When teeth are missing, the placement of a bridge can require the sacrifice of adjacent, healthy teeth. Dental implants solve this problem completely while preventing bone loss.
For approximately 30 years, Harvey Millstein has maintained an excellent doctor/patient relationship with his dentist, Alvaro Betancur, DDS.
"I live in South Palm now, but I lived in Boca back in the early 1980s," he explains. "I got one of Dr. Betancur's business cards and I went there with my wife at that time, and later on with our son. We have been patients of his ever since."
For about the last 16 years, Harvey has been dealing with a removable partial denture.
"I've had a partial since 1996," he explains. "It's on the upper left, on the side, so if I smiled too much it would be visible."
Thankfully, as a result of advances in bone-grafting technology, Harvey recently became a candidate for dental implants.
"I was getting a little tired of pulling on my teeth at night," he confides, "and Dr. Betancur and I had discussed the idea of putting in implants."
Once it became apparent that the modern technique of bone grafting would work for Harvey – "They have improved the process," he explains – he jumped at the chance to get implants done to replace his partial plate.
Why dental implants?
One of the most important developments in dentistry has been the widespread availability of dental implants for patients with one or more missing teeth.
"When natural teeth are not present," says Dr. Betancur, "the jawbone fails to deliver necessary nutrients to support bone and gum health, even if the patient has a removable partial like Harvey did. Gum tissue and bone mass diminish, which can ultimately affect the fullness of the face and the line of the jaw. Furthermore, the base of a removable partial denture covers soft tissue, which can affect the enjoyment of eating by altering the patient's perception of the temperature, texture, and taste of their food."
Implants, constructed of a strong, lightweight, biocompatible metal called titanium, bond with the jawbone and fool it into thinking natural tooth roots are present. Considered the gold standard when dealing with missing teeth, dental implants are natural-looking replacements that actually bond to the jawbone itself and function in the same way as the original tooth root. For patients who do not have enough jawbone to support the implant, as in Harvey's case, a bone-grafting procedure can be performed to create additional bone.
"Implants are accomplished in two distinct phases," Dr. Betancur explains. "During the first surgical phase, the implant must be placed through the gum tissue and into the jawbone. The patient then goes through a healing period during which the jawbone and the specially coated implant biologically unite." The process, known as osseointegration, takes place within two to four months, depending on the patient's bone quality and the location of the implants.
The next phase is performed after the integration occurs. At this point, the dentist removes the healing caps from the implants, securing a post onto the top of each one, so that the restorative treatments can be attached.
Dental implants offer superior stability because they actually fuse to the jawbone during the healing process. "Consequently, the patient is able to chew and speak with ease, just as they did with their natural teeth," adds Dr. Betancur.
"So far, fabulous!"
Although he is still going through the implant process, Harvey is ready to pronounce himself satisfied with the entire experience.
"So far, fabulous!" he exclaims. "It's been exactly what I thought needed to be done. I'm waiting for the healing process to finish, but in June, we'll probably put the crowns in.
"Right now, the partial is over the permanent implants, the posts, but once the healing is complete, I'm no longer going to need the partial," he clarifies.
As a long-term patient, Harvey notes that Dr. Betancur and his entire staff not only make patients feel welcome but that they also combine expertise with compassion.
"It's a very accommodating and professional staff," he assures. "My ex-wife moved to St. Augustine, but when she comes back into town, she goes to see Dr. Betancur, too," adds Harvey. "The same is true with our son, who lives in Jacksonville now. I have recommended [Dr. Betancur] to numerous people as well. I just love it there!"