Friday, September 03, 2010

In the mid 1950's Per-Ingvar Brånemark, a Swedish scientist, was studying blood flow in rabbit bone. When it was time to remove the implanted titanium chamber he was using for the purpose, the bone had so thoroughly integrated with the chamber that he couldn't remove it. Realizing the possibility for use in humans, he named the phenomenon he discovered, "osseointegration."

I now benefit directly from the most common application of this phenomenon, dental implants, of which an x-ray image is shown at right. I post now, just after returning from the dentist, where my second attempt at a tricky implant succeeded today. This closes the book, I hope, on the decades-long aftermath of a childhood injury. The injury ultimately resulted in the loss of three of my front teeth, including one two years ago, and my having to wear braces during college. Other than three "cavities" (a diagnosis I now doubt) over a decade ago and bruxism (which a $20.00 mouthguard renders moot), that one injury has been my sole source of dental difficulties.

I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but if I am careful about the bruxism and remain reasonably conscientious about my dental hygiene (as I always have), I can probably expect to have this "tooth" for the rest of my life, which makes its price well worth it.

It is astounding how many little annoyances come with a missing tooth in the front part of the mouth. Here are just a few: I haven't been able to eat anything one has to bite into in public for the past couple of years. If I wore the denture (which I was very happy to have, and have kept), I had a mild lisp. If I left it out, I couldn't pronounce the letter "f" very well. If I had the denture out and had to speak to anyone, I'd cover my mouth. It is so nice to have all that behind me.

There's a hamburger somewhere with my name on it. I never knew such a thing could sound so exciting, but it sure does!

-- CAV


Benpercent said...

Burger King? :-)

Gus Van Horn said...

A Whopper is high on the list.

I don't think I have to, but I'm giving my incisors a break for a few days, so I have some time to decide. Boston's got a place called UBurger that I know is pretty good, too. Probably great without the knife and fork I had to use when a bunch of us went there during the winter...

kelleyn said...

Congrats on getting your teeth squared away. I just had yet another crown put on, this time in the front, so I have an inkling of how you must feel. That wasn't nearly as significant as your implant, of course, but my bruxism is worse. Twice, I broke a standard quality custom mouth guard in half after using it for less than two weeks; now I have a big thick one with a piece of steel wire in it. Me, nervous? Nah.

Gus Van Horn said...



And wow: Your bruxism tops mine by a mile! I really just clench my teeth together as I sleep, and I've been able to use the same flexible mouthguard for over a year.


Jennifer Snow said...

Osteointegration doesn't always work, unfortunately, which is why a lot of people have trouble with metal implants. Sometimes the bone will pull away from the metal instead of bonding with it, which is why a lot of dental procedures nowadays use special depleted-calcium bone from bone donors as filler. This can actually grow new bone where there was none before and repair some really nasty problems.

Gus Van Horn said...


In both my attempts, I required donor bone.

In my case, I am almost certain that bruxism -- actually a contraindication for dental implants -- was largely to blame for the failure on the first attempt.

Since I'd already paid for most of it and the normal practice is to give a free second attempt, I just did whatever I could to eliminate that variable on the second go-round.


former teeth clenching victim said...

Though I have no idea regarding the cause of bruxism that you suffer from, there is a rather non-invasive way to treat this condition – at least reduce teeth grinding to a large extent. Try Yoga including deep breathing and meditation. Without sounding like a Guru, let me tell you that it truly helps in reducing stress levels and provides a better understanding of why we feel the way we do when under stress. In short, yoga taught me the best anger management techniques.

I also got tremendous relief from teeth grinding at night.

Gus Van Horn said...

I have heard that (despite the bad overall philosophy) techniques learned from Yoga can help with things like learning how to become more relaxed. If stress is a cause of the bruxism, I could see that sort of thing helping.

In my case, I know exactly where my bruxism comes from: an attempt about twenty years ago to correct an underbite on my own by making it a habit to hold my lower jaw forward. Needless to say, I still have an underbite, but now have to wear a mouthguard at night, and am slowly unlearning the habit that became clenching my teeth frequently when conscious. I do it much less now, but still occasionally catch myself doing it.