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.”
Every year dentists place over 5 million dental implants for lost teeth, often removing the problem tooth and installing the implant at the same time. But getting a “tooth in a day” depends on a number of health factors, especially whether or not there’s adequate bone available for the implant. Otherwise, the implant’s placement accuracy and success could be compromised.
Bone loss can be a similar problem when a tooth has been missing for a long period of time. If this describes your situation, you may have already lost substantial bone in your jaw. To understand why, we need to know a little about bone’s growth cycle.
When bone cells reach the end of their useful life, they’re absorbed into the body by a process called resorption. New cells then form to take the older cells’ place in a continuous cycle that keeps the bone healthy and strong. Forces generated when we chew travel through the teeth to the bone and help stimulate this growth. But when a tooth is missing, the bone doesn’t receive this stimulus. As a result, the bone may not replace itself at a healthy rate and diminish over time.
In extreme cases, we may need to consider some other dental restoration other than an implant. But if the bone loss isn’t too severe, we may be able to help increase it through bone grafting. We insert safe bone grafting material prepared in a lab directly into the jaw through a minor surgical procedure. The graft then acts like a scaffold for bone cells to form and grow upon. In a few months enough new bone may have formed to support an implant.
Bone grafting can also be used if you’re having a tooth removed to preserve the bone even if you’re not yet ready to obtain an implant. By placing a bone graft immediately after extraction, it’s possible to retain the bone for up to ten years—enough time to decide on your options for permanent restoration.
Whatever your situation, it’s important that you visit us as soon as possible for a complete examination. Afterward we can assess your options and hopefully come up with a treatment strategy that will eventually include smile-transforming dental implants.
People who’ve lost all their teeth (a condition known as edentulism) face a decision on how to restore their lost function and appearance. And there are a number of options to consider.
A fixed bridge supported by dental implants, for example, is a good choice for patients who still have sufficient bone structure in their jaw. It’s not a good choice, however, for those with the opposite situation — who’ve experienced significant bone loss which has also affected their facial structure. For them, there’s a better alternative that also uses implants for support — the overdenture.
An overdenture is similar to a traditional denture, in that it’s made of life-like crowns permanently set in denture plastic, and may either partially or fully cover the roof of the mouth. The main difference, though, is that unlike traditional dentures which rest for support on the gum ridges, an overdenture is supported by strategically placed implants that the denture fits over and connects to — hence the name “overdenture.”
There are a number of advantages for an overdenture, especially for patients with bone loss. A removable, implant-supported denture can be designed to replace lost tissues that have altered facial appearance — to “fill in” the face and restore aesthetic harmony. Patients who’ve previously worn dentures will also often find their speech better improved than with fixed bridgework.
Because it’s removable, an overdenture and the underlying gums are easier to clean, which helps inhibit disease and lessen further bone loss. It also allows you to properly care for the denture, which can extend its longevity and reduce future potential maintenance and replacement costs.
If you would like to consider removable overdentures as an option, you should begin first with a thorough oral exam that includes evaluating the status of your bone, jaw and facial structure. From there we can advise you if overdentures are the best choice for you.
If you would like more information on overdentures and other restoration options, 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 “Fixed vs. Removable.”
Today, dental implants are an increasingly popular option for replacing lost teeth — an issue faced by many older Americans. It’s not hard to see why these high-tech prosthetic teeth are preferred: They look, “feel” and function just like natural teeth… and with proper care they can last the rest of your life. Unfortunately, many people who could benefit from implants also face an additional health problem: diabetes, a metabolic disease that can affect many different parts of the body, sometimes severely.Â Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to nerve and tissue damage, and may adversely impact your oral health. So if you have diabetes, does it mean you won’t be able to get dental implants?Â
The short answer is no — but there are some considerations that diabetics (and their health care providers) need to keep in mind. For example, it has been demonstrated that wounds in diabetics tend to heal more slowly, and are more prone to infection than those in non-diabetics. Also, people with diabetes sometimes experience a chronic inflammatory response, which can eventually lead to tissue damage or other problems.
Because the placement of dental implants requires minor surgery, dentists and researchers have questioned whether people with diabetes are good candidates for implants. Now there’s encouraging news: Several recent studies have come to the conclusion that many diabetics can indeed undergo an implant procedure without undue risk.
One key consideration is how well an individual can control his or her blood glucose levels. Researchers have found that diabetics with good blood glucose control, those with poor glucose control, and non-diabetics all have similar implant success rates (above 95%). However, in diabetics with poor glucose control, more time may be needed for the jawbone to heal in the area where the implant procedure was done. That doesn’t by any means rule out the placement of a dental implant — but it does mean that special considerations apply to individuals in this situation.
So if you are considering an implant procedure but have trouble controlling your blood glucose levels, ask us how we can help. Just remember that in most cases, having diabetes doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of dental implants. If you have additional questions, contact us or schedule an appointment.