At O’Brien Dental Lab, we receive monthly requests for help in identifying unknown dental implants. In this article, I cover the best ways for you to determine what those mystery implants are.

Start with a CLEAR radiograph

Typically, the best place to start is with a radiograph. However, to be useful, it needs to be optimally oriented to capture the characteristics of the implant precisely. So, when taking an x-ray, it’s essential to keep the following two things in mind:

  • First, ensure that the sensor or film is parallel to the implant. Establishing this alignment will provide the clearest view of the implant’s unique characteristics
  • Second, the x-ray should capture the entire implant. The most apical end of the implant is just as important as the interface during the identification process. 

 Misaligned radiograph

 Properly aligned radiograph

Next, find a match using a dental implant database

Once you have a radiograph that shows clearly defined features, you can use an implant database to match those features to known implants. The two primary databases are:

Both websites work similarly. On either site, you’ll choose characteristics from drop-down menus which will narrow the list of implants until you can visually match your implant with one in the database that looks the same. The characteristics that you can choose from include thread type, implant taper, holes, grooves, and several others. After you have narrowed down your results as much as possible, browse through the remaining implants and compare them to your radiograph to find a match.

Still unable to find a definitive match? Time to look at the parts.

While these online databases do their best to help you identify your patient’s implant, you still may not be able to make a definitive ID. In this case, your next step is to capture detailed images of the implant parts using a traditional camera for inspection and identification. The two most important parts to capture are the screw and the interface of the abutment.

It’s important that your pictures are sharp and close up. An SLR camera with a macro lens is ideal, but most modern smartphone cameras are adequate, as long as the phone is held steady and the image is taken with high zoom.

With parts removed from the implant, it’s also a good time to take another radiograph. With the abutment and screw removed, you’ll get a better image of what the internal structure of the implant looks like, which can further aid in correctly identifying the system.

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