Q: Dr.Crapo: My teeth have been important to me all my life. About ten years ago I spent over forty thousand dollars to have all my teeth done. They needed root canals and crowns. I’ve been happy with the work until recently, when three teeth got loose and within a month just fell out. I lost my upper left front side tooth, my eye tooth and the one behind it leaving a huge gap. There was no pain, they just fell out. I went to my dentist and he told me it would cost forty-five thousand dollars to fix my problems. I couldn’t believe my ears! My family encouraged me to get a second opinion, so I did. The new dentist explained to me that there wasn’t much bone left where the teeth came out but that putting bone in my sinus would allow for implants to be put in and I could get the three teeth replaced. The price was about half of the first dentist and it would take about a year before the bone graft settled, implants put in and then the teeth. I’m 85 years old, in good health but this is a lot of money and I don’t know if it’s even financially responsible to do this. The second dentist pointed out some looseness in one or two more teeth in the front, so I’m nervous about more teeth falling out. He also said a large bridge could be done but the costs of that were the same or more than the implants. I went back to my first dentist and pleaded for an inexpensive solution. He said a removable flipper, I think he called it, could be done for a thousand dollars. I feel bad about spending the money. I want good teeth but if I spend the money – I may not be around too much longer; I don’t know what’s right, maybe the cheapest is best.
A: My implant patients range in age from late teens to 92. If you have enjoyed good health all your life, have the funds so your standard of living won’t be compromised, talk to your family and express your desires and concerns. Age is not as important as health.
A “flipper” as the “cheapest” solution will lead to a more rapid deterioration of your teeth.
The fixed bridge idea is still a good solution in dentistry and will protect the rest of your teeth, but it would be complex and require specialized knowledge and clinical skills.
Lastly, two or three implants will provide the strongest and best solution. You need a strong upper left eye tooth to protect the rest of your teeth. While things are healing, a removable partial denture could be made for appearance sake.