Restoration Plan

Implant-supported bridges vastly improve look, function.

A tense two-week stay on alert in the Mediterranean Sea awaiting the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis and a couple of trips to the South China Sea during the Vietnam War highlighted Charles Davis’ ten-year career in the United States Navy.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Charles Davis

“I worked electronics maintenance on the planes that flew off two aircraft carriers,” Charles says of his Naval duties. “I was on the Forrestal during the Cuba crisis. We were in the Mediterranean at the time and woke up one morning with four Russian boats around us.

“I was on the Ranger for the two tours of Vietnam I did. Our squadron was the one that ran all the photo reconnaissance missions over Hanoi and places like that. I eventually got out of the Navy after 10 years, because I was tired of going to Vietnam.”

Charles left with enough experience to forge a career servicing planes for one of the country’s biggest commercial carriers. He has since retired and moved from Denver, Colorado to Florida, where he recently chose to correct a long-standing dental issue.

“About 30 years ago, I had to have all my bottom teeth, except for the six in the front, pulled out,” Charles explains. “They gave me a partial for each side where they’d pulled the teeth, but the partials never fit or looked right.

“The way they fit was the biggest problem. Especially when I ate. It got so bad that after a while I just stopped wearing them when I ate. I still ate whatever I wanted, but I had to eat in the middle of my mouth like a chipmunk. That was a little time-consuming.

“And I was always self-conscious about not having those teeth, so I finally decided to find out if there was anything else that could be done about them. What kind of got me going was this article I read in Florida Health Care News.”

The article Charles read was about Richard Leong, Jr., DDS, a general and implant dentist who practices comprehensive, full-treatment dentistry, including full mouth reconstructions at his offices in Melbourne.

A strong recommendation from a friend further steered Charles in the direction of Dr. Leong, whose work on Charles began six months ago with a thorough examination that revealed yet another challenging dental issue.

The Implant Option

“In addition to having lost the teeth on either side of the six teeth that remained on the bottom front, Charles had a lot of cavities and some abscesses in those six remaining bottom teeth,” Dr. Leong reveals.

“One of the first things we had to decide then was whether he wanted to keep those teeth and repair them or pull them and go with a full denture on the bottom. Because he already had a full upper denture, that was one of the options I presented to him.”

That option was actually one of several Dr. Leong presented to Charles, who eventually decided to have Dr. Leong restore his six existing teeth while he replaced the missing teeth on his lower arch with bridges secured by dental implants.

Implants are screw-like posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone to serve as the foundation for replacement teeth. After they are placed in the jaw, dental implants fuse over time with the jawbone and become a solid unit with the bone.

Once they are secure in the jaw, implants are capped with an abutment that is topped with a crown for a single tooth or a bridge or dentures when replacing several teeth. When secured by implants, bridges and dentures don’t slip or move when patients speak and eat.

In order to be seated securely in the jaw, implants require the jawbone to be of a certain density to support them. Dr. Leong’s examination of Charles revealed he lacked the requisite bone density, but that did not prohibit Charles from getting implants.

By using implants that are designed specifically for patients who have very little jawbone such as Charles, Dr. Leong was able to grant Charles’ wish for implant-secured bridges on either side of his remaining six teeth.

“When a person doesn’t have enough bone to support implants, it is customary to do a bone graft to increase the bone density,” Dr. Leong educates. “In Charles’ case, however, we were able to fit him with specially designed implants.

“The implants I used actually do their own bone graft. When placed, a special drill is used in creating the space for the implant that actually harvests the bone. We then take that harvested bone and put it back on top of the implant.

“It’s a fantastic technique, in part because we’re using the patient’s own bone, which is always best, and because it’s bone from the jawbone rather than from the hip, which is another place where we can get bone if we need it.”

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Charles served ten years in the US Navy aboard two aircraft carriers.

Taking Out the Guesswork

In creating the environment for Charles’ new bridges, Dr. Leong placed three implants on each side of Charles’ lower jaw. Because of the lack of bone, he used implants that are smaller than normal but can still withstand the normal pressures of chewing once secured.

The time required for the implants to fuse with the bone is approximately three months. While waiting for the implants to fuse, Dr. Leong repaired the cavities and cleared the abscesses in Charles remaining lower teeth.

He then took on the task of completing the implant process, which always begins with a series of steps taken to ensure the patient’s bite is properly reproportioned so that chewing happens naturally.

“You don’t start out just guessing where the bite should be,” Dr. Leong notes. “You have to take measurements and do computerized mockups and special procedures to make sure the upper jaw is aligned with the skull and lower jaw.

“Then we make temporary teeth for the patient to see whether they can accommodate their new bite. There’s a lot to it, but that planning is what determines the placement and angle of the implant and assures we get the perfect outcome we want.”

Charles’ outcome was even greater than he expected and hoped for. The work on him was completed this past spring and he says he now feels confident while eating and smiling for the first time in years.

“I’m very happy with my new teeth,” he says. “My wife and everyone else tell me my teeth look great and I agree with them. I really love the way they look, and I’m eating normally again, using all my teeth.

“As for Dr. Leong, he’s a real professional. He’s very business-like and very good. I never felt any pain during the whole process, so I really liked that. I was so impressed with him that I’ve already told some friends about him and I will continue to do so.”

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