You think parallel parking your SUV in a Corolla-sized space is tough? Try putting a dental implant in just the right spot in someone's mouth. In many cases, you don't know what you're facing until you expose the patient's bone.
"There are many unknowns that are hidden until the time of surgery," said Dr. Joseph Califano, program director of periodontics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a press release. "Traditionally, we make an incision to locate the bone and react to what we find."
|SimPlant creates a 3D image that lets you place implants "virtually". Image courtesy of Materialise Dental.|
Thankfully, minimizing such on-the-spot decision making for faculty and students at UIC has gotten easier, thanks to SimPlant, a 3D pre-operative planning program from Materialise. (Version 11 of this 3D modeling program shipped in April.) Simply feed the program the appropriate CT scans and in short order it generates a 3D plan that lets you precisely place implants, from individual teeth to bridges and dentures. The other key component? The SurgiGuide, an appliance manufactured by Materialise based on your 3D plan, that fits over the jawbone, mucosa, or teeth, and lets you precisely drill and place an implant in just the right spot. You order a custom SurgiGuide by simply clicking a menu option in the program. Materialise claims its SimPlant software is compatible with every implant brand.
UIC has been using the program for nearly three years, with positive results among its dental students. "We can place implants virtually on a trial basis," said Califano. "This allows us to review many options and develop an ideal surgical plan that fully supports the prosthetic plan we developed. The virtual world of SimPlant...encourages meaningful interaction and problem solving."
SimPlant, as you might expect, isn't cheap, with the basic SimPlant package (with viewer module) starting at $4490.
SurgiGuide products are $395 per arch. The company notes that its pricing structure for SurgiGuide will change in 2008 to reflect the number of implants being placed.