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Straight Teeth Talk: Tooth implants have replaced flappers

April 5, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 5, 2010 at 11:06 p.m.

Like 10 percent of the female population, this young lady has congenitally missing lateral permanent teeth. The laterals are the ones that sit between the front tooth and the canine. The tooth was replaced with an all-porcelain implant.

By Mac Lee

Last month, the Advocate featured my family in an article that reflected on the past 100 years of dentistry. For those that do not know, a Lee has been serving the dental needs of the Crossroads for the past 100 years.

My grandfather, father and now my brother, Buddy, and myself are all dentists.

I have had many friends, neighbors and patients say how much they enjoyed the "Hundred Years of Dentistry" article and it really got me to thinking about all of the advancements dentistry has made in recent history. What we can do now is quite astounding.

This picture is a perfect example of a procedure my grandfather or father would have never imagined. You wouldn't know it, but this photo captures the smile of a young patient with dental implants. It showcases an all-porcelain implant that perfectly matches the other teeth. Can you tell which tooth is fake?

Like 10 percent of the female population, this young lady has congenitally missing lateral permanent teeth. The laterals are the ones that sit between the front tooth and the canine.

In this image it is the middle tooth. Were you correct?

For years, this patient had to wear a "flipper" tooth to give the appearance of a normal smile. A flipper comes in and out and is made for solely cosmetic purposes.

Hockey players have made the flipper famous by flipping them in and out, showing missing teeth and bragging about how rough hockey is.

Most patients, especially young ladies, would never want to show off missing teeth. This patient couldn't wait to turn 18, so she could replace the teeth permanently. She hated the way the flipper made food taste, and she lived in fear of it falling out or breaking.

Now, she no longer has to worry, and she can taste every bite of food.

Implants that replace front teeth require special placement and laboratory needs. Real teeth emerge from the gums so in order for an implanted crown to look natural, it needs to do the same.

It is imperative that the general dentist works hand-in-hand with the implant specialist, so they get the correct end result. Not only does the implanted tooth need to come out of the gums naturally, it also needs to be angled exactly the same as the adjacent teeth.

As I've preached time and again, speak up and be clear with your dentist to ensure you get the end result and smile you desire.

It was an honor to have my family featured in the "Hundred Years of Dentistry." The advancements in my profession are truly astounding.

I feel blessed every day having the knowledge, medicine and technology to positively impact the lives of patients.

Do not be afraid of the dentist. If it's been a while since your last check-up, make that call, today. Even if I'm not your dentist, give me a shout. I want to hear your dental stories, good and bad, and work to better educate and meet the needs of patients.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191or visit him at www.drmaclee.com.

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