As people live longer, healthier lives, life-altering dental treatments such as implant retained dentures are soaring in popularity.
Not only does the procedure disguise unsightly missing teeth and the functionality problems that come with them, but it can also enhance wellbeing and increase self-esteem. And according to Dr Andrew Brown, Lead Dentist at Lumino’s Burton & Brown Wellington, that’s just the beginning.
“The difference between conventional dentures and implant retained dentures is that they offer a whole different level of functionality,” he explains. “When people are wearing partial or full dentures, it’s quite a lot to have in their mouth, plus the dentures tend to wobble around a bit. Implant retained dentures have less bulk, are more comfortable, and won’t move.”
While implants have been around for over 60 years, Andrew says in the past two decades the technology has advanced in leaps and bounds.
“We now have a much greater understanding of the anatomy and physiology of patients, so they suit a much wider range of people. Nowadays there are only a very small percentage of people who are unsuitable for implant retained dentures, such as those who are severely medically compromised, or who have uncontrolled diabetes or aggressive gum disease. At Burton & Brown we have a structured and specific set of clinical parameters to assess patient eligibility.”
Many seniors are not au fait with the latest in dental technology, and think there are no other options than old school ‘false teeth’, so it’s up to the younger generation – their children – to guide them through the different treatment choices.
“We may see our elderly parents struggling, no longer enjoying eating, and getting food caught in their teeth, or maybe there are foods that they once loved but have had to give up. These social factors can really start chipping away at their quality of life and self-esteem. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and we should encourage them not to put up with it.”
And while the cost of implant retained dentures is greater than conventional false teeth, Andrew says the benefits are worth their weight in gold.
“They’re easy to look after and maintain – they don’t require any more maintenance than what a patient would be doing with their own teeth anyway - and the procedure itself is much more affordable and less complex than a fixed bridge.”
He should know – he spends about 40% of his working week on implants and is currently expanding the Burton & Brown practice with three new surgeries, one of which will be solely dedicated to implant surgery and implant surgery training.
“I’ve been doing the surgical side of implants for just under 20 years and the restorative stuff since 1998.
I’m also an educator and trainer for Swiss implant manufacturer Straumann and am a fellow in the preeminent global association for dentists, ITI. ITI has 20,000 members and 1200 fellows worldwide, with just four fellows here in New Zealand.”
What also sets Andrew apart is the fact that as well as being experienced in the surgical side of implant retained denture work, he’s a general dentist who can undertake the restorative side of the treatment too.
“A specialist would normally do the surgery and then the patient would be sent to a general dentist or prosthodontist for the restorative part of the job, but I can do the lot. I’m a one-stop-shop!”
And while the majority of patients who opt for the procedure are in their golden years, Andrew has fitted implant retained dentures on many younger people too.
“My youngest patient was a man in his mid-30s who had several teeth missing and was very self-conscious about smiling. He was getting married to one of my young patients but was worried about the wedding photos, so she suggested he come in and see me. I fitted him with implant retained dentures, and they completely changed his life. I’ve seen his wedding photos and he was beaming.”
This ability to drastically enhance the quality of life for people is what drives Andrew’s passion for the procedure.
“When one of my patients refers a loved one to me it’s incredibly humbling. It’s so satisfying to say ‘yes, we can make your life better and it doesn’t need to be as involved as you might think’. It’s a real privilege to be trusted like that.”