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31 Jan 2013 | Australasian Dental Practice

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New courses in implant rehabilitation of the edentulous jaw

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The replacement of missing teeth using dental implants is now common practice in contemporary dentistry. After decades of education, initially by implant manufacturers and now as a well-entrenched part of the curriculum of progressive universities, implant therapy is a procedure that has been embraced by the profession wholeheartedly.


Placing implants affords clinicians all they desire in a dental procedure: it is clinically and technically demanding; requires precision and an eye for detail and aesthetics to do well; and it still commands a premium price. And perhaps most importantly, it can also offer life-changing solutions to patients where other treatments have failed to deliver.

Implant dentistry has certainly defined the career of Dr Richard Chan. For years, Dr Chan ran high-end practices in the Sydney CBD and high-end education programs for both his referral base and clinicians at large who wanted to learn more about the "miracles" this then burgeoning field of dentistry could deliver.

"Since I started practising implant dentistry 25 years ago, the base level of knowledge and understanding of this area amongst dentists has increased significantly," Dr Chan said, "In those early days, everyone referred patients to a select few clinicians like myself who had been trained in this new technique.

"These days, almost everyone is an implant surgeon and together with new techniques, an abundance of education and an expansive range of products, materials and solutions on offer, outcomes are generally very predictable. However, we must always be careful not to become complacent when performing what is essentially a demanding surgical procedure."

Now unencumbered by practice ownership, Dr Chan focuses on educating practitioners as part of the faculty for the DipClinDent (Oral Implants) and DClinDent (Prosthodontics) programs at the University of Sydney. In addition, he is also currently preparing to deliver Implant Rehabilitation of the Edentulous Jaw: an inter-disciplinary team approach in Melbourne in May and Auckland in June, that focuses on a current area of great interest in implant dentistry.

"Using dental implants to restore an edentulous jaw is not a new concept and I worked with Patrick Henry to deliver an 'invitation-only' course on this 17 years ago in 1994," Dr Chan said. "However, what we're seeing at present is a significant increase in the level of interest from clinicians in treating edentulous patients with implants.

"This is both an evolution based on the current level of interest in implants in general and also as a reaction to the aging population. Many elderly patients today are both looking for an alternative solution to traditional dentures and have the resources to pay for essentially expensive and complex treatments like, for example, the All-On-4 technique perfected by Dr Paulo Malo and marketed by Nobel Biocare.

"It is a significant step up, however, from replacing a single tooth with an implant to treating an edentulous jaw and clinicians need to absorb all the education, mentoring and guidance from experienced clinicians they can find. There is far more involved than simply placing four implants, in the case of All-On-4, for example."

Dr Chan says that mistakes he sees in treating edentulous patients include placing too many implants, placing too few implants, proceeding through the phases of treatment too quickly and use of techniques like immediate loading inappropriately.

"The courses we're running focus on interdisciplinary treatment planning and the importance of communication throughout treatment between the implant surgeon, the restoring dentist and the dental technician. We strongly encouraged restorative clinicians to attend with their technicians and surgeons to attend with their referring practitioners because treating edentulous patients benefits significantly from a team approach."

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