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A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Seven

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A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Seven

A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Seven

March 13, 2006
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven

By: Jean Johnson for Dental1

Life can be tough when your dentist and your yoga teacher both head out to Mexico in early February for a week – especially when you wanted to go on the yoga retreat but decided to remain in blustery old Portland to work.

I also had some pain while they were all off enjoying the 85 degree weather. Wouldn’t you know, everything goes along fine until your prosthodontist is away.
Learn More
First Hand Implant Advice

Be sure not to underestimate the psychological considerations involved in getting dental implants and having mouth restoration.

Oftentimes, patients needing extensive work will go through some unnerving periods. Do be candid with your dental practitioner and discuss any concerns as the treatment progresses.

Realize that because dental implants are relatively new procedures over the past 30 years, that it is only natural to approach this type of treatment with some trepidation.

Reading books on implants, stories like Silk and Jazz and this series, and reviewing Dental1’s series of clinically-oriented articles on the subject of dental implants can go a long way toward relieving anxieties and making you an informed consumer.

Finally, do spend time locating a dental professional that you like. According to Nadar Rassouli, DDS, MS, Jean Johnson’s prosthodontist, “Most people spend more time researching the car they plan to buy than they do their dentist.”


It was the massive six tooth bridge he cemented into place over the front gold posts. Kind of fun at first until the Novocain wore off. I even went directly from the dentist chair to a gallery opening, and a friend said how gorgeous my teeth were. It was true, they were pearly. I even watched my prosthodontist while he polished them up with a bit of rouge before he glued the works into my mouth. And once I got my lipstick on, his assistant said I looked smashing.

The thing is that the bridge just about killed me. I knew when he fitted the sucker that it was tight. “I feel clamped,” I said.

“That’s because it has to go over the wide part of the posts,” he said. “It’s okay.”

Whatever that meant, I didn’t really conceptualize it. Though, the message that I need not fret came reassuringly through. All was well.

But the next morning, it was what I call ‘hideous-o.’ I felt like a bull must feel with a nose ring, except it was in my mouth. And all the glue he had to use to fix the bridge into place felt like gobs of crud in there between my teeth that I couldn’t floss out. More, that clamped feeling didn’t wear off for four long days.

Altogether it wasn’t bad enough to call my prosthodontist’s standby person. But still, it got my attention. Even though my prosthodontist had told me things were cool, I started worrying about how much pressure was on my poor front teeth.

One thing led to another and before long I decided that we should pull out all those posts and put in implants that I could really count on lasting. I even called up the prosthodontist’s office manager and told her that’s what I was thinking about doing and to have him call me once he got back in the office. Then the next day I called her back and said to forget it. Even in my high state of anxiety I knew that not only did I not want to waste all the money I’ve spent getting the front teeth ready to roll, but also that I didn’t want to put myself through having the teeth pulled if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Take a deep breath times three, per my grandmother’s advice. Me settling down. Me going to take some more Ibuprofen. Actually, me going to take a lot of Ibuprofen.

The week goes by and things are fairly cool until I get this swelling behind one of the front teeth. It’s my worst tooth – the one he said might not last my lifetime – and I fear something has gone wrong with it. I wait until Monday when my prosthodontist is back and call the office. No getting any writing done that day. By 10:30 there I am grumping about the front bridge and how hellacious it’s been.

His assistant ushers me in and asks how I am. I do the equivalent of tossing a bucket of cold water on the both of us.

“Well, at least your teeth look good,” she said, giving me a gentle smile. Realizing I was being outrageous, but somehow unable to stop myself from heaping worse on top of bad, I said, “I don’t like ‘em.”

While that was true – and it’s expected that the temporaries will have oodles of flaws your permanent teeth will be without – I could have been nicer to Cindy. She drifted away discretely, and my prosthodontist arrived to take the heat of my frustration.

He pokes around in my mouth and I point out particular areas that have been driving me up the wall.

“Your gums are sore,” he said. “I had to get up in there to prepare the teeth, so that’s what you’re feeling. I’ll write you a prescription for Peridex.”

“I don’t want to use that stuff,” I complained like a petulant child. “It stains my teeth.”

“You don’t need to rinse with it, just put it on a q-tip and go around the gums of your front area,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “But what about this spot behind the one tooth?”

He checks it out. “That’s nothing. Everybody gets that. Did you drink something hot?” I can’t remember and mumble something about popcorn.

“Your teeth are okay, Jean. It’s better to have your natural teeth in there if you can,” he said. “If it was my mouth, I’d do the same.”

I always like it when he says that. I need professional reassurance. This mouth restoration thing is a very big deal and much as I’ve researched it, I still feel out of my comfort zone. Also, the torment of the former week has my mind in a whirlwind.

I try to get out of the bad feeling I have for coming into the office in such a grump by asking him if my reactions are fairly common.

“Am I typical?” I said. “Do patients tend to flip out during their temporaries stage like I am?”

Like I said in the last installment of this piece, my guy is smart. So bright that he doesn’t answer the question exactly. Rather, he tries to lead me into a better place.

“The thing patients have to keep focused on is the end result,” he said. He turned away to get something from a drawer. My salvo was quick. “If I could do that, I could stay on diet,” I said.

He broke up. Laughed pretty hard. My face softened too. Humor: The great mind lotion.

“Do you want me to trim your gum today to make it match the other side?” he said. “This front one – the one we talked about last time.” That’s my guy. He hustles up. He’s got me in the chair and has a little time. No sense in not making hay while the sun shines.

I have the pink bib, then feel the Novocain needle and some fiddling about inside my mouth. He has me take the mirror and shows me how he measured with his explorer and then made a series of pricks in the gum tissue along which he’d cut with his scalpel. It reminds me of the dots along the dart lines my mother and I used to make with Dritz paper and the marking wheel back during our sewing days.

I tell him that his track looks perfect and feel secretly bad that maybe he thinks I don’t trust him any more. Then again, I imagine that he has all his patients take a look before he carves away on their front gums. Also, I suspect that he’s quite able to take his patients’ temporary misgivings with a grain of salt.

I watch his assistant’s hands out of the corner of my eye and notice that she holds the suction wand with her third and fourth fingers, and sticks her pinky out like she was having high tea at the Empress in Victoria up in British Columbia. We both laugh when I tell her. Then once he’s finished with the cutting, she and I get to visiting some. Actually, she does most of the talking, with me prompting her with a garbled question now and then.

It turns out that she and her sister made a button blanket for her son during her week-long vacation. They are Alaska Natives and ever since I used teaching school as an excuse to live out on the Nava-Hopi in the Southwest for 10 years, I’ve had an interest in Indian art and culture. I look out at her through his gloved fingers that he uses to hold my front lip back and ask her how it went.

“Great. We used boiled wool, too. I thought about fleece since the wool is so expensive, but I wanted the wool since I hope he’ll have it all his life – and then give it to my future grandson.” She laughs at the idea of planning for grandparenthood while her son is still in elementary school.

Button blankets are done on black backgrounds with a red design appliquéd on and white buttons added for decoration. “That was the hardest part,” she said. “We had to make positives and negatives for my son’s sun symbol. It took a lot of time. We really had to concentrate.”

My prosthodontist nails me with some more Novocain. “It’s epinephrine to control the bleeding so I can add this acrylic.”

I stiffen, and he gets my undivided attention momentarily. Then it’s back to the button blanket. His assistant can’t talk for minute, since he wants her to mix some of the acrylic thinner for various spots. Once she finishes, though, I encourage her again.

She explains how she lined it with fleece so he can use it on his bed. She also tells me how at pow wows, he’ll hold his arms out wide when he dances to turn it into a fabulous show-stopping cape. “When he put it on after we were done,” she said, “I almost cried.”

One thing about the tribes, they really know how to party. And the whole family gets involved in making the regalia. It’s the way folks let their family members know they care for them. Talk is one thing but spending a week with your sister making a special blanket for your son is another.

My prosthodontist doesn’t seem to mind us visiting a bit, which I think is so nice. Then again, he probably figured that anything to get me in a better mood was fine. Chuckle.

But really, it’s not like we aren’t mindful of what he’s doing. I keep my mouth just like he needs, and Cindy is right there with the tools and the goop and the suction. Also, she goes right back into full-time action when he finishes painting on the acrylic and needs the high-speed suction while he smoothes off the acrylic.

There’s a lot of water spray and when he stops for a moment, she sweeps around my mouth with a gauzy square of cotton. Her touch as always is light, like a butterfly wing.

I laugh. I feel better. I’ve dabbled a bit in tribal culture, and my yoga teacher and dentist are both back home now. All is well.

Previous Stories

Behind Your Smile – Links between Gums and Arteries Explored

A Mouth Restoration Story – Part Six

A Mouth Restoration Story - Part Five

more Feature Stories

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