Loosing teeth has never been a death sentence, but until recently it often put a crimp in a lifestyle. From the first time an Etruscan in 500 B.C. walked into a dental office until the middle of the twentieth century, it was thought that dentures were the only option that most toothless people had. Recently, archeologists have found evidence that 4,000 years ago some enterprising and brave Chinese invented tooth implants by pounding pieces of bamboo into the gums to replace missing teeth. I guess restorative dentistry has been around for a while.
Thankfully modern dentistry has moved well beyond bamboo implants or hippo ivory dentures (George Washington’s favorite), and there is no shortage of prospective clients. It’s estimated that 25% of everyone in this country will need dentures or implants sometime at some point in their lives. The causes of tooth loss most often come down to either tooth trauma or gum disease. Renowned Las Vegas based dentist Dr. Byron M. Blasco, DDM says that short of mouth or tooth trauma, almost everyone should be able to keep their own adult teeth for their entire life.
“Our teeth are remarkably resilient, but gum disease takes a tremendous toll on our ability to keep our teeth our entire lives”, says Dr. Blasco. “Ever advancing technology gives restorative dentistry the ability to replace what has been lost, but there is still no substitute for good dental hygiene while you still have your original teeth”.
If a patient opts for dentures as a tooth replacement they may be able to choose between removable and fixed partial dentures, or complete dentures. The removable dentures are for patients that may be missing just a few teeth on either the upper or lower arch of the mouth. They are made of material that closely resembles teeth and are affixed to permanent teeth on either side. Complete dentures are complete sets of “false teeth”.
Dental Implants are metal posts that are surgically placed in the bone below the gums and replacement teeth are mounted on the posts. The advantage of implants is that they do not need to be affixed to other teeth, they are easier for oral hygiene and comfort.
The choice of which option is best, often comes down to cost. Implants are significantly more expensive than dentures. Most insurance does not cover implants, but they do cover dentures. Financing for implants is also becoming more available.
For senior citizens, who make up the bulk of replacement candidates, the choice often becomes a pragmatic one. A friend of mine, an 84-year-old woman who had suffered tooth loss due to dry mouth, was faced with the choice the other day. She loved the idea of having implants, but also understood the financial cost. If she was ten or twenty years younger it would have been an easy choice to take the implants, but she knew that she probably “wouldn’t live long enough to get her money’s worth”. She has full dentures, loves them, and knows that she made the right choice.
If you have suffered from tooth loss you should see a restorative dentist like Dr. Byron M. Blasco. Call his office at 702-933-1300 and find out what is best for you.