I am the office manager/receptionist here at Fischer Denture Clinic. Working for a denturist has opened my eyes to the importance of stable chewing function. I’m documenting my journey to getting dental implants, now that I understand why they are for my benefit, and not to make dental professionals rich. I see and hear every day, from patients that are struggling with dental issues that have developed over a long period of time. Let me tell you, teeth do not get better with age! There are many reasons for teeth to fail and no one is immune. We have had patients as young as 12 and up to 100. I consider myself a pretty average middle-aged woman that has had a dental plan most of my life, so I’ve had above-average dental care. I brush my teeth at least twice a day and even floss when I think of it.
My unique challenges are that even though I am a pretty big girl, I have a very small mouth. As a child I had a 12 mm overjet and pretty crooked lower teeth, so my parents generously paid for me to get braces. That was a seven and half year journey (long story), which meant I had to have 4 teeth removed plus my wisdom teeth, so a total of eight to make room for the remaining teeth in my small mouth. I wish I knew then what I know now. There are steps that could have been taken to avoid removing my healthy teeth and have a better mouth today. Then I’m also a ‘grinder’. Before I paid attention to my dentist, I didn’t realize I was wearing down my teeth at an accelerated rate because I clench my teeth at night. I now wear my nightguard faithfully to minimize any further damage.
I have to admit, before working in the dental field, I was very ignorant and complacent about my own dental care. Several years ago, I had my lower back molars removed because they had failed to stand up to the abuse my clenching put them through. First, one crown went and then a year later the equivalent on the other side went. Of course my dentist recommended implants and crowns but all I heard was, that it would cost big money that I didn’t have because implants aren’t covered by 99.9% of the insurance plans out there. This is the biggest issue I hear every day at the denture clinic. People think they don’t need what the professionals recommend because it costs too much. Yes, dental care is expensive. Prevention is not. Do what you can to keep your teeth healthy, because they are dynamic. They don’t stay put just because you want them to. We are constantly changing.
My education began when an intern took impressions of my mouth at the clinic to make me a nightguard. Our denturist, Markus, then showed me how my jawbone was resorbing where there were no teeth. The body is an amazing thing. When the jawbone has no teeth to retain, it gets smaller. This happens naturally even with teeth, but at a much slower rate. This is why it is important to have natural teeth, implants or a well-fitting prosthetic device to mimic having teeth. You can trick your jaw into being needed.
Then he showed me how my tooth above the space on my upper jaw was ‘over-errupting’. There was nothing ‘stopping’ it from moving, so gravity has not been my friend once again! In extreme cases over a longer period of time this can cause even bigger issues for me. I’ve had to see a specialist in the past for TMJ issues and as I did before, I heard how much therapy would cost, and ignored the issue. So I continue to suffer jaw problems and a lot of tension in my neck in shoulders that probably stems from what’s going on in my mouth. In the diagram above, I drew a blue line where my tooth should end and where my jawbone and gums should be.
Since I tell patients every day that implants are the best option when you don’t have teeth to improve denture stability and chewing function, I decided to literally put my money where my mouth is. I booked an appointment with my dentist and started this journey to get implants. I was sent to get a CT Scan of my mouth/jawbone and my dentist put together a very thorough report on what this process would look like. In my case, we decided to do both implants at the same time to ensure stability on both sides and also have some economies by doing two at once.
At the clinic, we have a cool tool that measures the strength of our bite. The Bite Force numbers range from 0 – 1000. No strength at all is closer to zero and a perfect score is 1000. We measured mine with just my missing back teeth, one from each side. Here are the results, 602 N. It will be interesting to see what it will be after I have implants with crowns on them.
August 26th, was surgery day! This was going to be cool for me so I can honestly tell our patients what it’s like to get implants, at least for me. An important lesson I’ve learned is not to compare yourself to others. Everyone is so different, especially when it comes to mouths! So first I was given a gown and an unattractive hat and went through all the current safety protocols.
Then I had my gums frozen. My dentist had made a guide from the model of my mouth so he was sure to ‘guide’ the implant in the way/angle he wanted them to be. I’m not sure the exact details of what he did next, but it wasn’t near as bad as I expected. With the guide in place, he made a hole, then screwed in the implant. Then the other side. That’s it! I was sent home with a rinse to use and cautions on what to eat for the next while. I didn’t even have to take any pain medications.
A month later I went in for a check-up and was frozen again so the dentist could put healing caps on my embedded implants. I’ll now wait a couple more months before the implants get ‘activated’ with pegs that the crowns will be made to adhere to.
…to be continued!