BLOOMINGTON -- A risk during dental implant surgery is drilling too deeply.
A Bloomington dentist has received a patent for inventing a device that reduces that risk.
Dr. Emil Verban has received a United States patent for his drill stop. The drill stop fits like a sleeve over drill bits to control the depth of drilling.
"This eliminates the risk of over-drilling," Verban said at his dental practice, 2103 E. Washington St., Bloomington.
While drilling too deeply is not as much of a risk for oral surgeons, periodontists or general dentists experienced with implant surgery, more general dentists are performing implant dentistry, Verban said. As more general dentists do implant surgery - and as experienced dentists want assurance in addition to their experience, judgment and observation - the demand for drill stops will increase, Verban said.
"More general dentists are placing implants and using the drill stop will make the surgery more predictable, safer and more precise," he said. But some specialists also are using the device, he added.
At least 200 dentists in the United States and Puerto Rico already are using the invention.
One dentist who uses Verban's drill stop is Dr. Philip Debossu, a general dentist in Chicago. He began using it after he took a Verban dental implant seminar in November 2008 and Verban introduced the drill stop.
"I use the drill stop on all my dental implant patients," Debossu said. "It prevents you from going too far."
Risks of going too far include damaging nerves on the lower arches and damaging sinuses on the upper arches, Verban said.
Some medical equipment companies have their own drill stops, but Verban's is more user friendly because it can be used with several sizes of drills, thanks to a set screw that fixes the stop to the drill bit.
"His is very versatile," Debossu said. "Dr. Verban is highly regarded and he's brought implant dentistry to the general dentists."
Verban, 61, graduated from Loyola University School of Dentistry in 1976 and has practiced general dentistry in Bloomington since 1978.
For years, he's had a special interest in implant dentistry. A dental implant is a metal, artificial tooth root used to support an artificial tooth. Implants are surgically placed in the jawbone and anchor artificial teeth.
Some people need implants because of tooth decay that progresses to the point that it destroys the tooth beyond repair and it needs to be extracted and replaced. Some people experience trauma that destroys teeth while other people experience trouble 20 to 25 years after they had a root canal, he said.
Because implant dentistry is not a recognized specialty, it may be performed by general dentists, he said. While only about 10 percent of general dentists perform implant dentistry - most prefer to refer patients to oral surgeons or periodontists - the number of general dentists performing implant surgery is rising, he said. Some dentists refer to an oral surgeon for the implant placement but place the artificial tooth themselves.
"I do both sides of the procedure," Verban said. "It makes the outcome more predictable."
Twenty-five to 30 percent of Verban's practice is implant dentistry.
When placing an implant, increasingly wider drill bits are used, spinning into the bone. Markings on the drill indicate the depth.
"As the drill is spinning, it's hard to see the depth," especially when working in certain areas of the mouth, Verban said. "I thought ‘There has to be an easier way to control the depth without looking for the line.'"
In the early 2000s, Verban began tinkering, starting with plastic tubing sleeves similar to what's found in fish tanks. A friend who represents an orthopedics manufacturer referred him to retired machinist Alan Shears of Divernon, who helped Verban fabricate his prototypes.
What Verban came up with was a drill stop with a collar that stops the drill bit from going too deep. The drill stop has a set screw that fixes the stop to the drill bit. The stop rotates with the drill bit but does not tear gum tissue because the tissue already has been opened for the drill to penetrate into the bone, he said.
In 2005, he applied for a patent. Meanwhile, he was using the drill stop on patients with good results.
"As I told patients, they thought it was very interesting," he said.
Among patients was Jane Crowley of Bloomington. Crowley and her family have been patients of Verban since 1983.
"I'm a wimp," Crowley admitted with a laugh. "I have a family history of bad teeth. My teeth were so sensitive that it hurt to brush. But Dr. Verban was very considerate."
Three years ago, Crowley decided to have her teeth extracted and replaced with implants and artificial teeth.
"I would never have done it if it wasn't for him (Verban)," she said. "I would not trust any other dentist."
Crowley didn't know that Verban invented the drill stop he used on her procedures. But she's not surprised.
"He's such a perfectionist. Everything went very well. My only regret was that I didn't have this done 10 years earlier."
As the patent application process progressed, Verban trained other dentists on his drill stop. Because the device does not go into the body, it did not need to go through U.S. Food and Drug Administration trials, but he does have an FDA certificate to sell it as a medical device.
Verban received his patent in January. "That was very satisfying," he said. "It was a lengthy process."
Marshall Manufacturing of Minneapolis, Minn., is making the drill stops and it is sold through Blue Sky Bio, a medical instrumentation company. The product also will be distributed through Osseous Technologies of America beginning in June.
Meanwhile, Verban isn't done tinkering. He has two other patents pending.