Posts for: April, 2016
In real life he was a hard-charging basketball player through high school and college. In TV and the movies, he has gone head-to-head with serial killers, assorted bad guys… even mysterious paranormal forces. So would you believe that David Duchovny, who played Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files and starred in countless other large and small-screen productions, lost his front teeth… in an elevator accident?
“I was running for the elevator at my high school when the door shut on my arm,” he explained. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. I had fainted, fallen on my face, and knocked out my two front teeth.” Looking at Duchovny now, you’d never know his front teeth weren’t natural. But that’s not “movie magic” — it’s the art and science of modern dentistry.
How do dentists go about replacing lost teeth with natural-looking prosthetics? Today, there are two widely used tooth replacement procedures: dental implants and bridgework. When a natural tooth can’t be saved — due to advanced decay, periodontal disease, or an accident like Duchovny’s — these methods offer good looking, fully functional replacements. So what’s the difference between the two? Essentially, it’s a matter of how the replacement teeth are supported.
With state-of-the-art dental implants, support for the replacement tooth (or teeth) comes from small titanium inserts, which are implanted directly into the bone of the jaw. In time these become fused with the bone itself, providing a solid anchorage. What’s more, they actually help prevent the bone loss that naturally occurs after tooth loss. The crowns — lifelike replacements for the visible part of the tooth — are securely attached to the implants via special connectors called abutments.
In traditional bridgework, the existing natural teeth on either side of a gap are used to support the replacement crowns that “bridge” the gap. Here’s how it works: A one-piece unit is custom-fabricated, consisting of prosthetic crowns to replace missing teeth, plus caps to cover the adjacent (abutment) teeth on each side. Those abutment teeth must be shaped so the caps can fit over them; this is done by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material. Then the whole bridge unit is securely cemented in place.
While both systems have been used successfully for decades, bridgework is now being gradually supplanted by implants. That’s because dental implants don’t have any negative impact on nearby healthy teeth, while bridgework requires that abutment teeth be shaped for crowns, and puts additional stresses on them. Dental implants also generally last far longer than bridges — the rest of your life, if given proper care. However, they are initially more expensive (though they may prove more economical in the long run), and not everyone is a candidate for the minor surgery they require.
Which method is best for you? Don’t try using paranormal powers to find out: Come in and talk to us. If you would like more information about tooth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Crowns & Bridgework,” and “Dental Implants.”
Your dentures have served you well over the years. Lately, though, you’ve noticed the fit loosening in the lower denture. It’s not a new problem: you’ve had them refitted a few times already. But now it seems to be growing worse and you’re having more trouble chewing food or speaking clearly.
The problem isn’t all wear and tear with your dentures — the bone in your jaw is shrinking. A denture applies forces that are compressive. Natural teeth produce forces when we chew that travel through the tooth root and stimulate the bone to grow. Without teeth, there’s no such force to stimulate the bone. As a result, new bone cells don’t replace older cells at a healthy rate and bone volume diminishes over time. Because traditional dentures are supported by the gum ridges, the constant compressive forces on the gums can also contribute to bone loss.
As mentioned, we can refit dentures by lining them with new acrylic material. Eventually, though, it may be necessary to consider a new set of dentures that match the altered contours of your jaw. But continuing bone loss might lead to the same fate for your new dentures as your previous pair.
There’s a relatively new alternative, though, that could provide greater denture stability and help deter bone loss: implant overdentures. They’re actually a union between a traditional denture and a dental implant, a tooth replacement approach introduced over thirty years ago.
With this option, two strategically-placed implants are surgically inserted into the jaw bone. We then manufacture a denture (or retrofit your current dentures, if possible) with fittings that connect to the implants. Once in the mouth, the dentures gain their main support from the implants rather than the gum ridge, which relieves pressure on the bone. And because the titanium implant has a natural affinity with bone, new bone will grow and attach itself to it, increasing its stability and stopping bone loss.
Although more expensive than traditional dentures, implant overdentures are more affordable than individual teeth replaced by implants and are very cost-effective over time. What’s more, they can restore the comfort and confidence to eat, speak and smile that you once enjoyed when you had your own teeth.
If you would like more information on implant-supported dentures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Implant Overdentures.”