Q: Dear Dr. Crapo: Last week my upper bridge broke. I went to my dentist with my teeth literally in my hand. He said that because I had only five posts and three of the posts were broken, that he couldn't fix it – no one can. Now I'm forced with getting the posts out and having a denture, except I don't want a denture.
He told me I have a strong bite and my clenching and grinding had caused the bridge and teeth to break. He also said that because five posts were barely strong enough to hold the bridge in the first place, it was a miracle that I got twelve years out of it. I asked him about implants. He said he didn't do them but he does put teeth on the implants once they're healed.
When he told me the cost to put an implant to replace each tooth, I felt I couldn't do it. It made me sad because if I could make payments, I could. As it is, I am going to be forced to have a denture. Is there any way that the implants could be done differently so I could end up with teeth I don't have to take out of my mouth?
A: Generally speaking, implant dentistry happens in two phases – a surgical phase where the implants are put in and a prosthetic phase where the teeth or bridgework are fixed to the implants. This is the most efficient way of doing things. All the implants are place at one time and then healing occurs. One surgery and one healing until the implants are ready for teeth.
My experience with three different patients demonstrates the pay-as- you-go model and how it worked for them. All insisted they wanted implants but they didn't want debt. In our consultation, we devised a method of doing two or three implants, using temporary bridges or partial dentures to close gaps and provide function and then wait for healing of the gums and the pocket book.
As their treatment was completed, it was rewarding to see that the plan had worked to perfection. Each had actually placed more implants than they could have paid for at one time. Each tooth had an implant so the strength of their restoration was better than their own natural teeth. None will have decay problems and none have had to change their lifestyle.
In all honesty, their price was inconvenience and a total cost that was a little more than if they had done it the conventional way. But to them, it was worth taking things at a pace that gave them control of their life and the final outcome.