My Journey And The Challenges Along The Way
Why I Decided On Dentures
Ugly photos of my teeth. I used to be complimented all the time on my smile before Sjogren’s made a mess of my teeth.
For several years I had a wonderful dentist Dr. Ramy Elsayegh in Napanee, Ontario. He is kind, gentle, and was the first dentist that understood what I was going through with Sjogren’s and that it was not my fault that my teeth were in bad shape.
Dr. Elsayegh or Dr. Ramy as he is affectionately called arranged to get coverage for cleanings every 3 months but I was getting 2-3 new cavities showing up with every cleaning but other than the one tooth I lost in front due to not being able to get in fast enough (in 6 weeks it went from a fillable cavity to having to be pulled) he kept me going but it was starting to become a losing battle.
When I turned 65 I lost all of my benefits including dental. I qualified for the Ontario government’s program for lower income seniors but COVID was with us and trying to get an appointment was not easy. I finally got in to see one of their dentists for an assessment but it would take weeks to get in for a filling and my teeth rotted so quickly that they finally declared that they would not to any more restorative work and that I would have to get dentures.
Wow! talk about panic. I had been told by 3 dentists already that because my mouth was so severely dry with Sjogren’s that dentures would not stay in place since no saliva meant that there would be no suction to secure them in place and the adhesives available would most likely irritate my mouth and create sores so that wasn’t an option either. Time to become a sleuth to try and find a way that didn’t involve being toothless!
Any procedure as big as having all your teeth removed and replacing them with dentures requires some in-depth searching of facts especially when you have the challenges of severe dry mouth with Sjogren’s. I will use the term research for this process to simplify matters but not to confuse with what “real” researches do.
One of the first things I looked into were implants. They put in titanium posts that individual false teeth attach to. These are permanent and I thought I had found the answer. No such luck. The cost was extremely prohibitive and even if it wasn’t I kept reading about how the risk was high for failure with Sjogren’s.
Implant Assisted Dentures
Then I saw an article about implant assisted dentures. I could get a couple of titanium implants and the dentures would attach to them to secure them in place but there was still the “implants have a high risk of failing in Sjogren’s patients” thought making me question if that would be an issue for me.
Once again I searched the Internet looking for signs of hope and I finally came across articles from legitimate research websites that indicate new studies show that Sjogren’s patients are no more likely that a healthy patient to have implants fail. A study listed on The National Library of Medicine website indicates that researchers looked at several previous studies on the success rate of implants and came to the conclusion that there was a 93.7% survival rate of implants over an approximately 4-year followup. It goes on to indicate that “all included studies observed an increase in the quality of life of SS patients who were rehabilitated through dental implants.” I was excited! This might work for me!
Note: Conditions that do have a greater failure rate include low insertion torque, peri-implant disease, smoking, bruxism, diabetes, and bisphosphonates.
I made an appointment with Dr. Ramy even though he was no longer my dentist. He referred me to Dr. Martin at Napanee Denture Clinic. Another wonderful man who is gentle, patient, and compassionate. He explained all my options and was happy to hear about the study I had found indicating that my success with implants was the same as anyone else’s. He then referred me to Dr. Yim at Centennial Oral and maxillofacial Surgery.
This picture shows how dentures can be attached to 4 implants with a bar to secure them. This is what I opted for. I could have saved money and just got 2 implants but I decided to get 4 after chatting chatting with Dr. Yim. It gave me peace of mind to know that if one failed for whatever reason I would still have 3 more available to use.
Implants were $2000 each and included all follow up visits.
When I went back to see Dr. Martin and told him that I had decided to get 4 implants instead of 2 he told me about the bar that can be added to the implants. This is a permanent fixture that the dentures snap into. Not only does this make the denture more stable in your mouth but it helps to prevent the dentures from rubbing on the gums so there is much less chance of getting sores. The bar helps to make your denture work like real teeth and because it stimulates your jaw bone it helps to prevent bone loss. When the time comes to get new dentures the titanium bar and the implants they attach to are permanent and don’t need to be replaced.
Dr. Martin made me a temporary set of dentures as it takes approximately 6 months for the implants to heal into the bone and to be strong enough to attach the dentures to. This is me with immediate dentures in. Unfortunately, I had many challenges along the way. I will make a diary post outlining everything I have gone through and will add to it until I finally get my permanent teeth.
To put it in a nutshell, I got a serious infection just a couple of days after my surgery. My surgery was done in the hospital due to the number of teeth being extracted. Dr. Yim also restructured my lower jaw bone. It is likely, based on several months of previous bloodwork showing a high WBC, how quickly the infection started, and the presentation of infection (it started on the top and eventually spread to the bottom instead of the other way around) that I had an infection prior to my surgery. My doctor indicated that it was just from inflammation so I urge you to get bloodwork done and challenge any results that could indicate infection. I had more than just the WBC.
I do not blame my surgeon Dr. Yim or the surgery but a medical system that makes doctors so busy that they ignore test results.