In a state where more than one third of those over the age of 35 are missing teeth, finding a reason to smile can be tough, but one Charleston dentist is trying to treat the problem — tooth by tooth.
Dr. Matthew Stump, a dentist with Howard & Howard Dental on Charleston’s East End, has been practicing dentistry in the area for three years, and has been working to perfect the grins of his patients through dental implants and prosthetic teeth anchored in the jawbone with a titanium or zirconia base.
Stump, a Charleston native, was recently recognized by the International Congress of Oral Implantologists as a “diplomate,” the highest level of recognition within the organization.
“Tooth loss affects their nutrition, it affects their overall health — especially people with diabetes, who may be incapable of eating things that could help keep their health under control,” Stump said. “It’s a service I think is really invaluable, because at the end of the day you’re really able to bring function back to someone’s life. You’re able, to an extent, to restore them to where they once were and give them the confidence and security to eat the things they’d like, to speak freely, to smile. It’s really a life-changing situation for people who have been without teeth for a long time.”
Stump is the first in the state to reach the level of “diplomate,” and one of only 17 dentists in the world to be promoted to that level this year. There are 650 active ICOI diplomates in the U.S.
Stump is also a member of the International Team for Implantology, the Academy of Osseointegration and the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. He holds clinical assistant professorships at both West Virginia University and Oklahoma University. Stump is a graduate of Charleston Catholic High School and WVU, where he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, and where he first became interested in implant dentistry.
“I do all this so that patients can feel comfortable understanding that we’re in a situation where we’re in a network of people up on the latest advancements and the research being done in regard to implant dentistry,” Stump said. “It puts you at the forefront in order to stay abreast of the current technologies and trends and therapies that allow us to move forward to afford people the best options to restore their oral health.”
One of the biggest recent advancements that has greatly impacted implant dentistry is the Cone-Beam Computed Tomography system, and advanced CT scanner that allows dentists to take 3-dimensional scans of all or part of a patient’s jaw without exposing the rest of their body to radiation. It also helps dentists avoid unnecessary incisions by allowing them to better pinpoint problem areas in the jaw and the exact alignment for an implant, which Stump said has helped to greatly decrease the recovery time for patients.
“It’s where the future is, but it’s really here now; there are a few offices in the state that have them,” Stump said. “There are certain anatomical structures in the bone that we have to avoid, nerve-wise, but the bone doesn’t have a lot of innervation that would cause pain, so with technology like this, we can reduce the pain and swelling associated with the procedure in the past, where you had to cut open a lot of gum to find the best available bone. The cone-beam allows us to know exactly where that bone is ahead of time so that we can optimally place the implants for a good distribution.”
Stump said he believes implants have the potential to make a positive impact on oral health in West Virginia. While dentures are often uncomfortable and perform poorly compared to natural teeth, Stump said implants are a much more natural option, and modern implants are even coated to encourage bone growth so that they can remain anchored in the jaw and potentially last for the rest of a patient’s life. Dental implants also have a very high success rate — more than 90 percent, according to the Academy of Osseointegration.
“At the end of the day, as a clinician, being able to change someone’s life for the better through their oral health is very rewarding,” he said. “It’s sometimes people who have been miserable for years, because with dentures, they spend most of the time in a cup at their bedside because they’re just not comfortable, because what it really is is plastic sitting on top of the gum tissue causing constant sores and things like that. We’re able to eliminate that with implants.”
Stump performs single implants, multiple implants and full bridge replacements, and said he does everything he can to work with patients to find a way to help them afford implants, which can be expensive and are not widely covered by dental insurers.
“Historically, it’s been very expensive, but it’s not just for those who can afford certain things; we have options today,” he said. “We have different financial levels for these things — it just depends. There are conventional-sized implants, there are mini-implants, there are different brands of implants, and some of these things can really enhance people’s lives without being too invasive. Now insurance companies are starting to do a lot more with reimbursement, but as a whole, it isn’t really where it needs to be. The misconception is that implants are for the rich, and that’s not at all the situation.”
Reach Lydia Nuzum at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.