New systems and techniques are making implant placement and restoration easier and more predictable for the entire dental team. Add in long-term success rates, well-informed patients and the abundance of manufacturer-provided education, and implants have become a standard of care.
Here are this specialty's hottest trends:
A Rising Number of Dentists are Getting Involved. Many general practitioners have become so comfortable with implant work that they retain the surgical procedures in their own practices and place the implants themselves.
CAD/CAM has a Significant Effect on the Implant Market:
CAD-generated implant abutments--an alternative to stock or laboratory-fabricated cast custom abutments--continue to grow because they're more economical, less labor intensive and more precise than traditional methods. While many laboratories outsource milled custom abutments to a manufacturer or another laboratory, some are gaining better control over esthetics, contours and emergence concerns by designing and milling in-house.
Milled implant bars for overdentures and fixed-removable implant prosthetics are touted for their accuracy.
Guided surgery techniques and cone beam CT scanning are greatly enhancing treatment planning. Dentists are able to integrate CT scans and other data into diagnostic software to render a 3-D image that allows the dental team to precisely analyze bone density and availability; more accurately see nerve bundles, mental foramina and other critical points of interest; and virtually plan the surgery. The information from the image is then used to produce a surgical template so the doctor knows exactly where the implant is to be placed, resulting in less traumatic surgery.
These implants are designed to be placed surgically and restored at the same appointment with either a final or temporary prosthesis. Patients are becoming more educated about immediate-loading options, thanks to direct-to-consumer advertising by implant manufacturers.
Advancements in Bone and Tissue Preservation
These include titanium coatings or plasma sprays, acid etching or microthread designs to enhance osseointegration. Also in this category is platform switching--using a prosthetic component that has a smaller diameter than the implant collar, rather than a component and implant with the same diameter--which has been shown to enhance tissue and reduce crestal bone loss by creating a shoulder between the implant and the abutment.
Internal Connection Designs
While external hex designs were once the most common, the internal configurations--internal hex, tapers and lobes--have gained popularity because they typically offer stronger abutment connections and fewer problems with screw loosening. They're also easier for surgeons to place and restorative dentists to impress.
The U.S. market for small-diameter implants grew more than 30% in 2007, according to a Millennium Research Group study. Compared to conventional implants, which generally have an average diameter of 4mm, mini-implants are an average of 2 to 2.5mm in diameter. Some mini-implants have received FDA approval to be used as permanent implants for final prosthetics and allow for a less invasive, more cost-effective surgery.
How technology and restorative changes are impacting the specialties
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