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Myths about Dental Implants

By Nancy Kennedy

For adults who have lost teeth, dental implants may well be the ideal solution. According to the American Dental Association, dental implants are an excellent long term option to restore one’s smile, re-establish normal eating function and improve overall health. Implants are attractive, strong and permanent and can replace one tooth or all of them.

Here in Pittsburgh we have talked with Dr. Joseph Gurecka. With over 20 years of experience, extensive ongoing education, training and formal AAID credentialing, Dr. Gurecka is superbly qualified and passionate about the many advantages of dental implants for his patients. He likes to say that he simply helps patients find something that they lost … their smile, but he does so with advanced, state-of-the-art dental technology. Dr. Gurecka is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh Dental School where he graduated with Honors. He completed a General Practice Residency at Allegheny General Hospital. He later returned to the University of Pittsburgh to attend the Katz Graduate School of Business and receive his Executive MBA with a focus on Biotechnology and Bone Tissue Engineering. Dr. Gurecka received his implant training at Augusta University and passed his clinical exams in 2019 to be recognized as an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID). His practice, Valley Brook Dental, LLC, is located in McMurray. Dr. Gurecka stays current with developing technologies in order to offer his patients the best possible care.

For this issue of the Guide to Good Health, we asked Dr. Gurecka to help correct common misunderstandings about dental implants. “I often hear my patients say, ‘It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be’ when their treatment is completed. Sometimes I will have a new patient speak with a satisfied patient who recently had an implant; they talk about what they experienced and it makes patients feel much more comfortable with the whole concept. First hand patient testimony can really help put people at ease with proposed treatment. We encourage our patients to share their experiences and when we ask them, they are always gracious,” Dr. Gurecka says.

Some common misunderstandings:

“You can eat anything after you have dental implants.”
Dr. Gurecka: “Once the implant has integrated to the bone, it is fixated. This is called osteointegration and it occurs over a period of 3-6 months. Once this happens the implant is ready to be restored and there are very few dietary limitations. However, we teach our patients to use common sense.

“You can tell if someone has implants.”
Dr. Gurecka: “No, you cannot tell by how the person looks, speaks or chews. Implants are designed to replicate the normal teeth in shape, color and function. They look and feel natural.” Many patients exclaim “I had forgotten what it was like to have a tooth in that empty space!”

“Dental implants affect your speech.”
Dr. Gurecka: “No, this is not usually true. During the transition from complete dentures to implants, a few people may experience some changes in how they speak, but this will often resolve in a short period of time. The biggest feedback we receive is from patients who can throw away their removable partial denture that was used to fill an empty space. They can now speak with more confidence and not worry about an appliance “floating’ around in their mouth.”

“Dental implants are too expensive for most people.”
Dr. Gurecka: “The cost of implants is comparable to other alternative treatments. Most people want a fixed appliance rather than dentures. If you decide to get two implants versus four crowns in a fixed bridge, the cost will be roughly comparable. We present patients with every option and the patient chooses based on their personal preferences and budget.”

“People who have TMJ and myofascial pain cannot get dental implants.”
Dr. Gurecka: “People with these conditions can get dental implants, but it depends on how severe the existing pain symptoms are and how bad the dysfunction is. We also have to make sure that the bite (occlusion) of the final restoration is carefully balanced so that it won’t aggravate their existing condition.

“Once you get implants you never have to go to the dentist again.”
Dr. Gurecka: “You will always need dental care. You care for your implants like your teeth. You must continue to brush, floss and see the dentist. You can still get an infection called peri-implantitis which causes bone loss around the implant. Regular dental care is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and dental implants don’t change that.”

“Implants sometimes fail and have to be re-done.”
Dr. Gurecka: “This is rare but it can occur if there is bone loss, gum loss and infection. The implant can fail to integrate, become infected, or suffer a structural failure and need to be removed. However, the most important thing to remember is that implants have a very high success rate which is greater than 90% survival over 10 years and 50-75% over 20 years. You can have your implant(s) for a long time if you maintain them well.”

“Certain medical conditions are incompatible with dental implants”
Dr. Gurecka: “Inadequate bone or having sinuses or a nerve bundle nearby can be an obstacle to implants. In many cases this can be overcome with proper planning or advanced techniques like sinus lifts to gain bone height. There are few absolute contraindications to dental implant placement. Patient evaluation must include any history of acute cognitive decline, unfavorable patient health status, and medical conditions which may jeopardize the patient like bleeding disorders, chemotherapy, advanced diabetes, autoimmune disorders etc. The risk of dental implant failure increases with a past history of periodontal (gum) disease, bruxing (grinding your teeth), radiation therapy, and smoking! Heavy smoking affects the blood supply and causes dry mouth; it makes it more likely that a person will have tooth decay and gum disease. If a patient who smokes comes to me and wants to be considered for an implant I will recommend they follow a smoking cessation programs first.”

Dr. Gurecka encourages those who are considering dental implants to explore the many benefits and improvements that they bring. “Dental implants are no longer new but are now considered a standard dental procedure. They can bring about a dramatic change to a person’s sense of self image and lifestyle, even their personality. Once they have their implants patients realize how much they had actually lost by not having the ability to smile. With implants you will eat better, feel better and smile better – and more often! Dental Implants can be done at the same time as a tooth extraction or on a site which has missing teeth for some time. I encourage everyone to learn more about dental implants at my web site www.valleybrookdental.com.”

For more information, call (724) 942-8982 or visit valleybrookdental.com.



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