One of my favorite long-time patients told me a story today about her uncle. He was a very proud man, but had many dental problems when he was young that led him to wearing a denture to replace his bottom teeth in later years. He hated that denture and always talked about having implants placed for better hold and function, but kept putting it off (“it’s ok, I don’t want to spend that kind of money”). After a short time in an assisted living facility his denture broke, but it was too complicated to repair or fix it, so he lived his final years with no bottom teeth at all. Of course, this affected his ability to chew and so for the last number of years his food had little to no texture, likely poorly affecting his overall health.
This patient of mine is 55, and is planning to retire in a few years. She had been delaying the inevitable loss of her teeth for as long as I’ve known her (10-15 years), and this year she made the leap to have her remaining top teeth removed and implants placed to hold new teeth (called All-on-4, or “Teeth-In-A-Day“), and we just finished up this month. Through this whole process she kept saying she has no idea why she waited so long…she LOVES her new teeth and the security of knowing what she has is healthy. She’s doing the same procedure with her lower teeth this summer. She tells me her uncle (before he passed) was so happy for her and told her he wished he had done the same thing years ago…
I know many of you reading this are at that point in your life where your old “basic” dentistry from your teens is starting to fail. It’s inevitable. No, you don’t all need to remove your teeth! But many of you don’t want to “waste the money” on your teeth. What I DO see every day are patients in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s who WISH they had cared better for what they had when younger, who WISH they had chosen the longest-lasting and strongest way to fix their teeth when they were younger, when they were still working, had an income, maybe even had some dental insurance for a bit of a rebate for that care.
Here’s what I know based on what I’ve seen over more than 20 years in dental practice. You can treat certain ongoing dental problems inexpensively, or only when your insurance reimburses you well, but that is often not the best “insurance” you have for long-term dental health. In fact, this sort of care often has the exact opposite of the desired effect of keeping your teeth for a lifetime.
Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer.