Q: Dr. Crapo: My father is in serious need of dental work. He has an upper denture and five or six lower teeth that look bad. He’s got gaps between his lower teeth and I know he has trouble chewing his food, though he doesn’t complain. We’ve finally got him to see a dentist who says he needs a lower denture or a denture fixed with implants. It’s not a money issue, he can afford the dentistry he needs, but he’s not sure he wants to lose the rest of his teeth and he’s not convinced dental implants are for him. What’s best?
A: For some people health care is a hurdle. Addressing the problem of medication, counselling or surgery for them, seems like an insurmountable barrier because of fear of the unknown. Some feel they can’t act until they are forced to act. In the past week I’ve encountered two individuals, one an older gentleman and one a woman in her twenties, who lost a filling about a year ago. Neither one had it treated for various reasons. Now both will need a root canal and a crown. Both are happy to take care of the problem now it’s forced upon them. I’m grateful dentistry offers a life-long solution but both problems could have been taken care of with a simple filling at one-tenth the cost.
I recently treated a gentleman with conditions similar to your father, using some very complex surgical and crown and bridge techniques. I would have preferred to go the implant route because I know decay wouldn’t be a factor in the future and because it is easier to clean. It would have been stronger too, but this gentleman after considering his options said, “for my system (my body) I don’t think I could take those screws” (implants).
This gentleman will have a nice result. It will look good, be strong and give him good function, but his age and past habits have me concerned. He has paid eighty percent of an implant-supported denture. If he keeps his new dentistry and teeth immaculately clean he’ll enjoy a result that will last the rest of his life but….
When I think of my own father’s dental health, it too was similar to your father’s condition. In his case I would have chosen the implants. Dry mouth, geriatric caries (decay), decreased dexterity all spell trouble for complex crown and bridgework because of decay.