Dental School Clinic in New York Experience [Interview]

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The following is an interview I did with John, a visitor who was kind enough to share his experience of getting dental implants at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

First off, where are you from?

New Jersey for the last +30 years.

What dental school did you go to?

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, 630 West 168th, NYC, NY

Why did you choose to go there? How did you hear about the program?

A business colleague started going to them because of issues similar to mine.  Those issues being failing molars.  I was intrigued as I have always thought to do something similar but had just not had a sufficient “nudge.”  My reasons were partially cost based, but also in seeking to provide to a University someone with whom their students could develop their skills.

What is the school’s dental clinic like?

Clean, and at the time Columbia was fully in the midst of being upgraded with new computer systems as well as other infrastructure.  Overall I suspect they are much like other college environments in that all work was done in a group, or mass, setting.  By this I mean the usual waiting room areas, with the individual dental chairs typically arranged in row fashion with each separated by partitions.  It’s an environment designed more for the student/teacher than for the patient, but this isn’t meant to imply the patient’s needs weren’t met as they were.  They just weren’t on the same “par” as a private doctor setting.  However, surgical aspects (extractions, implantation work, etc., were handled in individual rooms.

What work did you have done?

Extraction of battered rear molars.  Surgical replacement endosteal implant, implant custom abutment.  Implant crown PFM/Cmnt-Order

How much did the procedures cost?

Extraction: $225.
Surgical Placement: $500.
Abutment placement $680
Implant crown PFM: $840.
There were also CT scans that cost $150 each.

Do they offer financing?

Columbia University’s system is a pay as you go process.  Excepting they do take Medicaid.  So I paid as the services were rendered and was subsequently reimbursed by my insurance provider.

How many visits to the school were required to complete the procedures?

From start to finish ~9 months.  The number of visits was ~6 or so.  All extractions were allowed to heal (for new bone growth).  Typically this was a 3 month interval.  Then abutment implantation and healing were another 3 months.  Then another 3 months of measuring, ordering and installing the crown.  I typically tried to arrange all visits for first thing in the morning, usually around 9am.

Who performed what dental work?

A dental student acted as “quarter back.”  He typically set the times with the other training specialists (for abutment work, etc), did the cleaning, x-rays, etc..  He had an older attending professor who acted as consultant.  Each of the specialists also had an attending to review their work.  It should be noted that, in my experience, I had foreign-national post doc’s (Italian, Indian) that did my work.  They were attending Columbia to gain proper U.S. certification so to practice in the U.S.

What was involved in applying to the school’s dental program?

There was a preliminary evaluation step used to determine the nature of the work to be done, along with an analysis as to what they could actually do.  This involved a full set of x-rays, a general cleaning and overall review of the particulars of my situation.  Age, blood-pressure, general dental hygiene, etc..

How much pain/discomfort did you experience?

Post extraction pain was manageable, as was all surgery associated with abutment implantation, etc..  I may have a high pain tolerance but pharmaceutical grade, 600mg, IBUprofen (quantity 24) was sufficient.  Indeed, I only used L~4 before I found little need for it.  Along with a general antibiotic to guard against post op infection.

How satisfied are you with your implants and the other dental work?

I am 100% satisfied with the results.  To date it’s as if I have real teeth at those points on my jaw.  I brush, floss, etc., no differently now than when my real teeth were in place.  And for what it’s worth my general dental practitioner has stated they did a “damn fine job.”

What complaints (if any) do you have about the program?

No complaints.  I would recommend anyone in need explore the University dental system.  Especially Columbia U’s.  Overall you get state of the art care from young, newly trained, dentists who also have highly experienced attendings as their coaches should the need arise.  It’s a win/win for all involved.

Would you recommend Columbia to other people who need implants? 

I can recommend Columbia.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that people should know?

If you go into the University “system” expecting the close attending care and comfort of a private dental practice, replete as they usually are with comfortable waiting rooms and highly individualized care, you will be disappointed.  It’s a school-training environment that caters more to the needs and requirements of education than those you may have associated with private practices.  But if you’re not so much concerned about school type environments, and are more looking for first rate leading edge dental help from individuals and staff well (if newly) versed in their trade, then I can think of no better place to go than to a University setting.  The fact that the average cost of services is about a third less than a private practice is really just the icing on the cake (to me – and no pun meant against dental services).

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