Q: Dr. Crapo: I retired three years ago and I’m in good health, but I’m having a hard time chewing my food. I have most of my lower teeth but only six front teeth on top. It’s embarrassing when everyone has finished their meal and I’m only half done. Two weeks ago, I went to a denturist to see if she could make me some teeth that would work. I got three choices from her. Two were different types of partial dentures where I keep my front teeth and the third option was to have the teeth out and get a denture. I took those ideas home and got on the computer to see if there were more options. I discovered a number of other solutions but they included implants. I don’t know how implants work, how much they cost or how long the treatment would be. We’re planning a trip in July and I want teeth to eat with. I also think it best to keep the teeth I have. Can you give me a timely solution so I can go, enjoy myself and not think about limiting my food selection?
A: Historically a partial denture (removable) or full denture was the solution. Since implants, you have many options. The quickest and also most expensive is the “bridge-in- a-day” idea. Your function and aesthetics are taken care of in 4 ½ hours. Because of your desire to keep your own teeth, this is not for you because your remaining six teeth would be extracted.
To keep your teeth, a careful assessment should be made. If any of your teeth are a bit loose or if you’ve noticed any space starting to develop between your teeth, your bite may be pushing them beyond their biological limits. Simply placing a partial would only increase the force on your teeth. X-rays and other tests will tell your dentist if a partial denture will work with your remaining teeth. Keeping these teeth includes a variety of good but involved procedures. Let me give you an option that one of our patients, with a similar situation, took. I use it because it will fit into your time line.
Her front six teeth showed slight mobility (looseness) but she had a good amount of bone around her teeth. One implant was placed behind her eyeteeth on each side. This allowed tremendous anchorage and the unsightly anchor hooks were not needed to grip the partial onto her teeth. We also crowned her six front teeth and splinted the crowns together to get greater force resistance against her very strong bite. This has proved a long lasting, secure, beautiful and comfortable solution for her.