BIONIC EYES, BIONIC TEETH, WHAT NEXT?
Two years ago I reported on the surgical implant of a plastic lens in
my right eye, which had the very poor vision rating of 20/400. Vision
improved almost instantly to 20/30 and within a few months to 20/18.
I went from cataracts and "coke-bottle" glasses to seeing better with
one eye than I ever had seen with two.
A year later my opthamologist performed the same operation on my left
eye with similar results. Within months vision was 20/20 and has
improved since then. My driver's licence was renewed without the
"corrective lens required" restriction. The Federal Ministry of
Transport (MOT) renewed my helicopter and land and sea aircraft
pilot's licenses, and I successfully passed the necessary flight test
with an approved MOT check pilot. I went from white cane to control
column, thanks to medical expertise and a piece of plastic about the
size of a pin head.
With this successful personal test of current high tech opthomalogical medicine, I looked around to answer the question "What's
next?" Had it done on Friday: surgically-implanted titanium dental
"pilings". Regular readers know I am not a fan of the dental chair.
Suddenly the eye operations seemed simple: each had taken 30 minutes
and was less trouble than having teeth cleaned by a hygienist. Even
with my dental prejudices, these implants were less troublesome than
a root canal.
The procedure is interesting. After a full mouth and jaw inspection,
the dental surgeon gave me a "wrap-around" X-ray, similar to having
your jawbone structure photographed by a panoramic camera. With that
information in hand the surgeon, the dentist and a nursing assistant
proceeded to slit an area of the gum vacated by two lower left molars
years ago. They drilled two vertical holes into the jawbone, inserted
two titanium "pilings" covered with protein, screwed them into place,
put plastic covers on the top and stitched up the gum. There was some
pain the first evening (I resisted pain-killers to bring you a better
report), but none after that. The gum was sensitive for a few days.
There was no visible bruising, slight swelling that disappeared after
96 hours. A week after the operation (done in the dental clinic), the
stitches were removed.
I was instructed to return in four months to have the gum slit open
again, "piling" covers removed and new, ceramic teeth screwed into
the tops of the titanium posts. During the interim, the protein
covering the titanium pilings would "trick" the bone into thinking
the titanium implants were another part of the jawbone and would
build-up natural bone around the pilings, giving complete structural
support to the new teeth. Better in some ways than regular molars.
Why did I do this? The dentist said the procedure would minimize
teeth trouble as I aged and would save the remaining rear molar. I
would also have a balanced set of lower teeth and could continue to
eat well for a few more years. The titanium implant option was just
not available in the past.
Today more than three million body implants of various kinds, have
been conducted in North America and the success rate has been surprisingly high -- about 80 percent in teeth implants and from 70 to 90
percent in many other, now almost 'standard' implant operations. Most
dental surgeons limit the operation to the lower jaw as the bone
structure there is much larger and stronger. It isn't for everyone.
There is some unpleasantness. Who likes four hands in your mouth for
40 minutes plus a garden sprinkler and vacuum pipe? But, if you can
put up with that and a little bruising, it seems worthwhile. Titanium
lasts longer than you will. In the X-ray of the completed project, it
looked like two large nails had been driven into my jawbone, a
picture reminiscent of the cranium operations of early Aztecs in
Now the bad news. I'm too healthy. My body rejected the implants two
weeks later. My immune system would not tolerate this "intrusion".
This does happen. The surgeon immediately slit the gum, removed the
titanium pilings and stitched me back up. The gum healed within a
week. What's next? Will wait a few months. Then on to the next
option. At least today there are choices. I may be the only guy in
town who can prove he doesn't have AIDS. If I did, my immune system
wouldn't have had the strength to reject the titanium.
Everything has a flip side.
Now, let me see, next I could have .......
Dr. R. Virtue & Dr. Chris Hacker
Granville Dental Group
8357 Granville St.
Vancouver, B.C. V6P 4Z8.
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