Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dentists specializing in surgery of the mouth, face, and their supporting structures. After completing four years of college and four years of dental school, oral and maxillofacial surgeons receive an additional four to six years of hospital-based surgical and medical training. This prepares them to do a wide range of procedures including surgery of both the bones and soft tissue of the mouth and face as well as the administration of advanced anesthesia techniques for patient comfort.
Both of the surgeons at Oral Surgery Associates, Dr. Dorsett and Dr. Orr, are board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and are specially trained in the placement of dental implants.
What are Dental Implants?
More and more people are getting dental implants to replace missing teeth. They’re a long-term solution that is embedded in your jawbone, just like your natural teeth. They even go your natural teeth one better, since they can’t develop cavities. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function just like natural teeth. They provide the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing that the teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. Patients with dental implants can smile with confidence. Implants also help preserve facial structure, preventing the bone loss that occurs when teeth are missing.
Dental implant surgery is, of course, surgery, and is best done by a trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon. For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed within the jawbone. The implants themselves are titanium posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as tooth root substitutes. The bone bonds with the titanium through a process called “osseointergration” creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. There’s no short cut to get around that process, and it usually takes three to four months once the implant is placed. Osseointegration, however, is why implants never slip or make embarrassing noises like dentures, and why bone loss is usually not a problem. After the implants have integrated to the jawbone, the second phase begins. At this point the implants are uncovered and attached to the small post that protrude through the tissue that will act as a stable anchor for the artificial teeth. When the artificial teeth are placed, these posts will not be seen. The entire procedure usually takes about three to four months.
Implants are a team effort between an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and a restorative dentist. While the oral surgeon performs the actual implant surgery, initial tooth extractions, and bone grafting if necessary, the restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent crowns and bridges.
Advancements in dental implant technology provide many options not available in the past. Some of these advances allow for shorter treatment times and advanced techniques that can avoid bone grafting when placing implants. For example, in some cases, patients can have implants placed during one procedure. This means the implant and the healing post are both placed at one appointment, therefore eliminating the need to return for a second procedure. In addition in some cases, a patient can come into the office, have the tooth removed and an implant placed all during one appointment, minimizing the number of surgical procedures. New technology has made it possible, in select cases, to extract teeth, place multiple implants and place a fixed implant bridge all in one visit in a procedure called “All-on-4”. This procedure allows a patient to come into the office with a totally failed dentition and leave with a fixed implant bridge.
Another exciting advancement in the specialty area of dental implants is the ability to plan the surgery with a computer prior to ever touching the patient. At Oral Surgery Associates, we utilize Cone Beam CT scans that allow us to visualize the anatomy as a 3-D image. This allows the virtual placement of implants. Once the virtual surgery is completed, a guide can be fabricated on a 3-D printer. This guide is used during the actual surgery. This allows shorter surgical times and increased accuracy. That is why we think dental implants are not revolutionary, but rather they are evolutionary.