Modern medicine is capable of some amazing accomplishments. It can help the lame to walk and give sight back to the blind, in some cases, with the help of a tooth. The remarkable procedure known as osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (OOKP) makes an artificial lens out of a person’s tooth to allow them to see despite damage to their cornea.

What Is Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis?

In OOKP, a person who has a damaged cornea but a functional retina can be made to see by inserting an artificial lens into a tooth that is shaped to take the place of the cornea, the clear portion at the front of the eye.

OOKP is often used as a treatment of last resort, after other attempts at corneal grafts and replacements have failed. The tooth is used because, as a patient’s native tissue, it is readily accepted by the body and not rejected as corneal grafts probably have been already.

The procedure is actually accomplished in two stages. In the first stage, a canine or premolar tooth is removed, along with some bone and ligaments. A hole is drilled through the tooth and a clear cylinder is placed inside. The tooth complex is then implanted into the patient’s cheek, where it grows a new blood supply that will nourish it once it is implanted in the eye. This takes about four months, at which point the tooth is placed in the eye.

OOKP is not a new procedure, far from it. It’s been in use since the 1960s, and it was first described nearly 20 years before that. The procedure has a fair rate of initial success and a good longevity. Patients can see for 20 years or more after the procedure in some cases.

After the Procedure

After the procedure, patients generally have to have careful monitoring for the rest of their lives to check for complications. These complications may occur either at the donor site or in the eye. Because of the emphasis on the vision-restoring aspects of the surgery, there has not been much discussion about the loss of the tooth. However, we should note that the loss of the tooth is not a trivial consideration.

The lost tooth can be replaced with a dental implant, though perhaps not right away. When the donor tooth is removed, a lot of supporting bone is taken with it. Thus, people may need to have a bone graft before they would be eligible for the dental implant.

As Smile Columbia Dentistry, our dentists can help you replace a lost or severely damaged tooth with dental implants. Please contact us or call (803) 781-9090 today for a free consultation at our Columbia, SC office.