A question I’m frequently asked is, “How can they do teeth in a day?” The question is sparked by dental implant centers’ advertisements promising the delivery of a complete set of teeth the same day that dental implants are placed. Bad teeth are removed, implants are placed and a new set of teeth is attached all in the same day. Candidates for this type of treatment are usually missing numerous teeth, already wearing dentures, or have teeth that are in such bad shape that they can’t be saved. “Teeth in a day” uses four or six dental implants to anchor a set of teeth.
The old saying “The devil is in the details” couldn’t be truer than it is in this case. Anyone considering this type of treatment needs to understand that the teeth you get in a day are temporary ones. The final teeth or prosthesis is made once the jawbone has finished growing around the implants, from three to five months after surgery. Some people are good candidates for attaching temporary or provisional teeth to implants right after surgery, but for others it’s a bad idea. Research and advances in dental implants and surgical technique allow teeth to be attached sooner than they could be a decade ago, but you still need to understand the risks and benefits of doing this immediately after surgery and discuss with your dentist whether this is an acceptable risk. There are some cases where the success rate is significantly increased by allowing the bone to heal and grow around the implants before attaching teeth.
There are many important factors to consider and understand if you’re in need of a new smile supported by dental implants—more important than how quickly it can be done. You and your dentist should always begin with the end in mind: What kind of smile are you trying to create, a smile you used to have or a smile you never had? These are very different outcomes, and if your wishes aren’t clearly communicated, you may be disappointed with the results. Your new smile and how it’s created should be planned only after your dentistunderstands where the teeth belong in your face, based on your facial characteristics and the smile that‘s being created. This information must be precisely communicated with the laboratory technician, and then the number of implants and their location can be determined. Too often I see implants that have been placed before the final result was planned, which often causes aesthetic or design compromises. Ideally, when the plan is in place, you’ll be able to “try in” your smile to see what it will look like.
And what about cleanse-ability? How easy or difficult is it to clean the prosthesis? As with most things, maintenance is important for the longevity of a beautiful set of teeth anchored by implants. This means cleaning around the teeth and implant connections. Many designs for a full smile supported by implants are challenging, and some are nearly impossible to clean. This may mean food debris continually sticks under the teeth and connectors, causing a range of problems from simple annoyance to gum irritation to infection around the implants. One of the implant designs we use in our practice was developed by a renowned prosthodontist and our laboratory technician and allows rock-solid stability and easy cleaning.
Another important factor is what can go wrong even when you do everything right. These types of procedures require significant training and a high level of planning and communication—along with a commensurate investment—but all the preparation in the world can’t ensure that you won’t chip or break a tooth. This can mean having to remove the entire prosthesis and have it repaired. But what will you do while it’s being repaired? There’s tremendous peace of mind in having a backup system in place, and we often make more than one final set of teeth so that if something breaks or worn teeth need to be replaced, patients never have to go without teeth.
Digital imaging, scanning and milling technology are providing faster and improved outcomes in implant dentistry today, and 3-D printing advances promise even quicker results. Ultimately, though, successful implant procedures are more about the planning and design than the technology. If you’re in need of a new smile using implants, don’t get too attached to the advertising claims. Sure, it can be done in a day, but same-day teeth won’t work for everyone. Get more than one professional opinion. Ask lots of questions. More so than a certain technique or technology, personalized care that’s focused on excellence will give you the best results. Seek that out!