A dentist on Bainbridge Island has a patent pending for an invention that patients can really sink their teeth into.
Dr. Helena Soomer Lincoln, a dentist trained in Europe and the United States, has a practice on BI called “Fairy Tale Dental,” but the invention is real. It is a bridge that installs gently over the gums and jawline of the mouth.
Lonnie Gibbens, 39, is a chef and one of her first patients. He went to Lincoln to have a tooth removed, and ended up having them all extracted. At first, he had dentures, but when TruBridge was ready he had that procedure done.
He lost some of his taste with the dentures, and as a chef that wasn’t acceptable. “You can and do lose some sense of taste,” he said, adding the texture of food also is important. “I feel I can chew anything.”
Originally from Estonia, Lincoln’s already popular with over 3,000 patients as she provides a unique experience for them. She sings and tells folklore about her home country. She participated in the Estonian Singing Revolution where people held hands and sang in front of Soviet tanks and soldiers from 1987-91.
“Many people are scared when they go to the dentist,” she said. “Singing helps them take their mind off of it.”
She has done thousands of non-invasive restorations of distressed or missing teeth in dental and hospital settings. She has advanced degrees in dental science and is a renowned expert in forensic dentistry as well as odontology. Many of her patients have complex cases, such as suffering facial trauma in an auto accident or someone with neck or head cancer who has had parts of their jaws surgically removed.
Traditional dental bridge treatment is intensive with bone often being cut out, even if that extreme may not be needed, Lincoln said. It’s very expensive, too, involving a periodontist, prosthodontist and lab technician, in addition to the referring dentist. Patients are put under for hours, and recovery can take months.
“You can lose your teeth due to bad luck, and have dentures that cover all your mouth so you can’t even feel your taste buds anymore” because the prosthetics are so bulky, she said.
Lincoln has been working on inventing something better for years. She made it herself at her office in Winslow. The procedure is so gentle that she only uses local anesthesia so her patients are awake and listening to her tell one of her stories, and then they’re done.
Called TruBridge, the ultra-light, zirconia-strong, teeth-only upper and lower arches have been designed at a fraction of the weight and cost to fit comfortably into the original sockets in the mouth’s natural gumline. TruBridge does not require invasive drilling or removal of the jawbone or gums as heavy acrylic devices and dentures have imposed on patients for decades.
Using computer modeling techniques created through intra-oral CBCT scans that map the bumps in the natural ridge line, Lincoln’s methods preserve the integrity of the mouth’s sockets, allowing titanium implants to be secured by regenerating tissue in a matter of weeks. As a result, patients look and feel as if they have had their original teeth restored without any changes to the shape or contour of their face or chin, or covering the roof of the mouth like other prosthetics.
TruBridge can be produced under one roof, cutting the time and cost of the procedure by up to 70 percent. Once it’s patented Lincoln plans to sell it to dentists all over the world to help even more people. She plans to seek a government grant to help underserved populations.
Gibbens said it was fascinating as Lincoln ran a wand-like instrument across his gum line to make the 3D image, that is very precise in placing exactly where his nine implants had to be. He said the procedure itself was quick and painless. “I remember asking, ‘Are we already done?’ It was like having normal teeth again when she put them on. It’s just like having real teeth if not better,” he said.
Lincoln said the most gratifying feedback from patients is that they forget that it is a bridge and feel as if they never lost their teeth in the first place. “I am so moved by the positive feedback that it brings tears of joy to my eyes,” said Lincoln, a mother of five. “My patients are super happy. It’s like a fairy tale come true.”