People typically have two sets of teeth: a primary (baby) set and a second (permanent) set that is completely established in the mouth by the age of 12 or 13 years. Our permanent teeth are meant to last a lifetime – but often, they don’t! With today’s advanced dental implant technology, people can now be given a “third” set, so to speak. Follow me along the journey from having ailing and failing teeth, to having a permanent set of beautiful teeth supported by implants … from ruins to glamour!
As we tend to live longer and experience better oral health, dental health care has also evolved to support the needs of longevity. People now have the option to pursue an alternative to removable dentures – namely, teeth that are fixed in the mouth. The disadvantages of removable dentures are that they need to be removed at night, they become loose, they are difficult to speak with and eat with and hence, come with a restriction to soft foods. They can look artificial, like “a row of Chiclets” in the mouth, and can be embarrassing to cleanse in a public place after eating, etc., etc.
Fixed bridges or full-arch restorations, as they are called, have the advantage over removable dentures in that they do not need to be removed in order to eat. A person can easily chew salads and eat corn on the cob and other tough or fibrous foods. Their fixed nature affords more freedom and security by eliminating the need for adhesive to hold them in place.
Since the advent of implants in Europe in 1960, continual progressive improvements have led to the birth of a “third” set of teeth, so to speak, with fixed bridges. Today, one can enjoy the esthetics and comfort of the full-fixed bridge, implant-supported denture or full-arch restoration. An intermediate set of teeth that bridges the progress is the implant and conventional denture combo – the overdenture is partially supported by implants, technically known as tooth-tissue-borne denture.
The design and number of implants needed for the maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw) vary. The mandible has less retentive area and is continually challenged by the presence of the tongue during speaking, eating and swallowing. Almost all people are affected by this situation. The quality of bone for placement of implants varies, as the maxilla has softer bone compared to the mandible. Six to eight implants are required on the maxilla, whereas five could suffice on the mandible, depending on the case. The standard of care in America dictates that the mandible be restored by placing a minimum of two implants in front of the jaw; but insurance companies have not caught up, yet.
The main disadvantage of the revolutionary treatment, especially to seniors, is that it is covered by only one or two insurance companies that are currently being innovative; performing the treatment requires an experienced, trained doctor, which also raises the cost and investment in their health and wellbeing.
For the treatment to be successful, long-term at-home care is as important as the placement of the implant restorations/bridges. In my opinion, the experience of the patient is as if Lazarus has manifested forth from the inside! Creating tremendous value for the patient is very gratifying to the dentist. The transformation that occurs in the patient’s personal life, both socially and emotionally, remains priceless … but, you could be your own judge of that!