But What if I Want to Keep My Teeth?
Q: I’ve kept most of my teeth to this point of my life even though I was told by my parents when I get old, I’d lose my teeth and have to have dentures. True to form, I’ve had siblings both younger and older lose their teeth and now have dentures.
Even my wife has lost most of her teeth but now, because of implants, has nice teeth that are comfortable, and she can eat anything. With her having a good experience, I thought I’d go and get an assessment of my own teeth and where things stood.
I got a thorough exam with all the x-rays and moulds and went back to see the results. Now I have to admit that I’ve lost about four teeth, one in the front, two on one side, and one on the other; all on the top.
The results were, in my mind, slightly confusing. When I pressed the doctor, he had told me that I’d lost about one third to, in some places, one-half of the bone around the roots and in three spots about 80 percent on the sides of three teeth that he called key teeth (my eye teeth).
He said his general impression was that I would fair best with implants and bridges placed all in one sitting – similar to my wife.
Inwardly, I suspected this might be the case but I wanted to be the exception so I said you told me none of my teeth were moving so why can’t you do something to strengthen them so that I can keep them? I’m going back to see a new plan. Am I looking for something that is just a lost cause or is there a shot at keeping my teeth long term?
A: I see many folks as they get into their senior years that have similar questions. Here’s my general response: if the teeth can be balanced so that the functional forces can be evenly distributed, they are easy to clean and maintain, and if your daily care and cleaning is up to your hygienist’s instructions, then yes, keep them.
In your case, bone grafting may have to occur on those three teeth where you’ve lost a great deal of bone. Bridging, coupling of teeth by crowns and implants in the open spaces where you’ve lost teeth will also help to meet and balance the forces that have influenced bone loss.
The great proviso in any treatment like this or treatment your wife has received is to make sure you’re not a smoker. Smoking of any kind is one of the four pillars that cause tooth loss in adults. Also, be prepared for this treatment to take some time as healing and proof of surgical success is necessary on teeth that have excessive bone loss. From start to finish, it could easily take a year.
Based on actual patient cases
Calvin Ross Crapo