Dr. Rudy Wassenaar knows what it’s like to be missing teeth. The Williams Lake dentist has been practicing here for 25 years, but says when he was in elementary school growing up in Holland he lost his two front teeth because of an accident.
“I had crowns done, a bridge, a root canal, and eventually bone grafting done for permanent transplants,” he says, adding he’s rediscovered that it’s not always fun to go to the dentist and be on the other side.
Wassenaar specializes in oral implantology, and at the San Diego meeting of the International Congress of Oral Implantology ( ICOI) held in February, he received the ICOI Diplomate Award to recognize his completion of a number of continuing education programs that evaluated and examined his knowledge of dental implantology by experts in the field.
“It’s a world-wide organization in 70 countries with 10,000 members. They are dentists, dental specialists and surgeons and all kinds of people,” Wassenaar says, adding ICOI focuses primarily on enhancing the field of dentistry by organizing courses and furthering knowledge in certain areas.
Eight years ago, Wassenaar began working on dental implantology courses, starting off at the fellowship level where he had to submit five cases for review.
He followed up with the masters program, where the focus is on prosthetics.
“That was more about how to make implants work with teeth on them, make them look good, and so on.”
He had to document his work with 40 patients, submitting X-rays, photographs and descriptions.
The highest level of recognition, the diplomate, involved submitting 60 cases, passing a written exam, an oral exam and making three presentations at international dental meetings, which he did two in San Diego and one in New York.
There were advanced cases where people had no teeth at all for a long period of time.
In those scenarios, the jaw bone will actually shrink in size so it can no longer hold a denture.
“We actually have to do procedures where we grow a new bone, do all kinds of bone grafting surgeries, and do an implant,” he explains, adding he can perform all the procedures in his office in Williams Lake.
To grow bone, it’s a matter of fooling the body.
“We put a medium together that on its own will actively grow bone. We will take a blood sample of a patient’s blood.”
Two per cent of the cells in the blood are platelets and those are the cells that come into play when a person has an injury.
They release growth factors, help grow new bone, new nerve tissue, new skin, new muscle, whatever is required.
The only problem is, only two per cent of those cells have that capability, so what we’re able to do now is take the blood sample, run it through a centrifuge a few times and then we can separate the big cells from the small cells, concentrate them,” Wassenaar explains.
They are then mixed with calcium and other materials to grow bone matter.
Essentially it’s the person’s own body that will govern that.
To date there have been about 6,000 studies on the process, and its use in procedures such as eye, back, and orthopedic surgeries.
“It’s all people talk about in my field, is how to get those growth factors going and how to get better results quicker in a safe way.”
Prevention, however, is key, and in dentistry over the years people are encouraged to come in early, have X-rays done regularly, maintain their teeth better, go to hygienists, because if things are detected earlier the results are more favourable.
His staff also attended the ICOI meeting in February and took advanced dental implant-related training pertaining to surgical assisting, sedation, dental hygiene and office management.
Wassenaar’s next step is to present a day-long seminar for local dentists at the end of March to share what he’s learned from his course work.
“I hope to give them a better understanding of what I do,” he says.
Looking back on his recent eight years of studying, he says it was helpful to have a goal to work towards.
“In my experience you tend to get better faster and progress sooner if you’ve got something to compare yourself against, rather than being out on your own.
“The programs have such structured protocols that you’re not re-inventing the wheels and you follow the structure, you can’t help but get better.”