as well.
Many of us realize that dental implants have given many patients a second chance in dental health. Whatever poor choices made in the past or the failure of a dental prosthetic plan to work, implants have become not only a necessary option in treatment planning but also the panacea that patients look for. Even today, I am doing immediate load hybrids for patients that have abandoned dentistry. They left practices because they were not convinced the treatment was modern or they felt poorly educated on their options. They returned to dentistry when they heard that their desire for teeth can be done in shorter time frames with FDA approved protocols. Whether it is Nobel Biocare’s ‘Bar Attachment Denture’ or Biomet 3i’s ‘DIEM,’ it is these innovations that allow us to give our patients the choices they seek. The practice that can simply deliver patient education and choices will expand at a pace that mimics their commitment to dental education.
The Opportunity: Remember patients coming in for teeth whitening? Zoom treatments? Have you seen how take home kits and low cost alternatives erode the number of in house whitening cases in your hygiene department? Where some see lost revenue, others see a marketing opportunity. So some opportunistic dentists now give lifetime whitening when patients return for hygiene visits on an agreed recall schedule. That Zoom light is no longer a lost revenue source.
Remember the patient who balked at the treatment plan not due to ‘want’ but because of ‘time’? The length of time a patient must wear an interim denture or return to dental function are THE major factors (price is correlated to perceived value…remember Alyssa’s bike story?). Time frames have reduced over the past several years, even with conventional implant treatment. This in turn has had a direct increase in case acceptance. This is important as awareness is growing SIGNIFICANTLY with the public due to the internet, educational forums, dental universities, and from a marketing tactic used by dental implant companies. Now many will argue that dentistry is a discretionary purchase. Well, when you present it in that light to a patient, “let’s wait and see,” “let’s try this for now and wait,” you’re missing the opportunity. In this environment, it is more important than ever for YOU to be educated about discussing benefits and options for the patient. The cases today are shifting towards same day dental rehabilitation, treatment planning, and offering choices to patients. One of the exciting surprises in implant dentistry has been the one day full arch hybrid restoration. Nobel Biocare and Biomet 3i have been the leaders in this realm. I sense that other companies are simply playing catch up to these two pioneering implant companies when it comes to immediate temporization of such immediate load hybrid cases.