By Peter Watt

Dental implants have a proven record of clinical success yet there is often resistance from patients when they learn about the cost, the length of treatment and the invasiveness of the procedure. But what if the case allows for mini dental implants (minis), less than 3mm in diameter? Do you advise your patients that they may be suitable candidates for a less invasive, more affordable and quicker alternative to standard implants?

World renowned lecturer and educator Dr Gordon Christensen is a long-time mini implant convert, and has no doubts about their efficacy.

“These offer dentists and their patients an alternative to the more invasive placement of conventional-diameter implants. (Mini implants) can provide minimally invasive, simple, fast and effective treatment.”

It’s worth revisiting Dr Christensen’s comment that minis are simple to use. He has been quoted as saying, “if you can screw a wood screw into a wall, you can place a mini implant”. Like other proponents of this technology, he also questions the clinical need to make the bone larger via grafting, when the solution exists to simply place a smaller implant.

Not all mini implants available in Australia are equal however. Some only have approval for temporary use while a conventional implant heals. Others are only approved for denture retention. Intra-Lock titanium mini implants are indicated for long-term use in both denture stabilisation and replacement of incisors, making them the most versatile choice.

Developed through an innovation partnership between Intra-Lock International and mini implant pioneer Dr Todd Shatkin, the commitment to clinical research and manufacturing improvements results in continual upgrades to their implant design. Having placed more than 14,000 mini implants with a success rate of more than 97%, Dr Shatkin is the ideal clinical partner for Intra-Lock and, along with many others, has published numerous studies demonstrating why this technology is now accepted as mainstream. Where similar products have remained largely unchanged since first developed, recent innovations from Intra-Lock include a bioactive surface coating that demonstrates faster integration times, cementable abutments for fixed cases, and a motorised placement option. This month sees the launch into Australia of another advance: the patented Blossom™ cutting edge, which with its greater surface and cutting blades on each thread significantly reduces torque during placement and enhances osseo-integration.

Bringing this technology to Australia is the third partner in this collaboration: the Melbourne-based exclusive supplier of Intra-Lock in Australia, ID Health. Since 2002 when they first introduced the mini implant into the country, ID Health (originally called Imtec Dental), has passionately focused on mini implants as its core business, meaning no distractions or dilution of the distributor-dentist relationship. Complementary products, such as Perioptix loupes and lights and the Megasonex ultrasound toothbrush are in the ID Health portfolio because they are ideal companion products for Intra-Lock.

Owned by sisters Felicity Griffett and Lucy Race, who bought the original Imtec business from their parents, this company eschews business titles, and rather shares responsibilities with colleagues Barbara Hales and Brooke Bishop. With combined backgrounds spanning dental technology, pharmacy, medical device marketing, adult education and medical publishing, they have developed an organisation that is much more than a commodity supplier. Education has always been paramount, and each year ID Health runs numerous training seminars with local and international speakers. The next series is planned for May this year when Dr Joe Gillespie of South Carolina presents Intra-Lock courses in Sydney and Melbourne. President Emeritus of the International Academy of Mini Dental Implants, Dr Gillespie is a renowned lecturer who has trained more than 6000 dentists in mini implant protocol while maintaining a private practice where he has placed more than 9000 mini implants himself.

Once the dentist is trained, ID Health has a panel of mini implant experts in Australia available to provide a comprehensive patient/case selection and treatment planning service; a laboratory service for fabrication of guide stents, crowns and dentures; and access to the panel and Dr Shatkin himself for clinical inquiries. This level of support is unique among mini implant providers in Australia, something the owners of ID Health are especially proud of.