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The Value in Support

We all need some support from time to time. Sometimes it's just a compassionate ear to listen to our (often first-world) problems. Sometimes it's a simple act like doing some shopping for us when we're caught short with time. And there are occasions where we actually need physical support, like the kind we get from a trainer on a football field – providing a supporting shoulder to a player who has sustained an injury so they may exit the playing field.

This circumstance can also arise with teeth.

There are situations where a patient has lost some teeth. Still able to smile, still able to chew, but what about the remaining teeth that battle on? The teeth of both upper and lower jaws not only provide you with the ability to smile and chew your food – but they also provide the point of contact between upper and lower jaws – giving support to the whole masticatory system – the bones of the upper and lower jaws and the muscles.

Just like the piers under a house, supporting the house, if you were to take some piers out, the remaining piers would each bear an increased load. In the same way, when you lose some teeth, the remaining teeth carry an increased load.

Combine this increased load with nocturnal grinding (we all grind our teeth from time to time – especially when subject to lockdowns and uncertainty!) as well as gum disease, and your teeth can face a formidable challenge.

Increased loading, in combination with gum disease, has the tendency to accelerate both the gum disease and the bone loss associated with gum disease. This bone loss then results in less of the teeth being supported in bone. Just like when you build a fence, a significant factor in how strong your fence will be is determined by how deep your posts are anchored in the ground.

I get it; this is a bit of a depressing picture – but what can we do about it?

It's all about support – spreading the load.

For many patients, the first step is the addressing of the gum disease – thorough, professional cleaning around the teeth to create optimal conditions for the patient to pursue their home care routine. Frequently, this part of treatment is an ongoing management process – cycling through professional cleaning and coaching around home care techniques – progressively improving the patient's understanding and management of their teeth and gums. It's education and it’s support.

Sometimes this support is not enough – the load is too great. Teeth start becoming loose. What can we do?

Depending on how loose teeth become, we can actually recruit teeth to support teeth. If we've addressed the management of gum disease correctly, often, we're still left with an overloading problem. This is common around the front teeth – especially the front lower teeth.

Some years ago, this problem occurred for my Father. Instead of taking teeth out (and making the situation worse – since we're further reducing the number of teeth that support the jaws), we splinted the lower teeth together. This has the effect of each of the lower front six teeth supporting one another – they're now working as a team.

It's a cost-effective treatment option, it's not visible when you smile, it allows patients to keep their own teeth, and we've had long-lasting results. But, yes, it does make home care a bit trickier. However, this can be overcome with careful design and with coaching support around home care and professional cleaning.

If you feel like your teeth are getting loose – this may be the kind of support you require.


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