Dental Lab Key Research Site for Ceramic Implant

School of Dentistry First Practice to Place New FDA-Approved Implant

The School of Dentistry at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio was the first U.S. clinical site to place a new FDA-approved ceramic implant that is as durable as titanium implants and more attractive for patients.

David Cochran, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor and chair of periodontics, joined a team of international researchers to study a new ceramic implant.

Two patients received the implants earlier this year at UT Dentistry San Antonio, the clinical practice of the School of Dentistry, which is a key research site for the new implant.

David Cochran, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Periodontics, has worked with international researchers over the past three years to study the new implant, which was approved for use in January in the United States by the Food & Drug Administration.

“There were two important aspects to making these implants better: their chemical makeup and strength, and their surface,” Dr. Cochran said. “We learned a long time ago that metal implants, which have a rough surface, osseointegrated better. It took several years to figure out how to make a rough surface on the ceramic implant without making it weaker,” Cochran said.

Research currently under way involves studying the new implant in animals. “We’re looking at how they osseointegrate with the bone tissue and also how they interact with the soft tissues—the gums, the epithelium and connective tissue,” Dr. Cochran said. “The new implants interact very well, and the tissues look very healthy.”

A previous animal study involved introducing disease to both types of implants to assess gum tissue breakdown—which also showed promising results. “We did show that the tissues are more resistant to breakdown with the ceramic implant than they are with the titanium implant,” Dr. Cochran said.

UT Dentistry San Antonio was the first site in the country to place a new ceramic dental implant, which had recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In addition to being as strong as titanium versions, the ivory-colored ceramic implants are a more aesthetic option.

“This is just another tool to use for patients who don’t want metal in their mouth or have very thin tissues and worry about the metal showing through their gums,” he said.

Stefanie Seitz, D.D.S., assistant professor of comprehensive dentistry, supervised the procedures at UT Dentistry San Antonio.

“We are extremely proud to be the first to place the Straumann PURE Ceramic Implants in the country,” Dr. Seitz said. “In our new facility, the Center for Oral Health Care & Research, we have state-of-the-art technology allowing us to perform this procedure with the recently approved implant.”

Dr. Seitz’s team uses new imaging technology to plan and place the implant in such a precise location that patients experience less pain and faster healing. The technology involves a digital scan of the teeth instead of the traditional, pasty dental impression. The digital data is used in 3-D implant planning software allowing the dentists to precisely determine the location, depth and angle for the implant. A 3-D resin template is created and guides the dental surgeon for exact placement.

Liz Martinez, who was one of the first in the country to receive the implant, said the naturally looking implant is life changing. “It affects everything: Your life, your self-esteem, your confidence.”

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In the 2016 issue of Salute

Salute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our dental alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2016 issue

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