Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dennis Kucinich and his dental bridge olive pit saga

 Dennis Kucinich has made headlines by threatening to sue a food company for $150.000 for an olive pit in a sandwich. True the pit did not belong there, and it could have caused a perfect dental bridge in a perfectly healthy mouth to fail splitting his tooth. This situation  led to loss of the tooth, a bout of antibiotics that upset his intestinal tract, and a few additional dental visits to correct the situation. Mr. Kucinich apparently settled the case successfully with the food company.

The text of the 2 news stories can be seen following these links.

As a dentist I am concerned about these types of cases.

No doubt the tooth had to be removed and either a new bridge or implants and crowns would replace the original. Was the food company liable for the cost of his dental care?  If the bridge was at risk of eminent failure, this olive pit was perhaps the last straw. Perhaps i f he had not eaten the sandwich, the bridge could have failed the next day while eating oatmeal. The purveyor  of the oatmeal could then be at risk I suppose (though this would have been harder to prove).

What do we know

 What we do know is that Dennis Kucinich apparently had a 5 or 6 unit bridge of some sort (fixed/removable or both). This is HUGE. The likelihood of failure is immense and unavoidable. An implant was placed and  failed, and another implant was placed which so far has worked. I am unsure however how long the current dental situation will last as Dennis has so many teeth missing. The food company did not cause Mr. Kucinich to lose all of the other teeth which is placing a great burden on the remaining teeth leading to continued failure. Who does he blame for that? Perhaps he should look in the mirror.

An explanation is in order

Let’s use a different example. Suppose you were driving down a private the road  and your hit a pothole and your tire blows out causing damage to your car. The owner of the road is liable for the damage right? But let’s focus in more closely. Suppose one or several of the factors listed below apply:
  • The tires were more than  10 years old.
  • The tires were bald.
  • The tires had 75,000 miles on them
  • They were cheap bargain tires and were not the right ones for your car or driving style and you did not have them balanced.
  • Your car was in poor shape with wheels out of alignment, and your shocks and ball joints  were bad causing excessive tire damage and wear.
  • You are constantly driving to a construction site and running over debris including nails
  • You drove like a maniac constantly screeching your tires, doing donuts etc.
  •  You never properly inflated your tires, or rotated them.
  • You regularly overloaded your car exceeding the weight and speed limits of the tires.
  • You liked hitting potholes, running over junk on the road cause is was kind of fun.
All we know is that you hit a pothole, which damaged your car, and you are suing the owner of the pothole. Now, however, we are not so fast to blame the owner of the property.

Back to dental bridges

There are almost 50 different reasons for a bridge to fail. The amount of abuse your teeth and dental work take on a daily basis is immense. We can exert up  300 pounds per square inch on our teeth. It is a testament to dentistry that anything lasts in the mouth for any length of time. Statically dental bridges only last on average 7 to 10 years. They have the highest cost per year of use of anything in dentistry averaging  300 to 500 dollars a year prorated.

In my experience 

I have heard many excuses for why something happened to a tooth that belie the actual facts. Usually there are extenuating circumstances that need to be factored in.  Too often we try to fix blame on someone else at their great expense when we have to assume greater responsibility for our own situation.

What do I think happened to Mr. Kucinich’s  bridge?

Was Mr. Kucinich’s bridge about to fail anyway? We will never know, but based on my experience with bridge failures, I think yes. With the limited information, I would bet that the tooth that split either had a preexisting crack in it or a post that cracked the root, or was so overloaded that it would fail without provocation. These conditions are perfect for the resultant failure.  In other words failure was eminent. The olive pit was just a catalyst, not the real cause.

Why bridges fail

I have listed on a separate PDF on my website the reasons that a bridge or crown can fail in no particular order.
You can click the link below to get a printable copy.
view pdf

What you can do in you have or need a bridge

If you have a dental bridge, make sure your dental office  is doing a thorough job of checking your bridge  and recommending proper care. This includes taking x-rays at regular intervals (average once a year). Ask your dentist to show you the x-rays and explain what is on them. Digital x-rays are a huge advantage as everyone can easily see the teeth and restorations.
If you need a dental bridge or you need one replaced, go to the most competent dentist you can find and pay a little more if you need to. Your chance of success goes up with the competence of your dentist, as he/she will be more careful about assessing your chances of success with a bridge and will be more assertive in making sure you take care of it properly.

Alternatives to bridges

Inquire about dental implants or other alternatives.  The initial cost of dental implants is about the same as a bridge, however the longevity of them and the other teeth is much greater. Don’t be afraid of getting a second opinion.
Before having a dental bridge placed.
It is important that a thorough assessment be done prior to dental bridge placement to insure that longevity is maximized. The patient has a responsibility to maintain dental work properly with homecare and diet as well as regular checkups.  

Learn more about dental bridges

I welcome your comments.

1 comment:

  1. It's such an interesting post. I really like it. You shared a really good information i did get lots of good points from here.Thank you and keep sharing.

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About Me

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Born in the Midwest. Married with 6 children and 3 grandchildren. Attended Maine West High School, Harper Jr College, Northern Illinois University, the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. Practice in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

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