Few things are more distressing to a patient than feeling disfigured due to edentulism.

For restorative dentists, treating patients with terminal dentition and fully edentulous conditions often leads to stress or worry about taking the most efficient approach. Cases are often complex and emotionally charged, especially as patients and members of the interdisciplinary team tend to influence treatment planning.

While other Spear Workshops provide curricula to address all patients in a restorative practice, the three-day, hands-on “Restoring the Edentulous Arch” workshop helps address a smaller subset of a restorative practice’s patient base — people who’ve already lost all their teeth, or who will soon be faced with that reality.

[EDENTULOUS ARCH SEMINAR: In addition to Spear’s “Edentulous Arch” workshop, the two-day “Treating the Terminal Dentition and the Fully Edentulous Patient” seminar provides a thorough, lecture-based introduction to treating edentulism.]

Determining treatment options is the greatest challenge since many clinicians can master one technique but may lose sight of other options.

“A restorative dentist in a general practice might feel pushed into a prosthetic design based on what their surgeon is telling them, what their patient is demanding, or what their technician is recommending,” said Dr. Darin Dichter, who teaches the workshop alongside fellow Spear Resident Faculty member and prosthodontist Dr. Doug Benting.

In the workshop, which includes upcoming sessions March 12-14 and Oct. 29-31, Drs. Dichter and Benting introduce a variety of options to help general practitioners broaden their experience to counter those arguments and provide patients with more ideal outcomes.

“I’m not going to tell you that the way I do it is the only way to do it,” Dr. Dichter said. “I’m going to give you options. Then based on what your interdisciplinary team, surgeon and technician can pull off — and based on what you can do, and your tolerance for the fear factor on cases like this — we’ll help you identify the best option.”

Patients want to feel like they haven’t lost their teeth. Some watch TV advertisements that can be misleading and suggest that there is a cookie-cutter prosthetic design to give them the full appearance and functionality of their real teeth — but that is often difficult for dentists to achieve.

While a routine option might make sense for some patients, it could be very aggressive for others. Some people don’t accept that their natural teeth cannot be saved and resist the idea of full dentures.

Dr. Dichter said with the aging population on the rise, and more Americans facing edentulism, the “Edentulous Arch” workshop provides restorative dentists with strategies to identify the most conservative treatment approach. Then, if they deviate from that plan, they understand the risks and costs to a patient from a biologic standpoint.

The “Edentulous Arch” workshop addresses three different types of patients:

  • Those facing terminal dentition, whose teeth need to come out
  • Those who've already had their teeth removed and are using dentures but want implants 
  • Those who are fully edentulous and have been treated with implants but need to have the implants fixed due to wear and tear

Attendees learn strategies for conventional removable, implant-assisted removable, implant-supported removable and implant-supported fixed prostheses in a hands-on environment that is ideal for multiple members of the interdisciplinary team to attend together.

"(The 'Edentulous Arch' workshop) is just a great way to learn about a lot of different options, and the pros and cons of those options, beyond the widely advertised and publicized solutions."
-John Carson, D.D.S., P.C., Tucson, Arizona

The workshop helps restorative dentists:

  • To evaluate the patient and the edentulous ridge
  • Understand steps and techniques to complete all available treatment options
  • Grasp the reality of complications, failures and rescue of problem cases
  • Learn essentials of radiographic evaluation of the edentulous arch
  • Rapidly evaluate inter-maxillary space
  • Determine denture duplication for multiple uses and other details of managing these types of cases

Dr. John Carson, an Arizona-based dentist and member of Spear Visiting Faculty, attended “Edentulous Arch” recently with his study club members from the Tucson area.

He said the workshop helped his team achieve greater synergy between clinicians of different specialties.

“If there are two people working on a case and they’ve been to the same workshops and heard the same things it helps with communication and thought processes,” said Dr. Carson, adding that the workshop helped his periodontist and oral surgeon to consider a variety of options to help with stronger interdisciplinary case management.

“This workshop helped us get on the same page and get an independent overview of the options from folks that aren’t trying to sell you a prosthesis,” he said.

“It’s just a great way to learn about a lot of different options, and the pros and cons of those options, beyond the widely advertised and publicized solutions.”