Innovative Technique at WVU Medicine and WVU School of Dentistry to Improve Oral Cancer Patient Outcomes and Healing Times | VM News


MORGANTOWN, W.VA. – When oral cancers are advanced and invade the jaw, patients should have their jaw removed, as well as their teeth. The jawbone can be reconstructed using fibular bone, but cancer patients usually have to wait several months or even years to get prosthetic teeth after their cancer treatment.

However, a recent collaboration between the University of West Virginia School of Dentistry and WVU Medicine will allow oral cancer patients to receive dental implants at the time of cancer surgery through an innovative approach called Alberta Reconstructive Technique.

This technique was originally developed at the University of Alberta and is unique in that it is an occlusive jaw reconstruction that is digitally planned around the immediate installation of a dental implant in the fibular bone. Digital preoperative planning allows surgeons to generate 3D printed models to use as cutting guides during surgery, increasing accuracy and efficiency.

Matthew Harper, DDS, Assistant Professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the WVU School of Dentistry, and Jeffson Chung, MD, Head and Neck Surgeon and Assistant Professor at WVU Medicine Otolaryngology, recently completed their third implantation case primary dental in oral cancer.

“Teeth play an important role in nutrition, speech and physical appearance, but the difficulty with restoring teeth is that after removing the cancer and performing reconstruction, the mouth usually cannot house a prosthesis. conventional dental. Therefore, dental implants are the only option, ”said Dr. Chung. “The Alberta Reconstruction Technique is important because it represents the most accurate and reliable way to restore dental function. “

The Alberta Reconstructive Technique maximizes the chances of successfully restoring dentition, or the arrangement and condition of teeth, in two ways. First, virtual surgical planning around immediate dental implantation allows surgeons to optimize occlusal forces on implants and the placement of implants in the peroneal bone, thereby maximizing implant survival. Second, placing the implants immediately during cancer surgery allows osseointegration to occur during the routine healing phase, thus reducing the time required for dental rehabilitation.

“Before this technique, you had to estimate how much bone to harvest, how to position the reconstruction, and you weren’t even placing the implants at the time of the resection,” said Dr Harper. “All these elements make it less successful in terms of function, aesthetics and time. Previously, dental restoration for these patients could take years. With this type of computer-assisted surgical technique, anything can be done well within a year.

Ultimately, by bringing together the expertise of the School of Dentistry and WVU Medicine, the team can provide cutting-edge care to West Virginia.

“By working with Dr. Harper and the School of Dentistry, our patients can have better functional outcomes and a better quality of life after cancer,” said Chung. “We have a spectacular team here, including Drs. William Stokes, Meghan Turner and Tanya Fancy, along with our operating room and clinic staff, who make it all possible. I couldn’t do it without the cooperation of such amazing colleagues.

Both doctors anticipate a continued need for this type of surgery, as West Virginia has a higher rate of oral cancer than the national average due to widespread tobacco use.

“We are learning more every day about the link between oral health and overall well-being,” said Harper. “This is the first step in a collaboration between specialties that matches the current trend of holistic care in healthcare. Our state deserves providers capable of advanced surgical techniques who will work together to provide the best care. “

Both providers recognize that what they do can be professionally difficult but valuable.

“It is personally rewarding to change a patient’s life for the better,” said Harper.

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