Very often the ideas that I have for articles in this blog come from real-life experiences in my dental practice. One of the things that caught my attention most recently was the prevalence of patients who come in for emergency treatment of broken dentures (typically rather old dentures) and who only have the single set to work with.
Now this creates a real problem for them because it is difficult to go out in public without teeth. People at work who may not know they wear dentures will suddenly become acutely aware of the fact. This can create considerable embarrassment and, even for a retiree, is often enough to prevent attendance at important milestone events such as a graduations, weddings, or anniversaries.
Some repairs can be handled quickly and relatively easily in the office, whereas others have to be sent to a dental laboratory. Depending upon the severity of the problem, that can take time: days, or even up to a week with certain types of dentures.
If you don’t wear dentures, this post may not appear to have anything to do with you. That is, until your mother, father, or grandparent call you in a panic, reporting they just dropped and broke their denture. (Or lost it.) You may find yourself pressed to leave work to bring them to the dentist’s office.
While it may be easy to say that every denture wearer should have a spare set, I understand the economics of the situation. Since I started practice some 20+ years ago, I have seen the cost of producing dentures nearly triple. Nevertheless, there are still many good reasons to think about having a spare set made.
Very often, when making a new denture, your doctor can manufacture a spare set at a reduced cost because he does not have to do the work twice. Similarly, an “economy” version can sometimes be produced by the laboratory which can make a duplicate of your existing denture. It may not be as cosmetic or “perfect” as the original, but it sure is nice to have something to go out and eat with while your main set is being repaired.
And sure, a denture costs more than your average article of clothing — but can you imagine having only one set of pants?! How do you even go out to buy another if you lose it? I suspect that even people who wear hair-pieces have back-ups. They may not want to go out in public without hair, but at least they can still eat.
If you or a loved one only have one denture, seriously consider a spare. And if the denture is older than seven years, it is a good idea to think about a new one. (For more information about why this is recommended see our earlier blog post on the subject.) No one needs the stress or embarrassment caused by having to be without teeth.
Plan Ahead For Best Results
If you require that a cosmetic dental crown be placed, it is a good idea to evaluate how you feel about the color of your existing teeth before the process is initiated. If you like the color of your teeth, the dentist will then find a crown shade that matches them.
On the other hand, if you feel that you would like your teeth to be lighter, bleaching may be an option for you. If you know you would like to whiten or lighten the shade of your teeth, it is a good idea to communicate this to the doctor beforehand. Once the final crown or cosmetic restorations are made, it will not be possible to change their color without re-doing them.
While bleaching is generally predictable, the results do not last forever. You may have to touch them up every one to three years. Teeth will re-darken. (This tends to occur more slowly with Power Bleaching.) The rate at which it happens, though, depends upon your habits. The good news is that your teeth can be brightened once again. Just remember, crowns and fillings do not change their color with bleaching — only your natural teeth will lighten.
Let’s face it: seeing a doctor – any sort of doctor – can be expensive. And dentists are no exception. But if a person’s diet and home care have been lacking, the cost of dental treatment can quickly sky-rocket. One of the problems with dental care has to do with the fact that many patients still suffer from the idea that if they don’t feel anything wrong with their teeth, then all is well.
Unfortunately, when it comes to teeth, most people miss the boat entirely with this concept. The reason is simple: the outer part of the tooth – the enamel – is mostly mineral and has no nerves. That means you can have a cavity and not know it. Several, actually. Most dentists will attest to the fact that many patients are shocked to learn they have any cavities at all.
The trouble is that by the time a cavity actually gets big enough to pose a problem, it’s a PROBLEM. For most people that trouble is spelled P-A-I-N.
It’s really no small wonder that so many individuals associate going to the dentist with toothaches. For those patients, it is the only time they will actually make an appointment. They go because they now know they have a cavity. Pain is a huge motivator. . . .
By the time a tooth hurts, though, the cavity is usually pretty close to the nerve. This means that if there is still enough tooth structure left to work with, the dentist may consider a root canal to remove the source of the pain – in other words – the nerve. Usually, this is not cheap. A root canal on a molar can cost over a thousand dollars when performed by a specialist. Then the patient has to go back to the dentist to have the tooth built up again (because so much tooth structure was lost to decay) and finally, the tooth may even need a crown. Lacking a blood supply and nerve thanks to the root canal, the tooth is now brittle and can break. Since your back teeth get a lot of pressure when you chew, failing to crown it may result in the tooth cracking and all that money you spent on the root canal goes out the window.
In a number of cases, because many people simply fear getting a root canal (not because they actually had one, but because they heard that a friend of a friend had a bad experience, and they never want to go through THAT), they opt to remove the tooth instead.
But now they have to replace the missing tooth or else their teeth will shift around and their bite goes awry. And fixing that new problem typically costs even more!
It can be frustrating.
Many people figure no one will see a missing back tooth, so why not pull it, since that is cheaper? At least they think so – until they notice their front teeth starting to form gaps, and find that food gets stuck all over the place whenever they eat. But then again, what if it’s a front tooth that needs to go?
You possibly think: “Wow, this is a problem, but I still really need to find something cheap.” OK, then. If you live in Philadelphia, you may Google “affordable Philadelphia dentist” or “cheap dentist.” A number of listings for dental implants appear, maybe some for “affordable cosmetic dentistry.” Wow, this isn’t sounding at all affordable!!! Wait! A couple of dental schools come up too. “Hmmm. Do I really want someone in their first year of dental clinic restoring my front tooth? It will be less expensive. But, then again . . . .”
The affordable dentist is someone who will understand your situation and can help you to find a workable solution for your circumstances. Many offices offer low-cost or interest-free programs that help you get the work you need today and then spread payments out over time. In some cases, it may be helpful to set up a lay-away program, especially if you have specific needs for which you have been given an estimate of treatment costs. In this manner you won’t end up spending your money on other less-essential items. Many offices will assess a minor fee to manage this plan, but it is usually quite small.
In the meantime, it is essential to keep yourself out of trouble with good preventive dental practices. Learn what diet has to do with your teeth and which home care habits are best. Remember, when it comes to teeth and gums, “no pain” most definitely does not always mean “no problems”.