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A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Eight

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A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Eight

A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Eight

March 28, 2006
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight

Part Eight

By: Jean Johnson for Dental1

The second to last of my dental implants gets uncovered today, and since it’s right in front, I’ll be able to see the process easily. It’s a short appointment starting at 3:30 on a benign Portland afternoon where gray skies mostly cling to their load of moisture, only letting loose an occasional patter of rain.

Take Action
Choosing the Right Office

When looking for a dental implant specialist, it pays to visit several offices. Much about the practice can be sensed by initial observations and reactions.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What is my honest reaction to the office staff?

  • Is there a single person at the desk or is the office filled with a number of busy assistants? What do I prefer?

  • Are there some names and numbers of patients you might call to see how they felt about their experience?

  • Is the reception area a pleasant place to be in? Will I feel good about coming in to the space for numerous appointments over the span of a year or more?

  • Do I have the impression that my intelligence and dignity is respected?

  • Can I get the financial data that I want easily?

    Finally, if all of the above sounds like too much work consider scheduling a consult. While there is generally a small fee, after three or so visits with different implant and or restoration specialists, most prospective patients will find that they have enough information and insight to make a choice to best suit their needs and wants


  • Even walking into my prosthodontist’s front office is a pleasure. “Great flowers,” I said to my prosthodontist’s office manager, admiring the spare Asian theme for this week’s bouquet. A black box contains the water and stems of spring pussy willows placed just so amid sprays of orchids, two giant stalks of ginger with their pink artichoke-like blooms, and some spidery mums tucked in low against the angular-edged vase.

    “Do you think so?” she said. “The orchids were great on Monday, but they haven’t held up that well. He told her to try some different things from our usual vase, as long as she kept the fragrant blooms that make my hay-fever act up out. But we’re not sure about this one.”

    The flowers do look at little droopy on closer inspection, and in this office where a spit polish marks every last nook and cranny, it’s true that they really don’t cut it.

    What the flowers lack in fresh presentation, however, the office manager makes up for. Stacy has been with my prosthodontist since he first opened his office. They met back when they were both in school, and at first she did both the office work and chair-side assisting.

    These days her skills are reserved exclusively for managing the business. And she does it with aplomb, showing the kind of pride someone takes in something in which they feel invested. I especially like to check out her wardrobe, since I mostly clop in wearing clogs, and only little more than various scarves give my basic turtleneck and black pants approach to dressing some relief.

    Today she has on a sheath skirt that hits several inches above her knees. Stockings with a black tint show off shapely legs, and her trim ankles are offset by lovely black pumps. Her makeup is always perfectly done just like her shiny brown hair that drapes around her shoulders. She wears a red jersey top – a bold, zing of color in the otherwise understated office. Indeed, against the green leather of the Great Books series ensconced on the shelves behind her, she looks camera ready.

    My prosthodontist’s assistant opens the door to the inner sanctum. “How are you, Jean?” she said, showing a broad smile complete with some gorgeous tooth restoration.

    I’m a bit sheepish after my whining the week before, so I tell her not to worry, that I’m OK and back on my good behavior. We laugh and she said, “I tried to cheer you up last time, but you weren’t having any of it.”

    I apologized to my prosthodontist in so many words as well by telling him my story has to have some down parts, otherwise people will think I’m some sort of Pollyanna. He agreed. But then he’s a diplomat and agrees pretty much to whatever I say – except when it comes to how the dental implant and tooth restoration side of things should work. He’s insistent on that score.

    “Okay, let’s see if this baby will come off,” he said.

    My heart thumps a couple times from the Novocain, as he presses and wiggles on the bridge. “Yes, it’s moving,” he said. “All that Vaseline we painted on last time worked.”

    Before long the he has the bridge off, and I have a mirror.

    He gives me a little more Novocain – a procedure I do not even consider observing – and then makes a tiny slit in the tissue. His assistant hands him his explorer and he pokes down into the gum to locate the end of the implant.

    “Give me a tissue punch, please,” he said, and I see him fit the small device onto the end of the implant screw. “See it seats down into the screw and won’t move,” he said, knowing that I like to hear about the various gadgetry. Then he starts to gently twist the tissue punch. “It’s like a little cookie cutter,” he said.

    Sure enough, a small round bit of gum tissue goes via the highway down the suction wand, and in its place, metal gleams. He takes the cover screw out and puts in a larger screw.

    Once the gum tissue forms a socket around this new screw, he’ll be able to go ahead with the final stages of attaching the implant abutment and the restored tooth. At least I think that’s how it will all work.

    If I’ve learned anything by going through this business, it’s that he’s got his eye on the prize even more than I do, and he’ll take me slowly but surely through the steps necessary to get there. All I have to do is keep the faith.

    Soon, I’ll be like one of his other patients; 30-something Kerri Westcott, who I met the day she had a restored front tooth cemented into place over an implant. She only had to have the one replaced – it finally gave up the ghost after being traumatized in a high school softball accident.

    My prosthodontist asks her if I can watch since I write articles on implants, and she says of course. He’s clearly excited about the tooth and is telling her that he’s been to international meetings all over the world, and teeth like the one he’s putting in her mouth are rare.

    I go over to her side of the partition between his various chairs and introduce myself. It’s something to see someone else sitting in the dental chair, but from her high-heeled boots and green suede pants to her frosted hair and de rigueur pink bib, she looks patient-esque, if I can coin a word.

    He’s got the tooth in place and is doing the final checks on the fit before his assistant mixes the cement. “Matching a front tooth like this,” he said, “Is like trying to match paint on a wall. She even had to make a special trip over to the lab this morning because the color needed a little more work.”

    I peer down on a row of straight upper teeth, each one polished and glistening with that pinky pearly tone nicely cared for teeth retain. I know it’s one of the two front teeth, but I really cannot tell which one it is.

    I look harder. No clue. Nothing to give the false tooth away.

    My prosthodontist’s coal black hair is combed back off his face as always, gelled into place with some ultra-nice product. He manages to contain his excitement, but I am pretty sure he is as thrilled about the cosmetic success as his patient is.

    He lets his work do his talking, though. So it’s Kerri Westcott herself who offers her thoughts in three brief words: “I’m a believer.”

    Previous Stories

    A Second Look at Cough Syrup

    A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Seven

    Behind Your Smile – Links between Gums and Arteries Explored

    more Feature Stories

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