There have been great advances in dental implantology in the last number of years. One of the most important discoveries and implementation was that of combining the CAT scan, 3d xray technology, with something called guided implant surgery. Guided implant surgery allows us to place the implant virtually on a 3d image, achieving the best possible angle and location. Once we have chosen the exact location of that implant, we can create what is called a guide appliance. This retainer like device has holes milled into it at the exact location of where we previously virtually placed the implant. In addition, holes are drilled such that their angles allow us to drill precisely where we need to in order to get a perfect job done.
Another advantage of guided implant surgery is the fact that we can prevent some serious injury be pre planning the case. For example, the lower jaw has nerves running through it that give sensation to the teeth and lips. This nerve is the inferior alveolar nerve. One of the biggest problems that can happen while placing lower implants, is to drill too deep and do damage to the nerve. By doing guided implant surgery using a guide appliance, we know beforehand, exactly where that nerve is and the appliance prevents us from drilling too deep in the wrong location.
Here is how it works. Once we have placed our virtual implants, taking care to avoid any important anatomical structures like the inferior alveolar nerve, we must create a real model of the jaw as well as a model of the appliance that we will use during surgery. Today, the use 3D printers in dentistry is beginning to be seen more and more frequently. Because the computer knows exactly where we want those implants placed, we can print out the appliance all ready to be used for implant placement.