Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Are you constantly bothered by your dentures? Irritated because they don’t fit right or annoyed with how they look?
There’s a new procedure being offered by local dentists and dental hygienist schools that could finally put an end to your denture drama.
“You didn’t have to be chewing something hard to just break,” describes Shari Norcia, who has had lifelong problems with broken teeth, failed crowns and root canals, and infections.
“So, you eliminate things from your diet over the course of years that you don’t even really think about,” she says.
Peanuts, chewing gum, onions, even cantaloupe became off limits.
“Anything that has skin on it,” said Norcia. “A pickle. You would think a pickle is soft, you should be able to eat it, but you can’t because you can’t chew that skin.”
She considered dentures, but they made her gag.
“I didn’t want to have to wake up in the middle of the night if there was an emergency and think, where are my teeth?” she adds.
After 10 years of a worsening situation, she chose something different, something permanent.
“I was intimidated. They’re screwing implants into your bone. They’re extracting whatever teeth you have left. It seemed a little daunting,” she admits.
From start to finish, it takes about four months.
“Get rid of the teeth that are the problem. All of the teeth. We need to smooth out the bone,” says dentist Dr. Carl Medgaus about what is involved in the procedure.
“Waking up without any teeth. For me, that was hard,” says Norcia.
“The patient wears a transitional denture,” Dr. Medgaus continues. “Verifying the setup is exactly what we want, so we’re taking a lot of photos and looking at bite relationships.”
With two surgeries — one for the lower, then one for the upper — the implants are put in.
The advantage is preservation of bone. Over time, with dentures that sit over the gum, the pressure causes the jaw to disintegrate. But with the implants, it’s a different story.
“We know from measurements on CT scan, what happens to the bone density is it increases around the implants, because of that transference of the strain on the bone,” explains Dr. Medgaus.
Norcia brushes and uses a hydroflosser — similar to a water pik — to flush out any particles between the screws.
She loves that she can talk and smile without her teeth budging, but her insurance did not cover the entire cost.
“It was approximately $40,000 for the entire procedure, from beginning to end, which is expensive,” she said. “But it’s for the rest of my life. And I can eat anything I want.”
Dr. Medgaus has had patients from ages 30 to 90 getting this, though generally, this is for people without teeth already. People with diabetes or on osteoporosis drugs may not be the best candidates.
He uses a brand called Hybridge. A variety of implants are available, but dentists tend to be very specific about the type they offer, since they are certified by the implant manufacturer.