In my earlier years as a student and then as a practicing dentist at Westmead Hospital, I saw many people with teeth missing for one reason or another. These people came from all walks of life and most of them often resigned themselves to living with a gap or wearing a denture, which often had visible clips. Whilst a denture worked for some people, and I tried my absolute best to make the best dentures I could to fit my patients, most of them complained that their dentures rubbed on their gums or didn’t fit well and came loose, usually at the most inopportune time (just like the horror videos you can watch on You-Tube). I’ve even had someone lose their denture in the surf! Because it became loose or was uncomfortable, these people often had trouble eating with their dentures in, but sometimes couldn’t eat without them either. As a result, their diets changed and their health usually got worse. As a dentist, I could also see that the very dentures these people depended on to help them through the day, also worked against them by encouraging decay to start on the teeth the denture fitted against. So the downward spiral would begin with denture wearers losing more teeth and wearing dentures that worked even worse and became ever more uncomfortable.
For a long time people would then consider bridgework to replace missing teeth instead because many people could not cope with a denture. In most cases, this meant having to cut down good teeth in order to glue a bridge into place. Unless the bridgework was made to a high standard, decay could begin where the bridge may not have been an ideal fit. Even if the bridge did fit well, joining teeth together made them harder to keep clean and many teeth also developed gum disease as a result.
Then I learned about dental implants.
Today, modern implant dentistry has improved vastly over its humble beginnings many decades ago and the implants we use today are far more technologically advanced than those that we started with back in the 1960s. They can be used in more ways and in more places, heal faster and work better than what we used to have. I finally had a predictable solution for my patients and they no longer complained about the pain or discomfort they used to have with their redundant dentures.
They also loved that they no longer had to spend money on denture adhesive to “stick” their denture down or cushioning “pads” to make full dentures more comfortable. They also loved the freedom – mainly not having the inconvenience of having to excuse themselves to go to the bathroom to clean out all the food that had got stuck around the denture or on the glue they had to use in order to eat with that denture!
In short, implants can change people’s lives! Patients have said that to me literally. Those patients also wish they had done the treatment earlier rather than persevere with the problems they were experiencing.
Whilst there is still ongoing research to improve what we can already do with dental implants as well as regeneration of lost bone and gum, I am confident to recommend replacing hopeless or missing teeth with implants. They can even be used to help stabilise the dentures that some people choose to use, making them more comfortable and stable, which means they can do away with a lot of the denture paraphernalia you see in the supermarket. Imagine no adhesive or “pads” to buy again!
With the formal training I undertook at the University of Sydney, as well as overseas Universities and ongoing courses, I can also now help many people who are missing bone as well. This is potentially the most exciting development in the area of implant dentistry.
Today, dental implants would be my first choice to replace missing teeth. I believe they work so well, I’ve even put them in my mother AND my brother years ago and their implants are still working well to this day. With the advancements in knowledge and technology, I can get an even better result today than I could have when I started implant dentistry 10 years ago. With all the trouble that dentures and bridgework could bring, I couldn’t imagine going back to a life in dentistry without dental implants.
Dr Eugene Foo graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery with Honours and later completed a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Dentistry (Oral Implants) from the same university. Eugene has a particular interest in dental implants and is the current NSW President of the Australasian Osseointegration Society, Australia’s leading implant society.