Amazing Smiles through Advanced Technology
Dr. Ernesto Lee, a dental implant specialist based in Bryn Mawr, uses cutting-edge technologies and techniques to create world-class smiles for his patients
by Bill Donahue

Ernesto Lee, D.M.D., has become a sought-after teacher. In fact, his reputation as a world-renowned master clinician in implantology and esthetic dentistry has led him around the globe—Athens, Barcelona, Beijing, Mexico City, Singapore, just to name a few cities—to share his knowledge with key opinion leaders in his field. Also, since 2007, certified dentists who are looking to enhance their skills have been following Dr. Lee to Philadelphia, where they become his students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Yet, even though teaching remains a core passion, Dr. Lee remains a devoted student of his craft. A commitment to learning new skills and adopting new technologies that result in tangible benefits for his patients has enabled him to continually refine the way in which he treats patients at his private practice in Bryn Mawr.

“I was always good with my hands, even at a young age,” Dr. Lee says. “I was also good at watching something and figuring out how to do it better—how to make a better mousetrap. I wanted to be in a field where I could have as immediate an impact as possible and see the results.”

And this is exactly what he has done. Today, after just one sitting, a patient can walk out of Dr. Lee’s office wearing a completely new smile.

Dr. Lee’s storied career began in his native country of Panama. At the University of Panama School of Dentistry, he graduated at the top of his class, earning summa cum laude honors and serving as class valedictorian. Dr. Lee then moved to Philadelphia to join the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Periodontal Prosthesis program, through which he gained the surgical/restorative training to treat even the most complex restorative cases. In 2007, after a two-decade academic career at Penn, Dr. Lee became director of the school’s “Perio-Prosth program” to oversee the education of approximately 35 residents from around the world.

Although his many teaching, lecturing and research commitments take up a significant amount of his time and energy, Dr. Lee places a priority on treating patients at his office in Bryn Mawr. As a dual specialist in periodontics/dental implantology and prosthodontics/periodontal prosthesis, Dr. Lee has a unique understanding of the surgical and restorative aspects of implant dentistry. In other words, he has perfected the art and science of extracting a patient’s failing natural tooth and then restoring it with a fully functioning implant-supported replacement tooth that bears a remarkable resemblance to a natural tooth.

“I tend to get the difficult cases that call for a certain level of skill and expertise—cases where teeth have failed due to weakening from trauma, root canal treatment or some other complication,” Dr. Lee says. “I need to be able to produce predictable esthetic outcomes, and deliver them as quickly as possible; it’s efficient for the patients, because they want to have an esthetically pleasing smile as soon as they can, and it’s efficient for me because I can treat only so many people in a day.”

Dr. Lee has multiple alternatives when placing a dental implant. These include the traditional approach, whereby the tooth is extracted and the area surrounding the implant site needs to heal for several months before the implant is placed; site development, where hard- and soft-tissue defects require the clinician to optimize the site prior to placement; and immediate placement, whereby the clinician places the implant immediately following the extraction. Although immediate placement applies only to certain candidates, particularly in cases where the supportive tissues surrounding the implant site are intact, this technique-sensitive procedure has proven to produce a successful esthetic outcome in the hands of the right clinician.  

“Placing implants immediately and providing a temporary restoration can achieve an esthetic result that is comparable to any other technique, but there is a learning curve associated with it,” he says. “This is a viable alternative particularly if the tooth is in the esthetic zone, where it shows when you smile or speak. In the right candidate, I can do the extraction in a way so that the bone is preserved, because there are restorative aspects to consider.

“With any kind of immediate restoration, the risk is that [the implant] will move within the bone,” he continues. “This is why it is so important to manage the bite. Many patients grind or clench their teeth, and if this happens you may end up losing the implant. There is a very specific way the bite needs to be managed, and I’ve been doing it for so long that the risks are minimal. If [the site] fails, you have to default to the traditional approach, so you only have one opportunity to do it right.”

Cutting-edge technology such as high-resolution cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) has guided Dr. Lee in his approach to placing dental implants. The CBCT scanner provides a three-dimensional evaluation of a potential implant site, as well as other important areas of the patient’s head and neck that could ultimately affect an implant’s success or failure. Such a comprehensive view enables Dr. Lee to plan the implant procedure virtually, and create surgical guides to ensure the accurate placement of an implant in the safest, most predictable and most efficient manner possible.

“The high-resolution CBCT provides a tremendous amount of information,” he says. “The images allow you to see much more, but with much less radiation exposure for the patient. We are fortunate to have recently incorporated the Main Line’s only high-resolution CBCT unit in our office.”

Another innovative technology is the intraoral scanner, which essentially creates a map of the mouth by “stitching together” a series of digital photographs, which are then used to design and manufacture precise restorations using state-of-the-art CAD/CAM techniques. The scanner gives Dr. Lee yet another option, and it has been particularly helpful for patients who have a highly sensitive gag reflex. Although he is currently among the few dental implantologists to have adopted the intraoral scanner, he believes the scanner will ultimately become ubiquitous as a replacement for traditional impressions.

Despite having already “come a long way” since he first began practicing, Dr. Lee believes dental implantology will continue to evolve by delivering more predictable results through technology, surgical techniques and the materials used in restoration. His status as one of the world’s preeminent master clinicians has placed him in a unique position to assess these advancements and, in many ways, help them along.

“The advantage of being a leader in this field is that people come to me with new technologies that I can evaluate in my own practice,” he says. “In my role at Penn, I have to train residents in the use of the latest technologies, so I do a lot of development in my practice; after I figure out if something is valid and has the potential to be beneficial to the population at large, I then take it to Penn.

“These technologies definitely have a tangible effect on patient care,” he continues. “My education and relationships have helped bring them to our area, and in turn they can result in benefiting the patients I treat on a daily basis.”

Ernesto Lee, D.M.D.
Advanced Esthetic & Implant Dentistry
976 Railroad Ave., Suite 200
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
610-525-1200 |

Photograph by Nina Lea Photography