Chew on This

Implant-supported prostheses preferred over dentures to replace lost teeth.

Helen says Dr. Bucaj did an “excellent job” of matching her prosthetic with her upper teeth.

Helen Hall hails from Arizona but has lived in Florida since she was 7. As she’s resided in Florida for most of her life, she considers herself a native by default. Like many Floridians, Helen values the natural resources of the Sunshine State.

“The things I like best about Florida are the weather and the water,” she elaborates.

Unfortunately for Helen, 70, she doesn’t get a chance to enjoy the water very much.

“I’ve been disabled for years, ever since someone fell on top of me in a freak accident and injured my back,” she clarifies. “I’m not very active, so I spend most of my time reading and watching TV.”

One activity Helen still enjoys is eating. But lately, that became problematic as well due to the progressive decline of her dental work. Helen knew she needed the services of a skilled dentist, but she had a deeply rooted fear of dental professionals.

“When I was 8 years old, I had a terrible experience with a dentist,” Helen shares. “The man was really, really rough with me. From then on, I’ve been terrified of dentists. I eventually found a great dentist in Fort Lauderdale, but he recently retired.

“That dentist had me all patched up with crowns and other dental work, but he also warned me that in a few years all this dental work would probably fall apart. And it did fall apart, to the point it needed to be fixed or replaced.”

At first, Helen was too afraid to visit a new dentist, then her dental condition deteriorated further until the situation became dire. At that point, she had no other choice.

“I waited until I couldn’t take it anymore,” Helen admits. “I only had four or five teeth left on the bottom, so I broke down and called a couple of dental practices. I called one place and didn’t like their attitude. The second place wanted money just to let me know how much the work would cost.

“Then, I saw an article in Florida Health Care News about Dr. Bucaj, so I called his office. I was immediately impressed by their professionalism. When I told them I’m terrified of dentists, they could not have been nicer, kinder or more patient. The entire staff was wonderful.”

The article featured Alfons Bucaj, DMD, of Dental Implant Center in Vero Beach. And he remembers Helen’s initial office visit quite well.

“Helen presented with multiple broken and infected teeth in her lower jaw that posed a chewing challenge and health risk and needed to be removed,” he recalls. “She knew it was time for new dental work and was clear that she didn’t want a denture. She wouldn’t even consider it.

“A denture is an all-acrylic appliance, and wearing one feels like walking with a wooden shoe in your mouth. Honestly, the days of creating dentures are over. With the technology available today, we recommend implant-supported prostheses instead. I believed that was a great option for Helen.”

Together Again

When meeting with patients for the first time, Dr. Bucaj sits down and talks with them at length. He uses the time to learn about the patient and ultimately determine the goals for treatment. He calls this process co-diagnosis.

“During the co-diagnostic process, we review the treatment plan sequence and advise patients on the options available,” Dr. Bucaj describes. “We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option, then customize a treatment plan based on where the patients want to be and their functionality.

“This process was easy with Helen because she already knew where she wanted to be. She didn’t want a denture that goes in and out of her mouth, and she didn’t want to use adhesive. An implant-supported prosthesis avoids all that.”

The prosthesis Dr. Bucaj chose for Helen is a porcelain-fused-to-metal fixed bridge. With this prosthesis, the dental implants are rigidly connected by a metal superstructure, which is then overlaid with porcelain.

“The principle behind this prosthesis is essentially the same as that of crowns over implants, except these crowns are connected to form a bridge,” Dr. Bucaj explains. “By connecting the crowns, the patient’s teeth are naturally placed on top of the implants, which restores full chewing function.

“In Helen’s case, I placed six dental implants, and the bridge will replace 10 teeth, which is called first molar occlusion or first molar functionality. Her front and back teeth will be connected as one unit, so she will be able to chew properly.”

Helen has already undergone surgery to place the dental implants and is waiting for them to settle. Then she can move on to the final step in the process, receiving her prosthetic.

“Once we place the implants, we wait for them to combine with the jawbone, like a bolt in wet cement,” Dr. Bucaj educates. “Just as the cement must fuse to the threads of that bolt, the implants must fuse with the patient’s native bone. This process is called osseointegration. Once this occurs, we can place the prosthetic on top of the implants.

“Helen will be ready to receive her prosthetic in three to four weeks. Then she will be able to chew and eat freely again.”

“An Artist’s Touch”

Helen says she doesn’t mind waiting for her permanent prosthetic because she’s confident in Dr. Bucaj’s work. She says she’s been a fan of his ever since she first sat down to talk with him.

“For one thing, I didn’t have any teeth for him to work with as far as making impressions,” she comments. “It takes an artist’s touch to match the teeth in the bridge with my upper teeth, and Dr. Bucaj did an excellent job with that.”

With the help of Dr. Bucaj and his staff at Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach, Helen’s fear of dentists became a bad memory.

“Dr. Bucaj and his staff are fantastic,” Helen states. “When I first went in and told them I was scared, they said, We can take care of that. They gently reassured me and made me feel very comfortable. I knew I was in a good place.

“I recommend Dr. Bucaj and his staff. They’re very nice people and they’re good at what they do. They know how to treat people who are scared, which is important, especially for older people. I recommend them in a heartbeat!”

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    • Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach

      Dentist Al Bucaj, DMD, in Vero Beach, Florida practices a full scope of general and cosmetic dentistry with expertise ranging from porcelain veneers to dental implants, crowns and bridges. Dr. Bucaj can now correct a wide variety of what were... Read More

    • Alfons Bucaj, DMD

      Alfons Bucaj, DMD, is a diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and the American Board of Oral Implantology. He is also an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. Dr. Bucaj graduated from Nova So... Read More