I don't have much time today because I have to go to a funeral. One of my patients died in his sleep on Sunday. His wife, a nurse practitioner, was sleeping right next to him. 67 years old. You never know guys. You never know.
Anyway, we were talking on Friday about me going to the Seattle Study Club for the first time. A local prosthodontist presented a case; we were supposed to get together in groups and try to figure out the best way to treat this patient. The patient was 63 and money was not going to be a problem. He was a full-mouth rehab and everyone knew that. But how would you rehab him?
He had some compromised teeth on the bottom, but they were savable. There was some erosion that had happened, but he claims he has no gastric reflux. He was going to need some root canals and some perio surgery, and then crowns on each tooth. Well, to make a long story short, everyone had a different opinion. And of course they were all different than the way that this dentist did it.
I will cut to the chase. The dentist had all his lower teeth out. He did five implants and an immediate screw-retained denture. After 4 months, he began the fabrication of his lower fixed perio-prosthesis. That is basically a porcelain denture that is "screw-mented" is what he said. Two of the implants got cemented with temporary cement and the other three are screw-retained (with no reason to take them off). The lower bridge is concave, so the patient just flosses (with yarn, of all things) and water picks under there. Easy.
Needless to say, I was blown away. I have learned (and am now thoroughly brainwashed) to save teeth at all costs. From school to the L.D Pankey Institute, it has always been save, save, save.
And that was being conservative! This guy is telling me that taking all the teeth out and dropping implants in is conservative. I had heard of this before this study club and scoffed at it. "Come on," I said. Now seeing this in slides, talking to other "conservative" dentists, I am blown away. My mind has been spinning since the meeting.
I think I am a changed man. BUT not totally changed. My eyes have been opened up to another mode of conservative treatment.
Let's talk about this a second. After the study club on Wednesday, I came back to work and on Thursday I had two tough patients. Guys in their late 60s. Guys that are medically compromised whose teeth are failing faster than I can fix them. You know the type: they have less saliva and more plaque, AND they don't have the dexterity or the motivation to brush and floss as well.
I have done more than $4000 worth of work for both of these guys that is now failing, less than 2 years later. (Yes, they both are on a three month recall, they both have fluoride trays and SOMA.)
So I told them both that taking out the teeth was an option. Meaning an implant-supported denture is now one of my options. Why spend $10,000 before you make the decision to take them out? And it is better to try to get them to do this now when they are in their 60s than when they are in their late 70s.
So taking all the teeth out (say, 12 teeth) and then doing 4 implants, then putting a screw-retained denture is going to run, off the top of my head, about $11 to $12k.
Damn, that is expensive. But then they can enjoy them. They will never have decay again. Most likely, they will never have a failure. All those other things are not going to haunt them (and YOU) for the rest of their lives.
I want to save teeth. I am sure of that. But I can tell you that I have had sleepless nights not knowing what to do with some people in my practice. Now I know.
Hope you are having a great Wednesday,
P.S. I talked to my implant surgeon, and he reassured me that he still does NOT do immediate load. You all know the success rate decreases, right? What would the number have to be for you to not do immediate load?
If the success rate was 10% less, would you do it? What if it was 7%? That is, implants are 97% successful. Would you do it if that was lowered to 90%, know one out of ten is going to fail?
I wouldn't and neither would he. That is why I say my mind hasn't been changed totally. We will talk about that on Friday.