One thing that worries some people about dental treatment is the prospect of having to go without teeth (especially the front teeth) during dental treatment. This situation can arise when a person's teeth are either loosened by advanced gum disease, or are badly broken down due to cavities.
When teeth are hopelessly damaged, and several need to be removed, the first thing a person wants to know is, "Will I have to go without teeth?" Of course, the question makes a lot of sense. Anyone who has had significant dental treatment (e.g., tooth crowns, dental bridges, full or partial dentures) can recall that a dentist must also depend on a dental laboratory to make some of the items needed to complete treatment.
Many times, treatment is delayed several weeks between visiting the dentist while the laboratory makes what is required. With this in mind, it's no wonder that people worry about how they can get the treatment they need without going through a "toothless" period.
With proper planning, a dentist can usually prevent the embarrassing situation of having their patient go without teeth. The dentist can take molds (impressions) of their patient's teeth and then use them to generate a stone replica of their mouth. The dentist can then work with the laboratory to prepare what is required.
If the treatment planned is a denture, the dentist can instruct the lab to remove the teeth that are on the stone replica and make what is called an "immediate" denture. After the denture is made, the dentist brings in the patient and removes the diseased teeth. The denture is then fitted, and the patient never has to be without their teeth. The process does have limitations, however. Dentures made this way will tend to loosen up over time, partly due to the gum and jawbone shrinking as it heals. The denture may eventually need to be relined or remade to improve the fit.
The need for fast tooth replacement is both important and fairly common. Just the other day, I had a patient come to my office upset because she was told that she would be without teeth for a few weeks while a denture was being made. She had a partial denture replacing her lower-back teeth and a fixed bridge (permanent tooth replacements, a series of crowns or caps) covering her lower front teeth. The fixed bridge was very loose and the teeth supporting it were in very bad condition. Unfortunately, her other dentist was unaware of how to best manage the situation. I removed her ailing fixed bridge and added acrylic teeth to her partial denture, making, in effect, a temporary full denture. Now her damaged teeth could be removed or treated in other ways without her ever being without teeth.
Most dentists realize the importance of planning dental treatment to insure that their patients will almost never have to go without teeth. There are rare instances when this cannot be done, but it is usually only for a very short period of time--a day or two at most. If your dentist expects you to go without teeth for more than a few days, consider getting a second opinion.
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