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S.A. dentists go 3-D: Just open wide and say 'Awww-some!'
March 11, 2011

By Wendy Rigby - KENS 5

SAN ANTONIO -- 3D imaging is changing the way dentists replace failing teeth. Amazingly, patients can get a new smile in one sitting.

A San Antonio medical team is creating new smiles in a new way. The precision implants are taking the place of conventional dentures.

At NeXsmile in San Antonio, patients who have struggled with painful infections and missing teeth are getting permanent replacements in a new way. The marriage of dental modeling with CT scans creates an accurate digital model that can be manipulated. These images make for exact plans used for milling to an accuracy within fractions of a millimeter. Click here to view news clip.

"It's kind of like building a house with a contractor," said prosthodontist Dr. Stephen Schmitt. "You know where you're going to go before you get to the end. We literally know where the bone is, where the nerve is, where the new teeth go and we can manufacture all that digitally with computer milling to make their teeth."

Five or six implant anchors go into the jaw. Then, a custom titanium plate is attached, followed by the teeth made of a ceramic and plastic composite. One day-long surgery and most of the work is complete.

"A lot of these people have not had the ability to chew for 20 years," commented periodontist Dr. Ben Young. "They're going to go through a healing phase where they're going to have to learn to chew, but at the end of the whole procedure they will chew like normal people."

The transformation can be dramatic. The new smile isn't cheap, costing $20,000 to $40,000. But dozens of patients have opted for the new teeth to change a limiting, nagging dental problem.

"They can literally have this procedure, and within three months go about their lives and love the way they look," Schmitt said.

NeXsmile is an innovation that's already winning accolades. Drs. Schmitt and Young are traveling to California next week to pick up an award for being the "North American Oral Surgery Company of the Year."


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