Investing in Your Teeth

I know that photographs of teeth are a turn off but please know with this procedure, there were no shots, no drills and no pain.  I am writing about implant/crowns due to all the interest created by implant TV commercials on ‘teeth in a day.’  The photograph is necessary to explain the newest and greatest in tooth replacement.

The photo was taken on 2/27/20 on my patient in my office and those are my gloved hands.  Several years ago, this person came to me because his teeth were completely broken down, some to the gumline.  Rebuilding a severely broken-down bite requires all teeth to be crowned at one time.  Yes, a very big job for both patient and doctor.  Total restoration of a mouth is a very complicated series of procedures and very costly.  After four years of no problems with the new smile, the patient showed up as an emergency with a front crown in his hand.  It wasn’t the crown that broke, the entire tooth broke off clean with the gumline and the tooth was still in the crown which means it was impossible to cement it back on.

The good news is that modern dentistry can put humpty dumpty back together again using the implant/crown procedure.  Look at the photo of the cuspid (eye tooth).  What you are seeing is a lab made, tooth colored crown that matches all the other teeth, This crown has a hole in the backside that allows me to put a very special screw that goes all the way down to the implant which is embedded in the bone.  The two pieces of metal you see are a specially made implant screwdriver and torque wrench. Once the screw is tightened down to the standard 35 newton centimeters and the hole is filled, the crown is there to stay; no cement, no drilling, no shots and certainly no pain.  Now the patient can smile, talk, chew without the big gap in the front.  One of the greatest advantages of the single implant/crown is that it mimics a single natural tooth and can be flossed and cleaned just like a real tooth.

The reason I have ‘Investing’ in the title is because dentistry is expensive.  A screw in implant/crown’s cost, on a national average, is $5,000.  The cost includes the surgery, implant placement, usually IV sedation, costly lab work and time and experience of the dentists involved.  The average healthy person has twenty-eight teeth.  When you multiple 28 X $5,000, it equals $140,000.  This would be the replacement cost for every tooth in your head.  Replacing every single tooth with an implant and crown is seldom done because there are short cuts that work quite well.

The ads you see on TV are examples of the shortcuts.  Most of them use a combination of four to six implant on the upper and lower jaw that support upper and lower dentures.  These dentures, like the crown in the photo, have holes in them to allow the dentist to screw the dentures into place.  Like the crown, these dentures do not come in and out.  These dentures are one piece and cannot be flossed.  They must be religiously water picked because food will collect in the space between the denture and the jaws.  Every dental office is different in cost of services, but the TV procedures are close to that of a luxury car.  Yes, many thousands of dollars.

Spending money for functional, healthy, nice looking teeth is a personal choice.  Some people do not care in the least if they have teeth missing in the front.  Others cannot bear the thought.  Both have the right to feel the way they do.

If you want to know more about this case and how I fixed this man’s mouth, go to YouTube and search for “Rebuild a broken mouth, Dr Mac Lee”.  Please know the teeth you see in the video are plastic overlays of his natural teeth.  Later, after we are sure the bite is correct, we replace the plastic with porcelain as seen in the photo above.

If you, the reader of my columns, have any specific dental topics you would like for me to write about, please contact me via my website.