As a survey reveals that an increasing number of patients are enquiring about dental prosthetics, a dentist lists the advantages and disadvantages of implants, crowns and bridges
The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has revealed phone calls from the public about implants, crowns and bridges top the list of queries received by its helpline’s operators.
By analysing 150,000 calls from the public over the past five years, the BDHF discovered that questions about prosthetics account for one in seven (13 per cent) of all enquiries.
The BHDF’s findings reflect the experiences of dentists like Ethicare, who provide Dental Implants in London.
Ethicare also fields a high volume of enquiries about products such as Invisalign – a healthy sign that patients are keen to look after their oral health and their appearance.
The results of the BDHF study were published on 6th September and showed that phone calls about NHS regulations – which in 2006 were the most common dental health enquiry – accounted for 11 per cent of phone calls.
Almost one in ten callers had enquiries about ‘finding a dentist’. ‘Dental charges’ (five per cent) and ‘oral hygiene’ and ‘complaints’ (both seven per cent) also featured in the top five list.
‘Prosthetics’ was the only issue in the top five to generate more enquiries (by two per cent) in 2011 than it did in 2006.
To save patients the expense of paying an average of £9 per call to phone the BDHF to ask questions about prosthetics, I asked Dr Glafcos Tombolis of Ethicare to list some of the advantages (and disadvantages) of implants, crowns and bridges.
Both false teeth and their supporting metal rods are known as ‘implants’. They are used to replace a missing tooth and are not just fitted for cosmetic reasons – they can prevent teeth from overlapping gaps.
Dr Tombolis acknowledges that a small number of patients might not be suitable candidates for implants if they lack sufficient bone in their jaw – the place where the dental implant is placed. However, he points out that “bone grafting can overcome this problem”.
He said: “You have to be patient and wait for the bone to grow in and around the implant. This will provide an excellent support once the crown goes on top.”
Dr Tombolis stresses to patients that implants are very discreet-looking and unobtrusive and that they can normally be fitted within an hour with discomfort rarely lasting longer than an hour.
He said: “Dental implants are aesthetically very easy on the eye but their main advantage for patients is that, unlike alternatives such as dentures, they aren’t removable – they won’t slide out.”
A little like a cap, a crown fits over the remaining part of a prepared tooth; giving it the shape of a natural tooth.
Dr Tombolis always emphasises to patients that there is a danger of crowns traumatising teeth and causing long-term damage – necessitating further treatment.
He said: “People who have crowns fitted for purely cosmetic reasons can find that it is a bitter pill to swallow if they encounter dental problems as a result of an unnecessary procedure further down the line.”
The dentist said: “Crowns can be excellent for strengthening and improving the remaining part of a tooth. Modern porcelain crowns look really realistic and aesthetically pleasing.”
A bridge can be a viable option when there are fewer teeth to replace and when there are teeth either side of a small gap. Fitting a fixed bridge involves putting crowns on the teeth at either side of the space and then joining these crowns together by placing a false tooth in the space.
Dr Tombolis says: “An implant is normally preferable to a bridge for replacing missing teeth – especially if there is enough bone structure to work with. A bridge does have a destructive element to it – you need to cut away tooth structure either side of the missing tooth in order to fit the bridge.”
Dr Tombolis said: “The main advantage is that a fixed bridge cannot be removed – unlike dentures a bridge won’t come out.”
Your dentist should be happy to discuss whether an implant, a crown or a bridge is the best option for you – it is always reassuring to receive expert advice so that you can make an informed choice about treatment options.