One of the problems with dentures is the fact that dentures sit on the gum tissue, and this is for full dentures when you’re missing all your teeth. The tissue sits on the bone. Once you lose all your teeth, the bone begins to essentially disappear or erode. That continues to happen throughout a patient’s life. As the bone shrinks, the gum tissue also shrinks. Then the denture doesn’t fit very well, and where it starts to rock. Well, usually the solution is then to either have a new denture made, have the denture reprocessed, something like that. The problem is there is dimension returns. Eventually you’re going to get to a point where there is no bone and the denture is just sitting on some flabby tissue. At that point, there’s no way for that denture to fit.
What’s actually pretty frightening is some of the studies have been shown that people that lose all their teeth generally have a life expectancy of 7 to 10 shorter than the average individual who does have their teeth. We try to tell people up front, especially a younger individual that wants to have all their teeth removed, “Well, my dad had dentures when he was 20. He’s getting along fine.” We try to let them know, “Well, if you’re going to take out all your teeth, you should think about maybe putting some dental implants in to support the denture.” Because the implants will do two things. One, they can hold the denture in place so that the patient doesn’t have to put superglue in their denture to keep it in, but the other thing it does is it’s going to preserve that bone and keep that bone from shrinking away at such a fast rate.
I think the reason a person should really think about doing dental implants as opposed to a traditional denture is one, because of the loss of bone. It preserves the bone. If you can preserve the bone, generally you can preserve the facial structures. The bone is what has our face here. Everyone has seen the picture of the old man that takes his dentures out and the whole face sort of collapses, wrinkles up here, they flop around, things like that. When you put implants in, it preserves all those. Preserves the tissues. Allows the patient to look younger, number one, number two it gives them confidence and peace of mind with security with the denture. Because a lot of people will tell you, “Oh, yeah, I wear my dentures, but I have to put a lot of Fixodent or glue in them to keep them in, because one time I sneezed and they came out.” Or, “I was laughing and they fell out.” With implants, you’re able to button the denture in. You can actually snap the denture in, and it’s gonna be secure, or can be screwed in.
The other big advantage of implants is the fact that there’s so many different things that you can do with them. One of the things that implants gets a bad rap about is oh, it’s painful to have them done. That’s not really the case. There is some discomfort in placing a dental implant, but it’s so much less than having a tooth pulled. I tell every patient this, especially ones that are maybe have all their teeth, and are going to lose one tooth and they want to replace it with an implant. A lot of them are scared. “I heard implants hurt.” Well, no, not really. What will be sore or painful afterwards, unfortunately, is the removal of the tooth. The reason is the tooth has the nerves. Implants don’t have any nerves and bones don’t have any nerves. So if you can put in the implant in the bone, it’s really easy. One analogy I give to my patients all the time is I talk about my splinter analogy. If you’re working in the back yard and you get a splinter in your hand, it goes in pretty easily. What’s not easy is going to get your tweezers upstairs in your bathroom, and you’re trying to pry that thing out. That’s more painful than having the splinter go in. Same thing with implants. Implants will go in the body really easy, and they work great. But taking a tooth out, or taking something out of the human body, the body doesn’t like that as much.
Just in this past year, I had an experience with two ladies. Elderly ladies. One was 96, and one was 88. Evelyn was my 88-year-old patient. She came to us because she had just lost all of her teeth, and the dentist had just given her a denture. At 88, to have all your teeth removed and given a denture is really a shock. That’s probably as close as you can come to being amputated, losing an arm or a leg, that one can experience. She was really struggling. She wasn’t wearing it because she couldn’t. She was gagging on it, it wasn’t fitting. It hurt her because she was very frail. We talked about implants. She was very nervous about the procedure. But we were able to give her five implants. We did it in less than an hour. We connected her denture to the implants, and now she wears it all the time. She’s ecstatic about it because it went so easily for her. She has her teeth back, and she’s able to do all this without letting her husband know. That was one of the things; she really didn’t want her husband to find out that she had lost all her teeth. Whenever he was around, she was sticking the denture in, and then she’d go out of the room and pull it out. That was nice.
The other lady, she came in, and it was someone who had worn dentures for a long time. She had partial dentures, which means that the denture is hooked to several teeth, but her teeth were, the dentist had told her she was going to lose those teeth. She wanted to know what could be done. We did the same thing. She had enough bone in her mouth, we were able to put implants in, and attach the denture and then remove the teeth. So she was really happy. There wasn’t a big transition for her. And at 96 years old…I actually thought wow, that’s pretty old to be having implants, but I use those two stories because it’s not uncommon for somebody to come into my office who’s early 60s and say, “I’m going to die soon, I don’t want to have dentures.” I mean, “I don’t want to have implants placed, because I might not be around.” It’s not really about how long you’re going to live, it’s about the quality of life you want. You don’t know, none of us really know when we’re going to expire. Having implants just really improves your quality of life.
The interesting thing about Sandy, my 96-year-old patient, is when we were all done, she was kind of in a hurry the last day when we were doing some little adjustments. I inquired as to why she seemed stressed to leave because in the past she was always very good and had all the time in the world. She was in a hurry because she had to catch a plane, to go back east to New York to visit her 104-year-old brother. I was like, “Good for you.”