Posts for: September, 2015
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.”
Dentures, removable restorations for missing teeth and gum tissue, can take a number of different forms, but are usually of two different types: complete and partial. A complete denture replaces all the teeth in a given arch. A removable partial denture (RPD), on the other hand, replaces several missing teeth while using the remaining teeth as support.
A common type of RPD formed of plastic is known as a “flipper” because it’s lightweight enough to be “flipped out” or moved around with the tongue. They serve an important purpose as a temporary appliance for use between periodontal treatment, implant placement and similar treatments before obtaining a more permanent restoration. In fact, they’re often referred to as “transitional” RPDs because they’re not designed for permanent tooth replacement.
Because of their low cost relative to other restorations, however, they often become the permanent choice for many people. While a well-constructed, properly fitting RPD in a healthy mouth can be an affordable alternative for people on modest budgets, their long-term use may increase the risk of dental disease and accelerated bone loss. Decades of research verify that people who permanently wear RPDs encounter more tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease than non-wearers.
This is because the attachment points of a plastic RPD to remaining teeth increases bacterial growth, which can cause both tooth decay and gum disease. This doesn’t only endanger the survival of the remaining teeth, it can lead to bone loss that will affect the RPD’s fit.
While the better course is to consider RPDs as a stepping stone to dental implants or a fixed bridge, there’s an intermediary RPD constructed of cast vitallium or gold alloy that could be considered a permanent choice. These are even lighter weight than plastic and less obtrusive in their attachments in the mouth, which can reduce plaque stagnation and promote a better oral environment.
Regardless of your choice in dentures, it’s always important to maintain good consistent oral hygiene with daily brushing and flossing and semi-annual professional cleanings and checkups. Keeping a healthy mouth will help reduce your risk of dental disease and increase your satisfaction with your denture of choice.
If you would like more information on RPDs and other denture restorations, 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 “Removable Partial Dentures.”