Dental surgery leaders of the Greenville Health System (GHS) Medical Staff combine innovative materials, teamwork, and a supportive bedside manner to offer high-quality dental care, including advanced oral and maxillofacial surgery procedures. Drawing patients from Greenville, Asheville, Columbia, and areas throughout the Southeast, GHS is one of the region’s leading providers of dental surgery.
“In just two or three generations, dentistry has seen a huge improvement in people keeping their teeth.”
James Tankersley Jr., D.M.D.
Better outcomes are the result of ongoing improvements in water fluoridation, dental materials and procedures, and a well-trained dental surgery community. After graduating from dental school, oral and maxillofacial surgeons complete four or more years of hospital-based surgical residency training that may include rotations through internal medicine, general surgery, anesthesiology, otolaryngology, plastic surgery and emergency medicine fields.
Oral surgeons at GHS utilize innovative materials and advanced techniques to offer high-level dental surgery procedures for patients of all ages. For more information or to refer a patient, call Dr. Crockett at (864) 234-9800 or Dr. Tankersley at (864) 268-6417.
“One of the key advancements in oral and maxillofacial surgery during the past 20 years – and even more so in the last few years – is in dental implants,” said James Tankersley Jr., D.M.D., an oral and maxillofacial surgeon with his own practice and chair of the Division of Oral Surgery of the GHS Medical Staff.
Rather than resting on the gum line (such as removable dentures) or using adjacent teeth as anchors (such as fixed bridges), dental implants are long-term replacements that provide stability and function just like normal teeth. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons place a post, or implant, made of 100 percent titanium into the jaw. The implant is allowed to fuse with the bone over a period of about three months. After this process, called osseointegration, is complete, the implant is topped with a crown for a natural appearance.
By preserving adjacent teeth, dental implants are a great alternative for replacing missing teeth. Implants are becoming more affordable and are comparable to other forms of dental treatment.
“Today you can have a tooth taken out and have temporary restoration in the same day whereas you previously had to wait a few months,” said Dr. Tankersley.
Another relatively recent development in oral and maxillofacial surgery is “rigid fixation” to stabilize facial fractures and to correct mandibular and maxillary deformities.
Because a cast cannot be placed on the face, dental surgeons can use two basic techniques to stabilize the bones and allow for correct healing. The traditional approach (intermaxillary fixation) involves wiring the jaw shut with wires or elastic bands for six weeks or more while the bones heal. By comparison, rigid fixation uses tiny screws or plates that attach directly and permanently to the fractured sections of the jawbone. It does not require wiring the jaws together.
Digital Imaging Advances
Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) is a new digital imaging solution that provides valuable information for preoperative planning for placement of dental implants, corrective jaw surgery, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) reconstruction and cleft palate correction.
CBCT scanners use a cone-shaped X-ray beam rather than the conventional linear fan beam of medical CT scanners to provide images of the bony structures of the skull. For oral applications, CBCT is 10 times more accurate than other scanning technology and exposes patients to significantly less radiation. A single scan rapidly produces 3-D, high-resolution images of all oral and maxillofacial structures, including the maxilla and mandible.
To specialize in treating children, pediatric dentists complete two years of post-doctoral residency training in the recognition and treatment of children’s dental and orthodontic problems. “Only half of what we do is physical dentistry,” said Mary Crockett, D.M.D., a pediatric dentist in private practice and chair of the Division of Surgical Dentistry of the GHS Medical Staff. “There are also many family, emotional, behavioral and medical considerations when planning treatment for a child’s optimal dental care.
Unfortunately, severe early childhood caries is still common in the U.S., estimated to affect more than 40 percent of children by age 5. The main culprits are diets high in sugar, especially sugary drinks, and nursing or drinking from a bottle or sippy cup at will during sleeping hours.
For medically fragile, special needs or young children with extensive restorative needs, the best –sometimes only – alternative is to perform the dental surgery under general anesthesia in an OR setting.
One of the most extraordinary outcomes Dr. Crockett recalls came from such a setting at Greenville Memorial Hospital. A 5-year-old with idiopathic cardiomyopathy was referred to Dr. Crockett for a full dental rehabilitation. Upon examination, Dr. Crocket found many dental abscesses and determined that almost none of the girl’s teeth could be salvaged.
After multiple consults with the girl’s physicians, the caregivers agreed the best treatment path to control the dental disease was full edentialization in the OR under general anesthesia. Sadly, the patient’s social history was as poor as her dental health, and two days following her treatment she was taken into protective custody by the Department of Social Services.
But there is a happy ending. As it turns out, chronic severe dental infection and poor nutrition were causing the girl’s heart to fail. Following treatment, the cardiomyopathy reversed. She was adopted and is thriving today, cavity free.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but as a pediatric dentist I think it takes a village to treat a child as well,” said Dr. Crockett. “I couldn’t fully realize all of my specialty without the cooperative support of GHS physicians, CRNAs, nurses and support staff. The children of this community are the real benefactors, and we are lucky to have the opportunity to deliver world-class care.”
As a leading provider of dental surgery, including advanced oral and maxillofacial surgery procedures, GHS draws patients from Greenville, Asheville, Columbia, and surrounding areas throughout the Southeast. For more information, Dr. Crockett at (864) 234-9800 or Dr. Tankersley at (864) 268-6417.