Q: Dr.Crapo: I was raised in a country where all dental decay meant the tooth was coming out. I have no back teeth on my upper right side and no bottom teeth on my lower left side.
So as you can tell, I can’t use the remaining back teeth for grinding my food.
The problem gets worse, as I saw a dentist to get some teeth put in the upper right and lower left but he said he couldn’t help me because the lower right teeth have grown all the way up to my upper right gums.
He wondered why I wasn’t causing some real sore spots because the lower teeth dig into the upper gums. He said he’d send me to a specialist to figure it out. I didn’t know teeth could grow even after they’re totally in. Is it just me?
The problem is compounded by the fact that my new boyfriend got all his teeth fixed with implants and everything, and by accident discovered my problem (it happened when I was taking so long eating a roast beef sandwich) and now insists I get everything taken care of.
I’ve never thought about it to any degree – I’d just taken it for granted, but now I do see I have quite a problem. Is there anything you could suggest?
A: Teeth have an eruptive force throughout our lives. When we wear our teeth they actually erupt (“grow”) to fill the amount of tooth that has been worn away. It happens so gradually that we don’t notice.
When a tooth is removed, its counterpart (its opposing tooth) may be left with nothing to bite against. In such a case the remaining tooth erupts or “grows” to find its opposing mate. When a tooth over-erupts in human beings, not only does the tooth move but the bone that the root is housed in grows to follow it.
In your case your teeth and the bone on the lower right side pose a restorative problem. In my experience with this, and I’ve treated several severe cases like this, the teeth are removed as well as the excess bone height and implants are placed in a relationship that mirrors the position of the teeth and roots before you lost the upper teeth.
After that, the upper jaw can then receive implants and a beautiful, fully functioning set of teeth can be put in place – no roast beef sandwich will stand a chance. If this situation is mirrored on the other side, it can be done bilaterally.
Good analysis will give you a diagnosis that will guide treatment that will last a life time.