Computer Technology and Beautiful Smiles

PAGD Dental Student Spotlight

By J. Neil Della Croce, MS — Dental Student, Temple University School of Dental Medicine

PAGD Spotlight

Well, if you asked me, a student doctor and research associate at Pi Dental Center (PI), Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, what I accomplished last summer, I will tell you with a smile, “Just some summer fun at PI.” Considering that my summer itinerary included a list of events ranging from conducting independent research and taking courses on state of the art, Teeth in an Hour computer guided dental implant surgeries, to chasing after Mario Andretti’s neon orange Lamborghini for a commercial shoot educating the public about advanced dental technology, the “summer at PI” appears to have been nothing short of extraordinary.

The Pi Dental Center is a globally recognized leader in providing patients with first-class dental care and fellow health professionals/staff with equally impressive training courses at Viewpoint, their on location surgical instruction suite. Specifically, the institute provides its patients with access to a myriad of dental specialists who guide their patients through all stages of dental treatment, including the exclusive Teeth In A Day® (TIAD) immediate load dental implant procedure founded by Drs. Thomas J. Balshi and Glenn J. Wolfinger. The immediate load implant protocol developed around the findings of Per-Ingvar Brånemark, enables patients to receive fully functional dental implant rehabilitation in one day, or even an hour!

I has been conducting research on this immediate load dental implant protocol under the direction of Stephen F. Balshi, MBE, Director of Research at Pi Dental Center and Chief Operating Officer at CM Prosthetics. Their study on self-esteem and its relatedness to dental implants, attempts to psychometrically assess the responsiveness of patients who wish to rehabilitate full mandibular and/or maxillary arches utilizing the TIAD™ protocol.

I believe the research is truly exciting for many different reasons. The patient population evaluated in this study will be experiencing immediate improvements in their appearance and functional capabilities of their prostheses. We believe that these changes can be accurately measured through patient response to a 20-item questionnaire specifically designed to measure therapeutic changes as a result of surgical procedures. The questionnaire is distributed at three critical time periods (T1 = New patient work-up, T2 = 3-week hygiene appointment, and T3 = Final prosthesis delivery). Additionally, some of the patient population evaluated in this study received a full arch CM prosthesis. The CM Bridge is the most technologically and esthetically advanced form of fixed prosthodontic rehabilitation that is offered. The prosthesis combines CAD/CAM technology and high quality ceramics resulting in an implant supported functional replication of the natural dentition.

Essentially, we are contributing to areas of literature that have never existed before simply because the technology wasn’t there. Previously, the majority of the attempts to measure the psychological effectiveness of surgical procedures have been retrospective in nature. That is, the researcher would be restricted to deriving much of their data from clinical notes and patient files. I believe that modality of assessment (retrospective analysis) to be built upon a faulty premise in situations such as these. I find it scientifically unsound to presume that the passage of time has no effect on the patient’s ability to recall very important details of their treatment. More simply put, if you were to ask an individual who just slammed their finger in a door how they felt at the very moment of impact, the person would be able to very vividly describe the intensity of the pain as oppose to asking a similar question two weeks after the event. The person would be more likely to shrug off the pain experienced two weeks ago and may have otherwise forgotten the event even occurred. This is one of the differences between a retrospective and a prospective study.

So, it is truly wonderful that through the use of dental implants, we are able to provide patients with the means to obtaining such exquisite smiles and proper function in an expedited, yet predictable manner. An individual’s smile is more than just an esthetic compliment to one’s overall appearance. A smile allows a person to speak volumes about themselves without saying a word. It is my hope that the project will provide better insight for practitioners as to not only the clinical effectiveness of immediate load dental implant treatments, but also the psychological aspect as well.

It is irrefutable that from today’s clinical impossibilities, today’s research challenges derive, and from those challenges arise tomorrow’s clinical possibilities. Ultimately, that is what we are here for, providing patients with the means to an end. As a dental student, I never really considered research as an option. Now, I cannot imagine my future dental career without it. I really cannot think of anything more rewarding than being able to report these findings and the benefits afforded to patients through this technology.

I wholly encourage any dental student to seek out a research facility and to check out what’s happening. It will be very likely that the research being conducted will not only offer a peek at the promising and exciting times to come in this wonderful profession, but you may just find yourself liking it!

The full mouth rehabilitation of a patient with bulimia nervosa utilizing an immediate load dental implant protocol will be presented at the Academy of Osseointegration Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. (March 2007)

(From left): Stephen F. Balshi, MBE, Glenn J. Wolfinger DMD, FACP
Thomas J. Balshi, DDS, PhD, FACP and J. Neil Della Croce, MS of Pi Dental Center

Pi Dental Center, Fort Washington, PA