“We knew this was going to happen,” said Linda Hembree, recalling when the tooth-supported bridge that had been used to replace six of her front teeth needed to be replaced – again. “The teeth underneath wouldn't hold it anymore and it was a choice of dentures or dental implants. I just felt at that time, at my age, I didn't want to have to take anything out of my mouth. I felt implants were the best way to go."
Linda said that her last tooth-supported bridge prior to implants looked nice and worked well but she had been told that it wouldn’t be a permanent solution or last as long as teeth restored with dental implants.
“I had one of the nicest bridges possible. But you can't beat the implants," said Linda, who has been putting her implant-supported bridge to the test since February 2010.
Good-bye bridges, hello implants
When she chose dental implants, Linda also knew first-hand the level of maintenance tooth-supported bridges require when the teeth around them fracture.
Her first tooth-supported bridge was placed in 1982 and had to be replaced less than six years later. Four years after that, two teeth supporting the bridge fractured so the bridge was removed and root canal therapy was performed to save those teeth. The bridge was put back into place. The repair lasted for about 10½ years until she suffered two more tooth fractures below the gum line in 2003. At that time, she underwent additional root canals so her second tooth-supported bridge could be restored again.
Six years and two more fractures later, in the summer of 2009, then 56-year-old Linda was ready to discuss the long-term solution of dental-implant restored teeth with her dentist, AAID-credentialed implant dentist, Edward Kusek, D.D.S., FAAID, ABOI/ID.
Linda had one big fear: that she might be without teeth during the multi-step process to restore her teeth. “I worried that I would have bad-looking temporary teeth and an unattractive smile while my custom teeth were being made.”
Her fear proved unfounded. "It's not like you have to walk around with ugly teeth," Linda explained, noting that Dr. Kusek, who practices in Sioux Falls, S.D., “did all the preparation, pulled the teeth underneath the bridge, and made the temporary teeth right in the office,” placing them the same day as the dental implants that also would provide the foundation for her long-term teeth.
Even the temporary teeth were terrific
Her colleagues were convinced that the temporary teeth were the long-term teeth. “No one would believe that they were temporaries,” Linda said. “They were so white and so perfect that some of the people I was working with thought that I already had my long-term teeth. I stress to people the fear of walking around with a temporary in your mouth shouldn't be there.”
Although Linda didn’t fear the steps involved to place the dental implants and restore her teeth, she offers reassuring words for those who do. Within a day or so after placement of four dental implants to support her new teeth, "I went right back to work,” she said. "I didn't have any downtime at all."
Same, she said, of the bone graft she received to supplement thinning bone in one area and of the osseointegration process, which is when the dental implants fuse naturally with the jawbone to form a strong and sturdy foundation for the long-term teeth. "I was given pain medication to use if I wanted it but think I only used ibuprofen if I needed anything."
Looking good, feeling great
How do her dental-implant restored teeth compare to the previous tooth-supported bridges? “The dental implants look tremendous,” she said. "The implants are more solid. Durability is better. You're a little more secure – you’re not worried you're going to break your bridge or afraid to go out to eat," she said.
Ongoing care of Linda's dental-implant restored teeth also is very routine. Switching her regular floss to “super floss” to clean between her new teeth has been the only change, she noted.
Linda’s advice to others? “Get a good, trustworthy dentist. You're pretty much putting your appearance in the hands of this person.”