My last blog was about our adventure in the bat caves of Puerto Rico. One thing I did not delve into was all the interesting cave formations we saw. Caves are interesting because they can be living or actively forming. Calcite is the mineral makeup of most caves. Calcite is porous and made of calcium.
How does this apply to dentistry? The formation of caves is reminiscent of how bone forms. It is not uncommon to see examples of the same kind of action in nature that happens with the human body. Dr. Lieu (pictured here at our dental practice in Rohnert Park, California) loves to place and restore dental implants. A big factor in the success of placement is how much bone there is around the implant. The more bone the better. Bone is dynamic and individuals have different densities, types of bone and other health factors that play into how bone replacement reacts in the body. For example, people with diabetes have problems with circulation. When placing bone in someone with diabetes, the healing time is slower and the bone may not ever become very dense.
Caves form by water movement and gravity. Slow trickles of water down through the calcite forms stalactites and stalagmites. When they meet, they form a column or pillar. Similar action happens when bone is placed in the body, or when one breaks a bone and it begins healing again. Of course, there are many more steps; I am simplifying the concept.
If you have not heard of dental implants, they are a wonderful solution for people missing one or more teeth. They offer the freedom of chewing stress-free. You can use a dental implant to replace one missing tooth, or it can be an attachment for a denture. If you are missing multiple teeth, you can understand the hassle or uncomfortable nature of a partial. This permanent solution also has an advantage over bridgework, in that it does not stress the surrounding teeth for support and there is no chance for recurring decay and need for replacing another bridge one day.