"There are many unknowns that are hidden until the time of surgery when the bone is exposed," says Dr. Joseph Califano, program director of periodontics at the University of Illinois, in Chicago (UIC). "Traditionally we make an incision to locate the bone, and we react to what we find and make decisions at that time. We do not always have a complete picture." The traditional manner is often less than optimal, Califano said, because it involves on-the-spot decision-making during the procedure.

Through the use of the a new software, UIC periodontal faculty and residents can review the ideal prosthetic plan for a denture, bridge or other dental restoration as shown on a 3-D computed tomography scan, which also contains the anatomic information in an interactive setting, Califano said.

"We can place implants virtually on a trial basis," he said. "This allows us to review many options and develop an ideal surgical plan that fully supports the prosthetic plan we developed. We can eliminate most of the unknowns, which facilitates both patient consultation and the educational process, since the treatment decisions are made preoperatively."

Once the CT scan is developed and the plan formulated, a drill guide is constructed that allows the surgeons to precisely place the implants in the patient's mouth. The surgery is completed with better safety and predictability, say the researchers. The computer program, said Califano, benefits not only patients, but also dental students. Intra-operative decisions are normally made by the periodontic faculty, instructing the students on the procedures and how to alter the plan to newly discovered anatomic realities. "The active learning completed in the virtual world allows students to exercise their own thought process in a setting which encourages meaningful interaction and problem solving," Califano said.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Illinois at Chicago