I’m looking for some guidance on affordable tooth replacement options for my mom. She is approaching 80 and had a stroke three years ago. I’m responsible for managing her care. But she never really took care of her teeth to begin with, so they’re not in good shape. She has been wincing when she bites for about two months, but claims she’s not in pain. Adding to it, she appears to have lost a tooth. I know it probably sounds odd, but I don’t remember her having a gap between her teeth and there is one now. I know she was missing several on the other side, but I feel like this one was new. She says it isn’t and that it has always been that way. Is it possible she lost it without knowing it and swallowed it? She seems ok in the sense that she’s not having digestive issues.
I’m not really sure what to do with the whole thing. Since she’s resistant to going in, that kind of leaves me speculating as to what’s going on and how we’ll have to approach fixing it. She does have a limited budget. So I believe that means dental implants are out of the question. Are there other tooth replacement options like a bridge work?
Mary in Oregon
Sounds like you have a whole lot going on there. To start, yes, teeth can fall out. It’s a symptom of advanced gum disease. If your mom didn’t take good care of her teeth before and isn’t getting help now, there’s a real chance all her teeth are loose or in danger of being lost. Chances are, if you think there’s a new space there, she did swallow the tooth. In which case, she probably would have passed it through her digestive system without an issue. If she complains of abdominal pain, has bloody stool, or other odd symptoms, she should be checked out by her primary care physician. But things like that rarely cause damage on the way through.
If she does have advanced periodontal disease, then dental implants may be an unrealistic option. They can only be placed when someone has good oral health. And, if other teeth are loose, that would make a dental bridge unfeasible too.
All that said, getting quality nutrition is paramount, especially at this stage of life. And if she can’t eat without hurting, her overall health and quality of life will suffer. She’ll need to get checked out to see if any of the remaining teeth are healthy and salvageable. Then, from there, a treatment plan can be devised. In all likelihood, the most viable and most affordable solution will be dentures. Either a partial to replace the missing few or extracting the rest and having the full arch replaced.
A possible option that she may be interested in are implant-supported dentures. This treatment is a good alternative for someone that wants the added benefits of dental implants, without the cost. The more dental implants that are placed, the more secure the denture will be and helps to avoid common denture problems.
If your mom is resistant to care, that adds another barrier. You may want to check with her and see if she’s at least open to “meeting” a dentist. She may feel reassured that the first visit is purely to have a look and discuss options. At least then she’ll be established at an office and you’ll have a game plan ready for when she’s willing to start treatment. Best of luck as you consider the next steps.
Dr. Rick Lane is an implant dentist located in Petaluma, CA. He offers many options to replace missing teeth, including dental implants, implant overdentures, dental bridges and partial dentures.