Waiting to replace teeth changes our faces as the bones that anchor them deteriorate. Then, should we eventually make the decision we want teeth replaced, dentists have to make an extra — and often expensive — effort to give us what we want.
Dr. Chris Winterholler visited with members of the Payson Regional Medical Center’s Senior Circle on Aug. 7 to talk about dentures and dental implants.
He said today approximately 30 million Americans are missing one or more of their teeth. During World War II, 75 percent of the men 18 to 25 who joined the armed services were missing all of their teeth.
“Most (natural) teeth are made to last only 40 to 45 years and we are outliving our teeth,” Winterholler said.
“We can get by without teeth, but it’s not a very good life,” he said.
Medical care is also contributing to loss of teeth. Winterholler said if someone were taking three or more medications, they most likely would develop dry mouth, which contributes to teeth deteriorating.
Up until about 40 years ago, most dentures were poorly made and only had a lifespan of five to 10 years. That changed when the Swedish discovered medically pure titanium screws fused with bones and there was no reaction/rejection by body.
The resulting dental implant replacements for missing and damaged teeth revolutionized the industry.
Dentures are still used, they are less expensive and they have a longer lifespan, but for almost permanent tooth replacement, implants are recommended and can be done in a single day.
One of the challenges with implants is there must be enough bone in which to place the medically pure titanium screws. So, Winterholler advised that the sooner a decision could be made to replace missing or damaged teeth with implants the easier the process will be.
The mechanics of fitting implants is faster than doing dentures and is getting faster. Winterholler does his dental X-rays for implants with a 3-D computer and has a 95 percent success rate in making the right fit the first time.
Another plus for implants over dentures can be found in regard to taste buds. The dentist told the Senior Circle members most of our taste buds are actually in the roof of our mouth, not on the tongue. So when upper dentures are needed, and the roof of the mouth must be covered, we lose most of our ability to taste.
Maintenance of implants is easier than caring for dentures. You use a Waterpik, floss and brush just as you would with natural teeth and on occasion return to the dentist to have the teeth cleaned.
Winterholler cautioned implants have only a 75 percent success rate as permanent replacement teeth for those who are either diabetic or a smoker. The success rate drops to only 50 percent for those who are both diabetic and smokers.
Additionally implants are not inexpensive. Winterholler said a root canal to replace a single tooth is about $2,000 and has a lifespan of only three to five years. An implant to replace that same tooth is about $2,500, but it is a permanent solution.
“Don’t be fearful of losing teeth. You can have full function and eat food you enjoy,” Winterholler said.
He refers very little work out, doing almost everything in his office, Winterholler Dentistry at 315 E. Highway 260.
He has been working in dentistry for 18 years, with 15 of that in Payson.