As part of National Prosthdontics Awareness Week, April 2 to April 8, the University of Louisville School of Dentistry is calling for missing teeth to be treated as a chronic medical condition. Tooth loss can lead to poor nutrition and is linked to systemic diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. Also, missing teeth can affect psychological well-being and the ability to function in the workplace.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 million Americans have no teeth in one or both of their jaws. Yet researchers at the school note that new technologies are making it easier to restore smiles among those who have lost some of all of their teeth.
“Until recently, false teeth looked and felt false. Prosthodontists are using digital technology to change the way dentistry is practiced and producing results not possible until now. We are using new techniques to replace and restore teeth to a higher level of precision and beauty than ever before,” said Gerald T. Grant, DMD, MS, professor and interim chair of the department of oral health and rehabilitation at the school.
For example, scanners generate 3-D images of teeth for customized restorations, giving the prosthodontist more control and the patient better outcomes. Also, the digital capture of information minimizes patient discomfort and reduces the number of appointments. Digital techniques also reduce the time needed to design, fabricate, and place crowns, sometimes in the same day. Finally, today’s dental implants surpass dentures and bridges in terms of function and comfort without overloading or damaging the surrounding teeth.
“When you lose even a single tooth, it will result in bone loss, change the bite, and result in adjacent teeth moving toward the missing space,” said Grant. “The longer a person waits to get it replaced, the more challenging the clinical situation.”