Ashamed? Scared of the dentist? Concerned about your appearance? Many people worry about tooth loss. But they should not. There is help at hand.
When you listen to people who are suffering from tooth loss – really listen to them – you hear a variety of fears and worries. One overarching concern from patients is this feeling that somehow they have no right to be anxious.
This compounds the problem – they feel bad for feeling bad.
So let’s get this out of the way from the start – none of your fears are trivial. And here’s the other bit of good news: There are now many things you can do to ease these worries. From the simple act of going to online forums and sharing experiences with others, to speaking to highly-skilled and understanding dentists who can help you explore your options.
In short, you don’t have to live like this.
Let’s look at some of the most common fears surrounding tooth loss, and what you can do to beat them.
1. I am scared
You’re not alone. You would be surprised. There are soldiers, police officers – even nurses – who are scared of the dentist, particularly where tooth loss is concerned. But advances are such that a trip to the dentist really isn’t what it used to be. The key is to look for dentists who are known to deal well with anxious patients – often it’s possible for the dentist to minimise the usual sights and smells which can trigger nervous feelings. And whereas in the past your dental treatment might be spread across several sessions lasting weeks or even months, it is now possible to deal with many tooth loss problems in a single day. Alongside the obvious convenience, this minimises anxiety.
2. I’m worried what the dentist will think of me
This is very common. Perhaps you haven’t visited a dentist for many years and you have lost a tooth (or teeth) and now you’re at a point where you feel the dentist will look down on you for the condition of your oral health. Believe me, dentists have seen it all before and it’s our job to treat you and help you – and that means talking to you before and after procedures as well as performing the actual procedures themselves. We are not here to judge you. As dentists, our goal is for you to leave happy, with a sense that your oral health is back where it should be, and that you are pleased with your appearance. From there, it’s a short route to regaining your confidence.
3. I have left it too long – nothing can be done
It’s never too late. But you do need to take action. Developments in implant dentistry and more specifically in the specialities of oral maxillofacial surgery and prosthodontic dentistry have completely changed the game over the past few years. You may look in the mirror and see a lost cause, but a specialist sees an opportunity for you to regain your oral health, with all the positive associated effects that this will have on your lifestyle. The key is to take action.
4. I can’t eat in front of other people
You are sitting down for lunch with some friends, or perhaps work colleagues. And while they’re busy getting started, you feel a sense of dread. It might be carrots, or celery, or steak. Even salad. It doesn’t matter. You know that you’re not going to be able to chew it properly. You may even have to interrupt your meal. And knowing this causes a lot of emotional distress. I cannot put it more simply: You do not need to live like this. There are things you can do because there are solutions on offer which now mean patients can regain chewing ability and chewing awareness in a way that was simply not possible with dentures.
5. I am scared that the shape of my face is changing
Facial disfiguration: You are looking in the mirror and you are seeing sunken cheeks. Because the cheeks and lips no longer have the support that the teeth normally provide, your whole face has taken on a less full, more aged look. Naturally, this can be very worrying because tooth loss has a dramatic effect on how we look. With time, the actual proportions of your face may change, with the lower part appearing smaller in relation to the upper part. Why is this happening? Well, in a healthy mouth, the tooth and the (alveolar) bone which it is attached to are constantly making contact with each other. This stimulation from the tooth helps keep the bone healthy. When the tooth is no longer there, it starts a process called resorption, essentially receding quickly in both height and width. It sounds scary, but developments in implant dentistry and related areas mean there are quick and effective solutions to regain your natural face shape. And that’s what everyone wants at the end of the day, to look in the mirror and recognise the person staring back at them.
Well, I hope this has put your mind at ease a little. Of course fears around tooth loss are not limited to these five points, but whatever your worries may be, you should know that something can be done. The key is simply to take action – it’s never too late, and you may be very surprised just how quick the road back to good oral health can be.
About the author:
BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS
Cert. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Dr. Costa, BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS, qualified as a dentist in 1984 after receiving his dental degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He graduated at the top of his class with “rank order number one,” and has received numerous awards over the years, including the Gold Medal of the Dental Association of South Africa, which recognizes the most outstanding graduate. In 1990 he completed his four-year, full-time postgraduate in maxillo-facial and oral surgery training at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Since 1991 he has been in private practice, concentrating on immediate loading of dental implants. To date Dr. Costa has placed over 35,000 dental implants, and as a key member of the global dental implant community he is a regular speaker on the topic, lecturing at various international implant congresses. In 2012, together with Prosthodontist Dr. Petros, Dr. Costa established SameDay Dental Implants Clinic, Dubai, as well as the Branemark Osseointegration Center, Dubai.