The future is now. For those of us who’ve entered our fifth or sixth decade, the Etch A Sketch we remember so fondly from our childhoods has been replaced by a tablet and smartphone. During our early formative years, we could only fantasize about the kind of advanced technology that’s now an integral part of our everyday lives.
Keeping in touch with friends and family once required effort and intent. Remember writing a note with a pen? Putting it in an envelope? Sealing the envelope? Affixing the stamp? And, finally depositing it into a mailbox, which in many cases was a few blocks away from home? So much work! Today, we just send a text.
Need something in a hurry? Go to Amazon. Hungry? GrubHub and Seamless solve that problem. Have a question? Ask Google, Siri, or Alexa! One of my blogs actually ended up on a Google TV commercial a few years ago – click the link at the end of this article to see it. Instant gratification is but a keystroke away.
Nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives has been somehow influenced, molded, and even revolutionized by tremendous technological and scientific advances. Not the least of which in the world of medicine – including dentistry. While there’s no quick-fix for every ailment you may have, breakthroughs in the delivery of care often yield quick – sometimes instantaneous – results. Many procedures that previously required a prolonged stay in the hospital, now require a short stay (or no stay at all!).
- Earlier this year, my 88-year old mother had heart valve repair surgery. She was home the next day and felt remarkably well.
- My friend Jeff had a hip replacement. He was on the dance floor less than a week later.
- Mick Jagger had his aortic valve replaced. He was back on tour after a short time.
- I had spinal surgery on my neck some years back, and I was home the same day.
Implant Dentistry Revolutionized
Implant dentistry, in particular, has been completely revolutionized by recent technological advancements. Dentists can now offer highly advanced and sophisticated care with immediate results, even for patients who face or have been living with extreme dental catastrophes.
You may have noticed ads that promote same-day teeth or teeth in a day on TV, billboards, or social media. Million-dollar ad campaigns broadcast the fact that people no longer have to be embarrassed by missing teeth or suffer with uncomfortable dentures. Implants are the answer.
It’s been almost forty years since implant dentistry first arrived in the U.S. In that time, the field has advanced to the point where teeth in a day is not only possible – it’s a reality. My patients, in particular, are reaping the benefits of the implant revolution. I’m now able to remove one, some, or all of a patient’s teeth; place as few as one and as many as eight dental implants; and deliver beautiful and functional provisional (temporary) tooth replacements – all in one visit!
But there is a caveat. The undisputed fact in the world of implant dentistry is that there must be sufficient bone for an implant to be placed. Period.
Ingrid is a beautiful soul in many, many ways. When she became my patient in 2014 (a day we both remember well) she was in crisis mode. Consumed and paralyzed by the knowledge that she was on the verge of losing all her upper teeth. Ingrid had suffered from gum disease so long that most of the bone in her jaw was gone. On top of it all, she had severe dental phobia and was utterly petrified.
Ingrid’s bone loss, and the reason she was about to lose all of her upper teeth, were the result of her fear of going to the dentist. So, her dental problems were caused by not going to the dentist, and she was too scared to go to the dentist. This Catch-22 had been cycling for years. So, finally, here she was, quietly sobbing (actually, not so quietly) in my dental chair, desperate for a dental miracle to relieve her plight.
What did dental miracle mean to Ingrid? She had seen the TV ads and subway billboards for teeth in a day and same-day teeth. She had even Googled them. She prayed it was true – that she could walk out of my office with brand new, permanent teeth in one day. She had mustered up the courage for this one dental visit, and that was it.
A Plan For Ingrid
During our first meeting, Ingrid and I talked a great deal. I explained that she had to accept her current dental reality in order for me to lay out a plan for her preferred future. First and foremost, I wanted to give her some upper teeth so she could go about her life. (Although, even without upper teeth, Ingrid had a beautiful smile that made her blue eyes sparkle.)
I explained that teeth in a day really means temporary teeth in a day. Why temporary? Because implants need an average of four months or more to integrate (fuse) to bone before permanent teeth can be placed. All same-day implant procedures involve extractions, implant placement, and temporary replacement teeth – not permanent.
At the time, Ingrid did not have enough remaining bone for me to place even one implant. For her mouth to receive implants, she needed advanced surgical bone grafting, such as lateral and vertical ridge augmentations and bilateral sinus elevations or lifts.
Ingrid finally accepted the fact that her plan was going to require multiple surgical stages, each of which required at least six months of healing and bone maturation time before the next phase could proceed. Her entire treatment plan spanned close to three years.
“Teeth In Two Days”
My first order of business was to remove Ingrid’s failing upper teeth and replace them with a full upper denture. Now, there’s nothing inherently lovely about a full upper denture, at least not for the denture-wearer. But, it is entirely possible to achieve a natural-looking denture that looks like real teeth and gives the patient the ability to eat and smile. That’s what my goal was for Ingrid.
Few 50-something, newly engaged women like the idea of wearing “false teeth’, but In just two visits, I restored Ingrid’s appearance (and dignity) with a very beautiful, natural-looking upper denture.
Ingrid’s (and My) Odyssey
Ingrid was absolutely committed to seeing her implant journey through (as was I). Despite (or maybe with the help of) her occasional tantrums (great emotional release) and her gripes about how I published blogs about what she couldn’t have (teeth in a day, a week, a month or even a year), Ingrid persevered. We steadily progressed on our three-year odyssey to regenerate and restore her to a state of dental and emotional “wholeness.”
I helped Ingrid overcome her fear and worked hard to gain her unconditional trust with compassion and patience. The result? We formed a very close bond.
Thanks to advanced implant software, the help of CAD/CAM technology, and not a little surgical skill, I placed Ingrid’s eight implants with such precision that she could now wear new and beautiful dental laboratory-crafted fixed (non-removable) temporary crowns. Good-bye old-fashioned denture!
Ingrid now has a beautiful permanent dentition that has liberated her smile and bolstered her spirits and self-esteem. A lofty achievement thanks to the advancement of advanced surgical techniques combined with technology, time, and a human connection defined by compassion.
Ingrid and I logged many, many hours together that included months of healing, bone maturation, and osseointegration before her final restorations could be made. We came to know each other quite well and grew very close. She still hated being a dental patient, but she adored being my dental patient. I like to think that Ingrid sensed when I was treating her, I was doing it for her and never to her.
Many patients are good candidates for teeth in a day. But often, a little bit more time is needed. Either way, dental implants are indeed a modern miracle.
Michael Sinkin practices cosmetic, implant, and restorative dentistry in New York City. He is known for the wonderful care he provides to his patients, and for his wicked sense of humor! To contact Dr. Sinkin, click here.