Dental implants: No need to fret over missing teeth

For younger people, the prospect of losing their teeth early in life can be traumatizing. To all such people, modern dentistry offers some smart choices, including ways to treat and save bad teeth, and so also, to replace bad teeth with minted ones.

People can lose their teeth because of accidents, lack of care, decay or infection, says Dr Sudhakar Reddy, The director of “Dental Implant Studio” in Bengaluru. “I have myself attended to several of such people in the past 12 years; Almost 18,000 dental implants have been placed till now in those who have had teeth replacement surgeries.”

One of them is Prakash Nair (Name changed to ensure patient’s privacy), aged 46. He had a decayed tooth from which infection quickly spread to all the teeth in his lower jaw. Even the bone in the jaw was impacted. Prakash remembers that, at one point, foul smell had begun to emanate from his mouth due to the infection. “I was in much distress.”

Initially, the attempt was to tame the infection using medicines. It did not work. The next course was to take out the badly affected teeth while trying to save the rest. “It was an ambitious attempt, given that the infection had gone too far into the jaw, and eroded the bone holding the teeth,” says Dr Sudhakar.

When that too did not yield expected results, Prakash was advised full teeth replacement.

“Prakash’s case took roughly about a seven months to resolve. Teeth replacement is a 10-day job usually. However, we need to be mindful… even if a few of the original teeth can be saved, it is worth the time spent in trying.”

Similar to Prakash, is the case of Anjana Bharath (Name changed to ensure patient’s privacy). She went to see DrSudhakar, fearing for her frontal teeth. The teeth were shaking, out of place, and as she remembers, ready to fall off.

“I was nervous and anxious on account of it. I couldn’t bear the idea of seeing myself toothless at 30,” says Anjana.

For women, especially, a problem of that nature can be emotionally and psychologically scary. Anjana remembers her own journey with tepidity. Before seeing DrSudhakar, she had consulted a few dentists. Far from comforting her, they made the proposition all the more frightful. “One doctor even accused me of wrecking my own dental health. It left me feeling guilty and depressed.”

“DrSudhakar, however, put me at ease. He was a picture of patience. He told me I was not the only young person to face such a problem. He took ample time to explain the case, how the treatment would go, and what I could expect at the end of it.”

Anjana had bleeding gums which went untreated for years. By the time she went to see DrSudhakar, it was late for him to save her teeth. So, like Prakash Nair before her, she too had a full teeth replacement surgery — a treatment that took a month to complete.

The teeth one gets these days are nowhere like the removable dentures of the past. The teeth, which are made of ceramic and are surgically fixed to the implants in  jaw, can last long on moderate care and maintenance. Also cosmetically, they look as good as the real teeth. In fact, in the hands of a skilled dental surgeon, the newly installed teeth can even uplift and improve the structure of the face.

Anjana vouches for it. “My bunny-like teeth are gone. In its place I have pearly white perfectly aligned teeth. It feels so good looking into the mirror now… No one has even noticed my teeth are artificial. All credit to DrSudhakar.”

It is always better to catch and treat the infection early. That way the original teeth can be saved, and the general health of the patient can be ensured. If, however, the infection is allowed to march uncontrollably, the only thing left to do would be teeth extraction, says DrSudhakar. 

“It is a Hobson’s choice. If you got to do it, you got to do it,” he says. “It is like with a gangrene foot: you have to sacrifice a digit to save the leg. Thankfully, however, if a bad tooth has to be removed to stop the infection, you can have another one to fix in its place”.

The teeth replacement craft has come a long way since the first teeth implant took place in 1930.  “There was even a time, when it used to take three month for the implant to bond. Now it is almost like an in-and-out surgery. In Anjana’s case for instance, she had all her teeth replaced in 10 days. She was a tough case. She had virtually no bone left to affix the teeth. Still, it just took 10 day…,” says DrSudhakar.

Today, the value of the dental implant market is USD 4.3 billion or Rs 430 crores. It is certainly a pointer to the efficacy of the craft, and no less, to the popularity it has achieved.

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