Prac­ti­cally Ac­tive

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - Email me at: rboggs@arkansason­

Los­ing a tooth leads to bone loss in the jaw, un­less you take ac­tion.

I don’t have false teeth. Do you think I’d buy teeth like these? — Carol Bur­nett ROSE­MARY BOGGS

In my last col­umn I wrote about prob­lems di­a­bet­ics can have when high blood glu­cose af­fects their den­tal health. What if that hap­pens and teeth have to be re­moved? Will tooth re­place­ments — den­tal im­plants — work for di­a­bet­ics?

I am work­ing to­ward a den­tal im­plant, and am amazed at all that’s in­volved and how the process works.

Money is of­ten an is­sue when con­sid­er­ing den­tal work, but I un­der­stand the high cost of qual­ity den­tistry. You get what you pay for. The first step is to find the right den­tist. You should feel good about the per­son whose hands you put your mouth in.

I found a den­tist in North Lit­tle Rock. He’s friendly, pro­fes­sional and re­ally knows his stuff. Plus he’s got a great staff that helps make me as com­fort­able and pain-free as pos­si­ble.

There is a ton of in­for­ma­tion on this topic on the in­ter­net, but we should look for re­li­able sources. I found some good stuff on the web­sites of the Mayo Clinic (may­oclinic. org), Con­necti­cut Max­illo­fa­cial Sur­geons LLC (cm­sllc. com) and the Na­tional Li­brary of Medicine’s MedLine Plus (med­line­, in­clud­ing a help­ful re­port at

Den­tal im­plant surgery is nor­mally an out­pa­tient process and per­formed in stages. When first dis­cussing it with my doc­tor, the term “bone graft” was thrown around. Why is that?

When you lose teeth, the jaw can lose bone mass. Gum tis­sue de­creases, and that can limit tooth re­place­ment op­tions. Fa­cial ap­pear­ance can change over time, with the dis­tance be­tween the nose and chin no­tice­ably short­en­ing.

But the den­tist can graft to the jaw ma­te­ri­als that stim­u­late bone growth at the site of the miss­ing tooth. And if placed im­me­di­ately af­ter an ex­trac­tion, a graft can pre­vent ex­ces­sive bone loss and al­low for den­tal im­plants.

When a tooth is ex­tracted, a hole is left that is sur­rounded by alve­o­lar bone (tooth-sup­port­ing bone). It only ex­ists to sup­port a tooth. When the tooth is gone, the body be­gins to re­sorb, or re­ab­sorb, the bone un­less it is re­placed with an­other tooth, an im­plant or a “ridge preser­va­tion graft.”

The ridge graft is de­signed to fill the void left by the ex­tracted tooth and hold the space while nat­u­ral bone has the op­por­tu­nity to fill in.

When I was sit­ting in my den­tist’s chair I asked where the graft ma­te­rial came from. Thank­fully, theirs comes in a lit­tle bot­tle. There are four pos­si­ble sources — the pa­tient, an­other hu­man, an an­i­mal or syn­thetic ma­te­rial.

The graft acts as a plat­form for nearby bone to grow upon. Even­tu­ally the graft is ab­sorbed by the body.

Heal­ing the grafted bone site can take four or five months. Once your den­tist deems you ready for the im­plants, a cut is made to open the gum and ex­pose the bone. Holes are drilled into the bone where the im­plant’s metal post will be placed. Since it will serve as the tooth’s root, it’s im­planted deep into the bone.

Some peo­ple will get one or sev­eral sin­gle-tooth im­plants. Oth­ers need a “par­tial,” a whole row.

There are two im­plant op­tions:

Re­mov­able: This type is sim­i­lar to the con­ven­tional re­mov­able den­ture. It con­tains “teeth” and a pink plas­tic gum. It’s mounted on a metal frame that’s at­tached to the im­plant abut­ment, and it snaps se­curely into place. It can be eas­ily re­moved for re­pair or daily clean­ing.

Fixed: The tooth or teeth are per­ma­nently screwed in and can’t be re­moved for clean­ing or sleep.

As with most den­tal pro­ce­dures, there will be dis­com­forts like swelling, bruis­ing, pain and mi­nor bleed­ing. You may need pain med­i­ca­tion or an­tibi­otics. And if you are like me, you’ll get tired of soup.

But smile, it won’t last for­ever.

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