Most of the new dental implant technologies we will discuss have been around for a number of years. What’s different is how manufacturers have made innovations and improvements that allow these technologies to be used in ways that were not possible previously.
Chairside scanners designed to replace physical impressions arrived on the scene in 2007. Their initial use was limited to capturing impressions of hard tissue for single crowns. The technology evolved and within the last three years, it has become possible to take highly accurate digital impressions of both hard tissue and moveable mucosa for denture fabrication.
Like any of the newest dental implant technology, there is a learning curve involved when you first begin to capture digital impressions. But once the dentist masters the technique, he or she will never go back to taking physical impressions that are prone to distortion and errors.
Digital impressions are also a life-changing experience for dental patients. No more messy, gooey impressions that seem to go on forever. Digital scanning allows implant-retained restorations to be manufactured to precise standards for an exact fit and comfort at delivery, saving time and numerous follow-up adjustment visits.
Digital dental x-rays were first available in 1987 and came into widespread use during the mid-1990s. When teeth are x-rayed using digital technology, the patient is exposed to much lower radiation levels compared with film and traditional methodology.
In addition, the images also are clearer, eliminate the need for harmful chemicals, are less time-consuming to produce, and are easier to store. They may be shared with other collaborators electronically without loss of resolution. Digital x-rays revolutionized new dental implant technology and placement, making it possible to quickly and easily expose x-rays during surgery to ensure proper implant placement.
Cone-Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT)
CBCT was first introduced to the US in 2001. This low-radiation scanning system literally takes hundreds of digital images of the teeth, jaws, nerves, gums as it revolves around the patient’s head. The images are compiled by computer software and are stitched together to form a 3D rendering of the jaws and surrounding structures that can be observed from any angle in space.
CBCT has become an integral part of treatment planning for the latest dental implant placement surgeries, allowing the clinician to avoid vital structures and optimize implant placement and angulation, as well as diagnose hard tissue abnormalities and tumors. CBCT has also helped in the advancement of dental robotics.
Dental robotics for implant placement was first developed in 2002. Something this complex takes a long time to refine and receive clearance for use from the FDA. In 2017, it finally happened.
Implant robotics integrates CBCT to improve the clinical accuracy of the latest dental implant technology and placement surgery by providing physical guidance and limitations of the drill’s depth, orientation, and position. This eliminates the problem of hand deviation by the operator. The result is a less invasive surgery and the ability to accurately place dental implants in patients with decreased quantities of alveolar bone.
This new dental implant technology also compensates for patient movement. At present, robot-guided systems cannot be used on totally edentulous patients. This drawback is expected to change in the near future as technology improves. As of 2021, robotics is financially out of reach for most clinicians. But with rapidly improving technology, the price will come down and it will become a more commonplace means for implant placement.
Implants Designed for Immediate Loading
Although it has become common practice to place dental implants in extraction sites, it’s not always possible to gain primary stability. The risk of implant failure is greater when there is insufficient bone quantity or quality to fully secure the implant in all dimensions during immediate placement.
Since 2014, implant manufacturers have recognized this quandary and have begun introducing implants with macro- and micro-topographical surfaces specifically designed to increase primary stability and to accelerate osseointegration of the implant. Clinical research studies are currently underway to determine long-term success rates.
A discussion of the topic can be found: Khalid Almas et al, “What is the best micro and macro dental implant topography?” Dent Clin North America; July 2019; p. 447-460. These technologies may be a “win-win” for the patient and provider if proven to increase success rates for immediate-load implants.
The Future of New Dental Implant Technology
Some of the biggest challenges and obstacles to overcome with the newest implant dental technology involve the aging population which includes patients with health issues that are not conducive for favorable implant survival and patients with less-than-ideal quantities of bone by current standards. How do we make dental implants an option available to all?
For expanded reading on this topic, see: Hamdan S. Alghamdi and John A. Jansen; “The development and future of dental implants”; Dental Materials Journal; March 31, 2020; p. 167-172. A link to the research is listed in the references at the end of this article.