In 2004, while serving overseas, Sgt. Lee McNeill suffered a major facial injury that directly impacted his mouth, fracturing his gum lines. “It was like getting hit in the face with a sledgehammer,” he says. McNeill spent years trying to get help from Veteran Affairs before he met Dr. Kevin Neshat, Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon of Nu Image Surgical & Dental Implant Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dr. Neshat and his team provide a number of procedures free of charge to those in particular need. The implants for McNeill were a no-brainer. We are very blessed with what we do, and we feel like it’s the least we can do,” says Neshat. “We do at least two cases a month and several larger cases a year that fall into the category of charitable work, so we do a lot of this kind of work.” The team has a special committee that reviews applications and when they received McNeill’s case, the team was in agreement. “This guy gets it.”

With this technology, surgeons can plan the entire surgery on the computer and then send the data to a company that will then create a guide.

After describing the case to the dental implant company, Nobel Biocare, they decided to cover the expenses of the implants for McNeill. Because McNeill experienced trauma that could affect his nerves, Nu Image used a new technology called X-NAV, making them the first in the Carolinas to use it. With this technology, surgeons can plan the entire procedure on the computer and then perform live 3D navigation and surgery. Unlike more typical static guides, X-NAV creates 360-degree single-view of drill position and anatomy during surgery and can be adjusted if needed.  “It’s dynamic, it can be ever-changing, and the accuracy is unbelievable,” says Neshat, who hopes to use the system for different bones in the face as the company expands the technology.

Neshat hopes that as use of the technology increases, prices will decrease for both patients and oral practitioners. “If this becomes a routine practice, everyone is safer and better for it,” he says. “I think that this is the way of the future.”

GOOD AS NEW: After his procedure, McNeill felt proud of his smile for the first time in years, highlighting the importance of veterans receiving the care they aren't always afforded.

Neshat emphasizes that medical professionals can make a huge difference by providing care for veterans, who often have struggle getting the care they need. After the procedure, McNeill felt proud of his smile for the first time in thirteen years. “Every time [McNeill] came in he would cry. He would cry and I would cry,” recalls Neshat. “These people really deserve it; they are giving it their all.”