Christensen: The time is now to add implants to your practice

2013 12 02 16 47 25 788 Gny 2013 200

NEW YORK - Gordon Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD, urged dentists to add dental implants to their repertoire at the Greater New York Dental Meeting.

"Every person in this room that's not afraid of blood should be able to place an implant in a healthy person with healthy bone," he said during a Monday morning session in which he shared his thoughts on techniques and materials for replacing a single tooth. The co-founder and CEO of the CR Foundation's Clinician's Report referenced a study that compared the prowess of general practitioners and oral surgeons at placing implants. In it, the former group did as well as or better than the latter, Dr. Christensen noted.

At one point, he informally polled the audience to find out how many in attendance place implants. By his estimate, 10% to 15% raised their hands. He responded by saying that he was frustrated that the U.S. was behind a number of other developed nations in terms of how many clinicians were placing implants.

"There are 320 Americans, 200 million of which are adults. One hundred seventy-eight million have one or more missing teeth. Yet only 1% has had an implant. And 40 million are edentulous," Dr. Christensen explained. "That is absurd! We are not treating them the way they should be treated."

Among the patients receiving implants, the vast majority are receiving single units, Dr. Christensen said. Consequently, most cases will not be as complex -- or lucrative -- as is sometimes advertised, so clinicians should set their expectations accordingly.

"Some of these implant sessions imply that every case is a $40,000 case!" Dr. Christensen warned.

The session moved on to the role of imaging in implantology.

"Are tomographs or cone-beam radiographs required for implant placement diagnosis?" Dr. Christensen asked. "Some would make you feel inferior for not doing so."

Beyond that, "in more litigious states like California, if you don't have one, you can get sued," he explained. Legally, you're going to have to have access to cone-beam CT, Dr. Christensen said.

"Find one in your community," he said. "Typically, they cost about $350, but try to talk them down to $150."

Christensen noted that the owners of the machine have no obligation to make a diagnosis; they simply push a button, and so they may be amenable to such an arrangement.

That led to a business idea that he proposed for enterprising dentists. "Get a van and put a [cone-beam CT system] in it. Then drive to small towns where it's needed," Dr. Christensen explained. "I know of several cities with that service, and cone beam is expanding rapidly."

"It's time to move to digital," Dr. Christensen said. "There's no need to stay with the horse when we have cars."

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