Dental implant surgery is a procedure performed to help a patient replace a missing tooth or teeth. It involves inserting artificial tooth roots into the jawbone to help serve as a strong foundation for integrating a replacement tooth or crown.
The dental implant is fixed into a patient’s jawbone to help the replacement tooth look, feel, and function appropriately as a natural tooth. During the implant, artificial materials like titanium and other well-suited materials for the human body are used as the strong base for the replacement teeth.
Dental implant surgery requires proper planning and evaluation of a patient’s dental health and condition before it is carried out. It’s not a one-off procedure as it can take several months for the whole process to be completed.
Processes Involved In A Dental Implant Surgery
The process typically starts with evaluating the mouth to identify the area where the implant will be needed. The strength of the jawbone will also be examined to determine whether it can hold the implant correctly or if it will require a bone graft to provide more solidity to the implant.
Once this has been ascertained, the surgery can then be performed where the implant serving as a tooth root will be placed deep into the jawbone. This can either be on the upper or lower jawbone, depending on the location of the tooth to be replaced.
Subsequently, a process referred to as osseointegration will be allowed to take place. This is when the jawbone is given time to integrate and properly fuse with the implant, serving as the needed artificial tooth root for the replacement teeth. This may take several months, making it possible for the implant to be strong enough for it only to be separated from the jaw bone by fracture.
Afterward, an abutment will be placed. An abutment refers to a metal extender placed to join the replacement tooth to the implant that has already been fused with the jawbone. When this has been placed, the gum will be given some time to heal, then the artificial tooth selected will then be placed.
Experts That Can Be Involved In A Dental Implant Surgery
In performing dental implant surgery, the expertise of a general dentist may not be enough. The services of an oral surgeon and other specialists may be required at different levels of the procedure.
Some of the specialists that may be involved in the process of getting a dental surgery include;
- A maxillofacial surgeon: This is a specialist in performing operations to correct diseases, injuries, and defects of the face, jaw, or mouth.
A healthy jaw is one of the criteria considered before embarking on dental implant surgery. Hence, a patient with an injury to the jaw may need to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to treat the condition before getting an implant.
- A periodontist: This specialist dentist specializes in treating gum disease and soft tissue problems. They diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases that attack the structures that support the teeth, such as gums and bones.
- A prosthodontist: This is a specialist concerned with designing, manufacturing, and fitting artificial replacements for teeth and other parts of the mouth.
However, performing this procedure with different specialists is not without risks. Some complications can arise during or after the procedure has been completed.
Patients may experience pain, swelling, and minor bleeding, and the implant may even loosen. This can cause extra medical expenses to the patient, and they can decide to seek redress in a court of law.
Medical Malpractice Risks Involved In Dental Surgery
A plaintiff can charge a surgeon to court for performing dental implant surgery negligently. Such was the case in Knutson v. Sand.
In the case stated above, after undergoing dental implant surgery, the plaintiff complained of pain, numbness, drooling, and swelling in his lower jaw. Hence, he filed a dental malpractice suit against the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant improperly planted titanium fixtures into his jawbone during the procedure leading to the swelling and numbness he felt in his lower jaw.
Another case is Siegel v. Wank, where the plaintiff claimed that after the defendant performed dental implant surgery on her, she experienced various complications and underwent certain additional procedures. Hence, she filed a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Using Legal Visual Strategy In a Dental Implant Surgery Case.
To prove negligence or otherwise in a dental implant surgery case, both parties involved can opt to use visual legal strategy in the form of animation and still shots.
A surgeon can decide to explain the step-by-step procedure he performed to carry out the dental implant with the aid of animation. This will show the different processes, including the drilling of the implant into the tooth, the abutment, the placement of the artificial teeth, etc.
Using animation to prove that the highest level of care was maintained during the procedure is not out of place, and it can help the jury’s understanding of the procedure.
On the other hand, with the aid of an expert witness, a plaintiff can also use animation to illustrate faults and errors during the procedure.
With the aid of an animation, the plaintiff can show conditions like how an incorrect drill depth of the implant damaged the jawbone. A nerve injury caused by improperly placing the implants can also be illustrated with the aid of animation. An infection caused by improper drilling of the implant can also be illustrated with the help of animation.
In conclusion, animation can provide a clear vision of an expert witness’ opinion on a dental implant surgery case. This will go a long way in helping patients get the settlement they deserve.