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A Mouth Restoration Story - Part Four

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A Mouth Restoration Story - Part Four

A Mouth Restoration Story - Part Four

February 06, 2006
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

By: Jean Johnson for Dental1

There's never a dull moment at my prosthodonist's office, and this time, wouldn't you know, we did one last implant surgery. It's another gray day in Portland and the wisps of branches out on the hillside from beyond his third-story picture windows have a surreal look through the rain-splattered glass. There I am under the big beam with him coming at me with his anesthetic needle.
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Stay involved in the process from beginning to end.

Take your time choosing the dental professional that is right for you.

Consider all aspects before making your choice. This includes – office location, office environment, how you feel about the office staff and if you feel comfortable with the clinician.

Be sure to ask questions along the way if you're unsure about anything.

Don't be afraid to ask for a mirror to check out the situation in your mouth (if you're up to it). This can go a long way toward feeling empowered and understanding what your clinician is repairing and restoring.

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"We just need to get in there one last time," he said.

When he was finished, I started scribbling notes and said, "I'm going to write all about how you bring that needle up from the behind and say ‘we just need to get in there one last time.'"

We both chuckled, and he said, "Well, would you rather me come from the front?"

He has a point. Still, I've learned to keep my eyes on him – especially at the beginning of the appointments during the business of numbing.

Here I thought the implant stage of things was all behind me, but once he got the temporaries in place on my lower teeth, there was a subtle hint of darkness in the way back on one side where we thought we could get by without a tooth. Subtle. But it was there.

He said most people don't need to address points distant like that, but in my case since the teeth had tended to crowd in more toward the front, there was this unexpected hint of emptiness in the back when I smiled.

It was a problem we needed to address. Especially since once he did the implant surgery, we could continue working restoring the rest of the mouth. Later we'd go back and install that final crown after the bone was fused to the implant and ready to bear the load of all the chomping and chewing one does.

I won't go back through the whole implant process again since my Silk and Jazz story pretty much tells what a person might want to know. (Editor's note: To learn more about Jean's earlier experiences, click here to read the Silk and Jazz series.) Rather, since it was my 'second time around' there were observations that it seemed one could only make from that more experienced vantage point.

Of course there were little things I missed the first time, like the way the gold handles of the forceps shine in the light when he stitches back the gum tissue so it won't flap around while he's working on the implant. And then there were the tiny little beeps of the tapping drill that, just like a truck when it's backing up tracked the movements of his drill as it backed out of the bone leaving its circular traces for the implant screw in place.

Also, this time I even got brave and took a look at my own exposed bone. They had me wait until the end when things were prettied up some – the implant in place and the bleeding settled down – so it wasn't too grisly. My prosthodontist even prepared me by saying how white the bone was and that some patient's bone is more brown, although still plenty dense and healthy. Indeed, if one must bare one's bones to others, I'm glad mine reveal that I'm getting enough calcium, if in fact that is what white bones indicate.

But you're probably wondering how it looked or if I fainted. No on the latter, and not too bad on the former. It was all a rather polite surgical site, with him very clinically pointing out the bone and the sutured gum tissue. I even kept watching while he clipped the temporary sutures and stitched me up. At least for awhile. After the first few my arm got tired. Also, from the feel of the mat of silk in my mouth at the moment, he put a ton of stitches in there. I asked how far apart he put them in, and he said about every millimeter.

"Millimeter?" I echoed, thinking it was awfully close together.

"Yes," he said. "I've found patients have a less eventful healing without the gum flapping around."

That's my guy. He takes pains. First class all the way. I've paid more for his top-flight services, but what I get back in terms of someone who cares about my mouth is entirely worth it. I'm glad I followed my heart instead of my pocketbook when an orthodontist friend and one of our dental schools recommended him with the caveat that he would be spendy.

That's the thing, though. Implants are expensive any way you slice it. And it's not just the actual technique, it's the whole experience.

Like my prosthodontist explained, "You have to have social skills. Nobody wants to be around some grumpy guy. And if people are going to spend a year or more with us, I have to have a staff that is willing to provide for their needs. Also, I have to be gentle. It wouldn't do to have all these long appointments, and the patient sitting there sore."

Chuckle. Some grumpy guy. If I had a dollar for every minute I'd had to spend with those types, not only in the dental chair but in physician's offices, I'd be retired. But the good news is that now that I'm older and wiser, I'm getting better at making a wide circle around the grumpsters. These days, I zero right in on people that know life's too short to waste time fuming and fussing.

It's true that if there's one thing that has marked my experience getting dental implants, it's been my prosthodontist's approach to running his office. Without sacrificing any professionalism, he treats you almost like he was welcoming you into his home.

There is the vase of flowers out in the waiting room that I know I've mentioned before. But it's worth repeating, since the fresh two-foot tall bouquets do so much to prime you for a cultivated, mannered experience.

At first, I worried that my bills would reflect too much of these types of niceties, but now that I've been a regular there for over a year, I've realized that he keeps his extra expenses like those for the flowers under wraps. There are a few numbered prints on the walls and so forth, but it's nothing like those boutique places you hear about in Southern California where people drink lattés and have facials or whatever while they're waiting.

Besides, my guy only very rarely keeps you waiting. There is hardly ever anyone in his waiting room. Obviously, he understands that respect is a two-way street. While it's true that when he's working his time valuable, he builds enough into his fees so that he can afford to value the time of his patients. I, for one, appreciate that.

Thus the beauty of my prosthodontist's way of doing business – his genuine pleasant demeanor. He's never too busy to nab you some Ibuprofen and even fetch you some water on your way out when his assistant is busy. And of course, he always sees his patients out to the desk and confers with them and his office assistant about what the next appointment will entail and how much time he'll need.

He doesn't make a big deal about it either. There is never anything phony or bordering on superciliousness in the least. After all we Portlanders take pride in our down to earth ways. Also, there are patients waiting within his suites, and the clock is ticking away.

But there's time for a smile and a handshake that let's you know that whatever revolting stuff he saw inside your mouth when you were in his chair is just a blip in the larger scheme of goodwill among human beings.

Previous Stories

Good Oral Health Important As You Age

The Odds of Keeping Teeth – The Rule of Nine

Risky Business – The Very Real Dangers of Tongue Piercing

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