Dr. David Yang placed his own dental implant last week, using his practice’s latest piece of technology, the Yomi Robotic System.
True North Dentistry in Flagstaff is one of two Arizona locations with the device, which Yang said is the first dental robot to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“I really believe in the technology,” said Yang, who has practiced general dentistry in Flagstaff since moving to the city in 2005. “I’ve used it on my patients and saw the results, and I’m like, ‘You know what? I’ve been waiting on my implant for a long time. It’s time to go.’”
He said he wanted to show that the procedure is safe and give people a better understanding of how it works.
“There’s a lot of fear in dentistry, period,” he said. “…[In this procedure,] all my work is done behind the scenes, so by the time the surgery comes, they’re going to be disappointed because they’re not in the chair very long and the procedure gets done pretty quickly, with no pain, minimal blood. Everybody goes, ‘Oh, implants, they’re going to drill in my head. No way, I’m not doing that.”
He added: “I just want to show patients that it’s not scary. You’re numb and it’s a pretty simple procedure, actually.”
Data from 3D imaging is input into Yomi to show the placement of nerves and sinuses as well as the length and width of the space the implant will go into.
“Once you’ve done that, Yomi understands all of the anatomy of where things are,” Yang said.
A tracking arm is attached to one side of the mouth, and Yomi moves along with any movements from the patient for continuous understanding of their current orientation.
Yomi’s other “hand” has a drill. Once it is guided near the implant location, “you let it take over,” Yang said.
Its screen can see when it needs to turn or make slight adjustments.
“It basically gets to the exact spot, locks you in and … you drill down,” he said.
A safety measure only allows the device to drill as far as planned (9 millimeters in Yang’s case), no matter how hard it is pushed down.
“It has a fail-safe built in; that’s the only reason why I felt comfortable using it,” he said. “I would never with my hand just go place an implant.”
Yang’s procedure went fabulously, he said a week afterward.
His X-ray taken afterward showed the implant was “perfectly placed, exactly where I wanted it to go. There was no adjustment needed.”
Implants are traditionally done using one of two methods, known as surgical guide and freehand. The first also uses 3D imaging to design a guide that shows where the implant will go. While Yang said the method was “great,” it can sometimes mean the implant doesn’t fit well.
In the freehand method, the dentist takes their best guess at the implant’s location.
“A lot of us do that; I’ve done that for years,” Yang said. “And the majority of the time, it’s great, [but] sometimes it’s not exactly where you want it. That’s what [Yomi] solves, it solves the human element out of it.”
The “precision and accuracy” of this new method makes it less painful, he said.
Rather than cutting through gum tissue, “I just puncture exactly where I’m going to place it [with] minimal discomfort,” he said. “It has been really remarkable.”
Yang said that, on a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the worst), his discomfort level was 0.5 for the first two days after the procedure. On the third, he said, it was closer to a two or a three, but “there’s nothing [where] you go, ‘Ah, man, this thing is just horrendous.’”
Yang himself hasn’t had an implant using one of the other methods, but said his patients who had experienced both Yomi and one of the other two told him it was “by far the easiest implant procedure that they have ever done.”
Yomi is “just the next step in dentistry and in AI technology,” Yang said. “..By the time I’m retired, dentistry’s going to be completely different.”
Dentistry is already different to when Yang started 18 years ago, he said. He now does filling using a dental laser, for example — which means he doesn’t need to give anesthetic.
“My son will grow up never knowing what it feels like to get a shot at the dental office,” he said. “Things are all changing.”
True North is known for being “technology-forward,” Yang said — which was why they were sought out for the Yomi device.
He makes his own crowns, same day, in house (using Cerec), for example and has CBCT 3D imaging, which is used to direct Yomi.
Yang also said that Flagstaff was an unexpected leader in dentistry.
“You’d be surprised within our 5-mile square radius, we can basically compete with technology and quality of dentists with anyone in the country,” he said.
He said, however, that having the latest technology doesn’t automatically make a better dentist.
“Some people like the way they’ve been doing it for years and they’re really good at it,” he said. “…I like to stay informed on the technology, what’s out there, how I can help my patients, but that’s just me. On top of that, all these things cost money, so some people that’s not where their focus is…I’m just one of those guys who has to have the next new toy.”
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