For Charlotte dental patients, dental implants are at the root of dental innovation

Dentist Mindy Goins, pictured with member Karen Wylde, uses an in-house machine to carve porcelain blocks into crowns that look like the real teeth. (Photo by Jeremy Deal)

Dentist Mindy Goins, pictured with member Karen Wylde, uses an in-house machine to carve porcelain blocks into crowns that look like the real teeth. (Photo by Jeremy Deal)

For years, Denise Becker of Charlotte wore a partial denture in place of extracted teeth, but she never felt comfortable with the removable prosthesis.

“It affected my ability to chew and I was self-conscious,” Becker says.

Last year, she paid highly rated Charlotte-based dentist Dr. Robert Harrell $6,500 to mount a custom-made five-tooth prosthesis on three implants, essentially titanium roots in her lower jaw.

That capped two years and roughly $15,000 in oral surgeries performed by highly rated Charlotte-based periodontist Dr. H. Nelson Eddy to build up compromised jawbone, pull loose teeth and install implants.

“It’s permanent, it’s strong,” Becker says. “It’s like having natural teeth.” The results brought a smile to her face, she adds, though she paid out of pocket for the work.

Experts say advances in dental implants over the past several decades revolutionized replacement of teeth lost or broken to trauma, decay or disease, or missing due to congenital conditions.

Though some prefer dentures, which typically cost less upfront, implant technology continues to improve, offering a permanent alternative to dentures with more durability to bite.

The biggest advancement in the past decade involves biocompatible coating, which allows more bone to adhere to the implant more quickly, says Charlotte-based prosthodontist Dr. R. Bruce Miller, an American College of Prosthodontists fellow with special training in esthetic restoration and replacement of teeth.

That improved implant stability and allows a dentist to place a dental prosthesis, such as a crown, essentially the visible fake tooth, on the implant within six to 12 weeks of implant surgery instead of three to six months, he says.

Miller can do the implant procedure and prosthesis, but like most dentists he usually works with a specialist, such as a periodontist or oral surgeon, who performs the implant procedure, then places the prosthesis himself.

Instead of designing prosthetic teeth by hand, dentists and dental lab technicians now use computer programs to ensure a more precise fit to the patient’s mouth, says highly rated Dr. Mindy Goins at Charlotte-based Mid-Carolina Dental Center. New, stronger tooth-colored ceramic materials used in crowns and the abutment — the piece connecting the root and crown — deliver a more natural looking result, experts say.

“It looks just like my own tooth and feels like it has been there the whole time,” Waxhaw member Karen Wylde opines of a porcelain crown Goins placed on an implant for $1,500.

Prices vary for implants and prostheses based on the number of teeth missing, underlying dental issues and prep work, such as building up bone. Miller ballparks the total average price for a single, simple implant and crown at $5,000. Costs typically go up from there.

Patients pay most of that out of pocket in part because dental plans tend to cap annual coverage at $1,000 to $2,000.

So if you’re considering an implant, talk to your dentist and review your insurance plan. Ask about what’s involved, costs and financing options, along with risks, such as infection and bleeding. Don’t hesitate to solicit multiple opinions.

“What’s best for you may not be what’s best for your neighbor,” Goins says.


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For some Tampa residents, dental implants fill the gap

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Dr. Kenneth Grundset installed a dental implant and a crown for Norman Cosper last year. (Photo by John Zambito)
Dr. Kenneth Grundset installed a dental implant and a crown for Norman Cosper last year. (Photo by John Zambito)

Advancements in dental health over the years means more Tampa patients are turning to dental implants, rather than dentures or other devices.

Comments

I live in just outside of Charlotte, NC, 47yrs old, and have lost all but 10 teeth due to severe acid reflux. I am unemployed and do not have health or dental insurance. I cannot begin to tell you what this has done to my self esteem, let alone the quality of my life! I've researched places from Clear Choice to Affordable Dentures to UNC Dental School, and ALL are way beyond what I could ever afford! It's come down to saving my home for my child & myself or getting teeth (as awful as that must sound!) The longer I wait the worse my dental issues become-I am left with barely 2 front teeth on top and 8 teeth on bottom--all in very poor shape! Now going on over a year with only 2 front teeth on top, my jaw juts forward and has dug 2 deep holes in my bottom gums. I kid you not, it is a nightmare-I'm embarrassed to leave my home-run every errand I can late at night-even hate my family to see me! I've been so very blessed in my life, coming from an upper-middle class family, and have a college degree. Never had any assistance-up until approximately 7yrs ago I had a gorgeous smile & was financially secure, then (without getting into detail) lost everything including my health. In a million years I NEVER thought I'd be in such an awful position! Dentures at 47 is unimaginable to me so that's why I searched to no avail for a procedure called All in 4-yet those even start in the 10-20 thousand dollars range. So then I searched for snap on dentures (for a more permanent solution) and again terribly expensive & way out of reach! I would volunteer and/or be thrilled to be test subject/anything at this point, however am 100% lost as to where or who to go to for this! I even applied for a grant and was shot down because I'm unemployed. Hand to God I've learned to NEVER take anything for granted, even the gift of being able to smile! If anyone has ANY leads or suggestions, PLEASE pass on! Many thanks!

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