Fall 2004 Table of Contents
National Implant Education Conference Aims to Change Predoctoral Implant Education and Patient Care

The 2004 American Dental Education Association’s Annual Deans Conference in Tucson from November 6 to 10 will be the site of an NYUCD-initiated national workshop to focus on the issue of making an implant overdenture the first choice for predoctoral implant education and clinical care. According to Dean Alfano, the workshop is “an essential first step in creating a national public health initiative to improve oral function and well-being for the 20 million Americans who wear dentures.” The workshop will also focus on single-tooth replacement implants.

The workshop is funded by all the major implant companies, plus the American Academy of Prosthodontics, the American Academy of Periodontology, the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and will be attended by the dean, the associate dean, and a representative of the departments of periodontics, prosthodontics, and oral surgery from every dental school in the U.S. The premise is that widespread adoption of an implant overdenture by dental schools will help to generate momentum for a national consumer-driven campaign to secure insurance reimbursement for this treatment approach. The campaign is expected to follow the model pioneered by NYUCD in its highly successful “Ask Your Dentist” campaign to raise consumer awareness of the importance of oral cancer prevention and early detection.

The impetus for a national campaign arose following a televised news report in 2003, in which WNBC TV healthcare reporter Dr. Max Gomez interviewed Dr. Dennis P. Tarnow, Professor and Chairman of the Ashman Department of Implant Dentistry, and spoke to NYU Dental Clinic patients who described their retention problems with conventional dentures, making them, in effect, “dental cripples.”

As millions of viewers watched, Dr. Tarnow explained that even well-fitting dentures cause the jawbone to be resorbed, leading to loosening. As a result, the maximum efficiency patients have is about 25 percent of the biting power that their natural teeth had. But a growing body of evidence now suggests that an overdenture attached with just two implants can significantly improve bone retention in a patient’s jaw for life. And NYUCD’s experience confirms that when a pair of titanium screws are carefully driven into the mandible, in a few months they will serve as anchors for a full lower denture, which can simply be snapped into place. Moreover, what used to be a major procedure can now be done in the dentist’s office under local anesthesia.

The tide began to change approximately two years ago, when leading oral health researchers meeting at McGill University issued a consensus statement recommending that two-implant mandibular dentures should replace conventional dentures as the first choice for edentulous care.

NYUCD has incorporated this standard of care into its predoctoral curriculum and beginning in fall 2005, every third-year student will be required to assess an edentulous patient for possible implant overdenture treatment. NYUCD has also created a model for successfully partnering with implant manufacturers to make the treatment affordable by clinic patients.

Dr. Tarnow recalls being taken aback by the overwhelming response to the Dr. Max Gomez broadcast. “Although many of the callers were retirees or working people with fixed incomes, they said they were willing to invest a modest sum in a treatment that would significantly improve their health for years to come.”

Adds Dr. Tarnow: “Since there is now overwhelming evidence that a two-implant overdenture should become the first choice of treatment for the edentulous mandible, we are determined to make the benefits associated with this treatment accessible to as many people as possible.”