Choose Wisely

The importance of researching dental implants

Patricia Koller considers herself somewhat of an expert on dentures because she’s worn them most of her life.
Her troubles started when she contracted rheumatic fever at age 7, during a time when the upper respiratory tract infection was a grave danger for children and young adults. Patricia missed more than a year of school and endured the awful taste of black iron tonic, which stained her baby teeth.

Photos by Fred Bellet.

Patricia Koller isn’t self-conscious about her smile any longer.

When her permanent teeth began to grow in, “they had a softness to them,” she recalls. “They decayed and broke off.” She was so self-conscious that “I very seldom smiled.”
Her rotting teeth developed abscesses, and Patricia was often sick as a teenager “because I had an infection in my mouth most of the time.”
She began wearing a bridge across the front of her upper arch when she was 15.
“Then, the teeth they capped to hold the bridge broke off. I had the rest of them removed, and I got a top plate.”
Meanwhile, her bottom teeth were deteriorating, too, and by 22, she had a full set of dentures.
Patricia hadn’t stepped foot in a dental office in decades when she moved with her husband from New Hampshire to The Villages more than two years ago. She needed to find a local dentist and replace the worn, loose dentures she’d been wearing. Patricia was also interested in dental implants to stabilize her dentures.
Patricia, 74, decided to seek help from Village Dental after reading an article in Florida Health Care News.

Experience Is Key

Edward J. Farrell, DMD, has attained mastership status in the Academy of General Dentistry and founded Village Dental two decades ago. He fitted Patricia with a fixed denture only a dentist can remove, if needed.
“Every person is unique,” Dr. Farrell notes. “Pat’s was a challenging case because we had to take the previous implants out, which left a lot of bony defects. We needed to restore her bone. It can take three to six months just to grow new bone. And once you put the new implants in, it takes a while for the bone to harden around them. Once the implants are stable, we’re able to make the teeth.”
Dr. Farrell uses an i-CAT™ scanner, which provides three-dimensional bone images and allows him to determine the precise placement of implants. He can do virtual surgery on a computer in advance of the actual procedure. He’s worked with implants for 20-plus years and stresses that proper training and experience will help ensure a successful outcome.
“Ask a dentist about his or her qualifications, training and experience; seek a second opinion, if necessary; or get recommendations from other patients,” Dr. Farrell advises. “Implants are a large investment, so you really want to get all the information you can.”

The Right Choice

Village Dental offers a free consultation, without obligation, to help patients decide what choices are best for them.
“It’s kind of like buying a car with a lot of different options,” Dr. Farrell explains. “There’s a lot to consider. The best decisions are made once you have all the information, then you can feel good about what you’re deciding to do.”
For patients missing teeth for any number of reasons, dental implants can restore the beauty of their smile and the functionality of their mouth. Implants replace the roots of teeth and bond with the jawbone to support dental prostheses such as dentures, crowns or bridges.
The most common type of dental implant is the endosteal implant, which involves surgically placing screws or cylinders into the jawbone to hold one or more prosthetic teeth.
Subperiosteal implants sit on the bone and utilize metal framework posts protruding from the gums to hold the prosthesis on top of the jaw. Such implants satisfy the needs of patients who have minimal bone height and are unable to wear conventional dentures.
Both types of implants offer solutions for patients who:

  • can’t speak or chew comfortably with conventional dentures;
  • want to avoid a removable partial denture;
  • have an exaggerated gag reflex and can’t tolerate dentures of any kind;
  • are wearing dentures and want a fixed appliance to improve function, cosmetics or hygiene;
  • need to chew better to aid their digestion

Dental implants are extremely durable and, with proper care, will last for many years, maybe even for the remainder of the patient’s life. Implants also improve long-term oral health by avoiding the invasive steps of reducing teeth and relying on nearby teeth for support.
Additionally, implants: maintain the jawbone’s shape and density, keep dentures from sliding or causing discomfort, boost oral hygiene by allowing for easier access between teeth, and look and feel like real teeth.
The process was “well worth it,” Patricia enthuses, because she eats whatever she wants now, and it also was emotionally satisfying.
“I cried when I got them because it was the first time in so many years I had teeth in my mouth,” she remembers. “It’s just like having your own teeth. You care for them just like they’re your teeth, and you have them cleaned periodically.”
Patricia encourages anyone considering implants to research their options and choose a dentist with the latest technology.
“Be sure you know what you’re doing before you do it,” she advises. “You need to research the different kinds of implants, and you need to get ideas from different dentists of what they can do for you.”

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