Suppose you had multiple failing teeth because you just couldn’t chew well, and all kinds of digestive complications arose from it. Would the insurance company be better off paying the cost of ongoing rehabilitative care for the digestive complications, over and over, or paying once for a full-arch, dental implant-supported bridge that could correct the base cause of the problem? You can see the answer, and I can see the answer, but it seems that almost all of the time, the insurance company can’t see the answer.
Chewing efficiently is necessary for a person’s digestive process to work properly. Not only does it reduce the size of the food particles—affording better digestion and supplying greater nutrient extraction—but the increase in saliva supports easier and safer swallowing. Saliva acts as more than a lubricant, though. It begins the process of breaking down carbohydrates and fats while they’re still in the mouth, and it signals the brain to stimulate the stomach to produce acids, the pancreas to release digestive enzymes, and the small intestine to get ready for absorption. And what produces more saliva production? Proper chewing.
Researchers at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting at Purdue University in 2013 resolved that “particle size affects the bio-accessibility of the energy of the food that is consumed. The more you chew, the less is lost and the more is retained in the body.” This results from efficient chewing.
There is a direct correlation between the efficiency of chewing and the type of prosthetic appliance used in a patient’s mouth. The more that the restoration in a given arch is fixed to the jawbone, the more efficient the chewing mechanism.
A person chewing with a set of natural teeth will achieve 100% efficiency. Upper and lower dentures reduce the efficiency to about 20%. Yet a person chewing with a set of upper and lower implant-supported bridges will achieve a 90% chewing efficiency. Not only does this mean that there is a greater ability to extract additional nutrients from food, but studies have shown that using implant-supported bridges versus dentures leads to an increase in life expectancy of seven full years. It is obvious then that maximizing a patient’s health and reducing future costs is directly tied to using a fixed prosthesis versus a removable one.
Another boon for implant-supported bridges and dentures is the phenomenal success rate and longevity. In one study of 2,012 full-arch, dental implant-supported restorations done in 2009, Dr. Paulo Maio, a world leader in the treatment, tendered an eight-year retrospective study from patients in his practice. Only 47 of a total of 8,048 implants that had fully healed into the bone after six months were lost in the following eight years. After reparative procedures that saved those 47 cases, 100% were functionally successful. The success rate of many other insurance covered procedures is far less and often requires revisions on a much higher scale. And isn’t the cost of a properly functioning digestive system that supports so many other body functions worth a second look from the insurance companies? We think so.