Paying the Price
While dentistry has evolved to address virtually any dental-health issue, Dr. James A. Vito prescribes caution when patients choose to transform their smile.
by Bill Donahue

“We live in an interesting time.” 

Although this sentence could refer to any number of aspects of human life in the 21st century, James A. Vito, D.M.D., uses these words to refer specifically to the brave, new world of dentistry. In 2019, it seems that almost anything is possible.

“Whatever dental issues someone presents with, there are viable solutions to solve those issues,” says Dr. Vito, a Wayne-based dentist with certifications in periodontics and prosthodontics and two board certifications in implant dentistry. “From 3D radiography and navigation software to successfully place dental implants, to CAD/CAM technology for sculpting bone and replacing deficient areas of bone more easily, to lasers to contend with periodontal issues and infected dental implants, we have arrived at a place where no problem is too great.”

This certainly applies to one of Dr. Vito’s areas of specialty: providing long-term solutions to tooth loss. In the past, individuals who lost one or more teeth might have simply lived with a compromised smile or resigned themselves to a less than desirable option, such as dentures. Given the advancements in dental implant technology in recent years, however, they no longer have to do either.

“There’s no reason why people who have dental issues should be despondent,” Dr. Vito says. “We’re born with two sets of teeth, but through dental implants we can now provide a functional and stable third set in the event that your own natural teeth cannot be saved. It’s going to cost you a little bit, but the benefits are priceless, as you can enjoy many years of service from your new smile.”

In addition to the monetary cost, which typically runs anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 per implant (implant, abutment, and crown) to $27,000 to $35,000 per jaw for an all-implant supported restoration such as Teeth In A Day, Dr. Vito says patients must be aware that this requires an investments of one’s time and patience. While this may seem antithetical in a culture that prides itself on immediacy, taking shortcuts when it comes to dental implants may ultimately come back to haunt the patient.  

“Things don’t fail because they are over-engineered; they fail because they are under-engineered or too much is being done at one time or too quickly,” Dr. Vito says. “By this, I mean the area in which the implant will be placed has to be able to support it. If the implant is placed in an area where there is insufficient bone or an inadequate volume of soft tissue, you’re likely going to have a problem in which the bone and gum recede, exposing the implant and causing it to fail. Implants are not inexpensive procedures. If an implant does fail, you’re going to have to pay to have it repaired if you can, which is going to require another significant expense of time and money.  

“When you’re doing this procedure, you get one bite at the apple,” he continues. “That’s why you need to do your due diligence and make sure the clinician who will be doing it can look at the problem in three dimensions and understand if you, as the patient, have the right conditions to achieve your ultimate goal, which is a natural-looking smile where no one can tell you had anything done.”

Making an Investment 
Doing one’s homework is especially important in an age when so many dental practices have added dental implants to their lists of core competencies. In addition, some advertise so-called “quick, easy, and inexpensive” alternatives to traditional dental implants that essentially enable patients to have a full set of teeth in as little as one day. 

Dr. Vito advises caution here. While dental clinicians may be very skilled in other areas of expertise, he says some have obtained their knowledge of dental implantology through weekend courses. These courses tend to teach the basics, and Dr. Vito suggests clinicians who follow an abbreviated path may lack the knowhow to perform the procedure beyond the most ideal of conditions. 

If Dr. Vito has learned anything in his more than 30 years of practice, it’s that each case is unique, and most are hardly ideal. He offers the following advice for patients when vetting candidates to perform the surgery: Ask plenty of questions—about specific skill sets, about where they received their implant training, and about how many implant cases they have performed over a certain number of years. 

Other patient resources include organizations such as the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry, and the Academy of Osseointegration, all of which have precise requirements and offer opportunities for dentists to become board certified. Likewise, the American Academy of Periodontics and the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons offer board certifications that speak to a clinician’s expertise in dental implants. 

“The dentists who have gotten board certified through these organizations have invested in themselves to become well qualified in this discipline,” he says. “It means they have gone through written and oral examinations by their peers to prove that they are knowledgeable in this field, covering a wide range of topics. In other words, they stay current and are prepared to tackle just about anything.”  

After all, there’s a great deal at stake. 

“With any kind of restoration, people aren’t going to accept too many compromises,” Dr. Vito adds. “Patients do not want to see a difference between their natural tooth and a restoration placed on a natural tooth or dental implant; patients want things to look perfect. Any kind of compromise will cause a problem that will catch up with the patient. Inevitably, if there is a problem, the patient will come back and say, ‘This isn’t working.’ Then they’re back to square one, wondering what happened, what to do next, and how they’re going to pay for it.”

In other words, put in the research, choose clinicians wisely, and resist the temptation to take shortcuts. The decisions that come next could make all the difference between a dental implant that fails in short order and one that reliably stands the test of time.

James A. Vito, D.M.D. 
523 E. Lancaster Ave. 
Wayne, Pa.
(610) 971-2590 

Photograph by Jeff Anderson

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, June 2019.  

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