The Right Stuff

Specialized training key to positive outcome in complicated case.

Anthony Vlahovic

Anthony got back to his activities quicker after Dr. Bucaj’’s treatment.

In 2012, Anthony Vlahovic was graduating from the University of Central Florida and the housing market was rebounding after the bubble burst of 2008. Seeing a career opportunity in real estate, Anthony joined Sotheby’s International Realty in Miami.

Selling real estate is a tradition in the Vlahovic family.

“My mom was a real estate agent for more than 20 years, and still is actually,” shares Anthony, 30. “My sister’s been in the business for more than 15 years. My dad was in the restaurant business in Manhattan but eventually got into renovating homes and then selling them with my mom. So as a kid, I was always around it.

“My favorite thing about working in real estate is that no two days are alike. Every client is different and every situation is different. There’s always a new problem to solve and something new to learn. It keeps me engaged and prevents me from burning out. I enjoy that everything is constantly changing, even though it can be a little stressful sometimes.”

Growing up, Anthony’s parents invested considerable resources on his teeth, between braces and routine dental care. Anthony never realized how much that care cost until he began paying his own medical expenses. Consequently, he sometimes balked when it came to visiting the dentist.

Anthony’s hesitation turned into a predicament when he developed a small cavity in an upper tooth. He neglected the cavity and over time it progressed until the entire tooth was decayed. Early last year, Anthony finally broke down and visited his dentist, who recommended pulling the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant topped with a crown.

“I was under anesthesia for the implant procedure, and when I woke up, my dentist told me he couldn’t place the implant,” Anthony remembers. “He said he had to do bone grafting first, and to do that, he had to go through the side of my gums.

“I spent four months recovering in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was worrisome because I was walking around with a compromised immune system. When I finally went back to the dentist, he said I needed more bone grafting and a sinus lift.

Just as Anthony was undergoing the additional treatment in Miami, he relocated to Vero Beach. His mother, who resides in Vero Beach, suggested he visit her dentist for a second opinion. She assured Anthony that her dentist, Alfons Bucaj, DMD, of Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach, is qualified and honest.

Intra-Oral Approach

Dr. Bucaj began his treatment of Anthony with a cone-beam CT scan. The scan provided a three-dimensional image of Anthony’s tooth and jaw area, including the nerves, arteries and other structures in his sinus. With this information, Dr. Bucaj could plan Anthony’s treatment with confidence. The dentist’s next goal was to build Anthony’s confidence in him.

“I explained that I’m a board-certified specialist in implant reconstruction and a diplomate of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) and American Board of Oral Implantology (ABOI),” Dr. Bucaj describes. “I have trained extensively over the past 12 years and am fully credentialed at the highest level.”

Dentists with Dr. Bucaj’s level of expertise possess the skill set to perform innovative procedures that are successful even in complicated cases. Many of these procedures are technique sensitive, and the techniques are honed through extensive continuing education, which is required by credentialing bodies.

“When Anthony initially underwent bone grafting and sinus manipulation, he experienced rejection,” Dr. Bucaj acknowledges. “But through intensive training, we learned a different methodology for accomplishing those objectives. We used an intra-oral, or through-the-mouth, approach to the bone grafting and sinus lift, and simultaneously placed the implant.

“During our procedure, we positioned resorbable collagen membranes and bone particulate material around Anthony’s sinus. We layered the material underneath the sinus to insulate and protect it from rejection. We didn’t infringe into the sinus because the implant would be rejected.

“Ultimately, we elevated Anthony’s sinus, inserted bone grafts, protectively placed the dental implant and topped it with a crown that looks like a natural tooth. Now, Anthony can confidently chew and smile again.”

Procedures such as the one Dr. Bucaj performed for Anthony are very specific to dentists with specialized training. Patients cannot obtain these treatments, particularly with the  success rates achieved by Dr. Bucaj and his colleagues, from dentists who are not AAID- or ABOI-certified and expertly credentialed.

“Dr. Bucaj told me about the organizations he’s involved with and explained how he’s constantly getting recertified or newly certified in different fields of dentistry,” Anthony recounts. “That hit home with me because I’m always learning new things and facing new challenges in my industry. Likewise, Dr. Bucaj is always looking for new ways to help his patients.

“The procedure Dr. Bucaj performed was much less invasive than the one my other dentist did. There was no cutting through healthy gum tissue and creating a new wound that had to heal. The recovery after Dr. Bucaj’s procedure was shorter, which allowed me to resume my normal life much quicker.”

“All the Difference”

The option Dr. Bucaj offered was more attractive than the treatment provided by Anthony’s Miami dentist for several reasons. For one, Dr. Bucaj used a local anesthetic, so Anthony was awake but didn’t feel any pain.

“The original, more invasive surgery prevented me from going out and being active,” Anthony adds. “I was pretty much bedridden for months, eating smoothies and pudding. I like to play softball and baseball, work out and hang with the guys. Dr. Bucaj’s treatment didn’t inhibit me from doing any of those things.”

There was another detail that factored into Anthony’s decision to let Dr. Bucaj take over his care. His Miami dentist couldn’t guarantee he could place the dental implant once he completed the bone grafting and sinus lift. But Dr. Bucaj offered greater assurance.

“Dr. Bucaj was extremely confident he could place the implant on the first go-around, which in my heart of hearts I knew was possible,” Anthony elaborates. “Finding a dentist who was confident made all the difference.”

©FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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