| Part Two
| Part Three
By: Jean Johnson for Dental1
Over years of crowning and bridging and finally wearing partials, my bite has gone to the dogs and my front teeth flared out some. You might not notice it just talking to me, but on closer inspection – which heaven knows we are doing in my mouth at this point – things are just a wee bit too bucky for my taste.
There were actually two appointments involved in correcting my bite since like life nothing is ever easy in dentistry. To make matters worse, three days before my first appointment, my front bridge came off. It was the weekend so I kept it in place with a sample tube of denture adhesive I picked up somewhere along the line. The glue only works after a fashion though, and by the time they eased me down into the familiar confines of the dental chair, it was barely hanging on.
|The art of selecting a dental professional: |
Nader Rassouli, D.D.S., M.S. of Portland, Oregon, who is Jean Johnson’s prosthodonist, comments on the art of selecting a dental specialist.
“The first thing I’d do is ask to see samples of someone’s work.”
“You’ve got to find someone really good at what they do. Not everyone gets out of school with As. You can graduate with Cs, you know.”
“But it’s beyond being book-smart. Hand skills and artistic ability are critical, especially in reconstructive dentistry.”
“Mostly, the key is to find someone that really cares about their work. Someone that takes pride in a product that is good.”
My prosthodontist left it in place while he worked on the build-ups for my back teeth – a preface to correcting my bite. I was grateful since it’s a three-tooth bridge that goes from one of the front teeth over to the canine. Without it in place, my lip curved in just as you see on toothless old ladies who have long since given up on ill-fitting dentures. Still, it felt like a flag flapping in a wind, and I was glad when he finally got it cleaned up and re-cemented. I’ve put up with a lot from my teeth, and normally take all the indignities fairly well. But when it comes to the front ones and the disfigurement, I suppose my vanity gets in the way. Sigh. The things you think about when you’re in the dental chair…
But all that’s premature as the real story on the front teeth is yet to come when he starts to work seriously there. Today, the second appointment of the two – the issue is restoring my bite to its original position on nice high temporary crowns that will enable him to iron the flare out of the front area and in the process make the crowns narrower and smaller like my original, lovely teeth were.
(He told me to look around in magazines and bring in images of teeth I liked so when he started working on my crowns he could use the photos as guides. “Everyone has a different idea about what they think looks good,” he said, “So just bring something in that you like.” I thought about it and realized that I didn’t want someone else’s teeth. Rather I wanted my own back. So I found a photo of myself at the tender age of 16, and in I went. “Yes, your teeth looked nice,” he said. “We can use this picture, and you’ll be good as new.”)
As far as today goes, it’s a long 4-hour appointment. I’m wearing stretchy black pants, thick socks, Birkenstocks, and a long, tunic sweater – the closest thing to jammies I can find and still go out in public. The pneumatic lift on the dental chair eases me into down position beneath the big light that reminds me of a headlamp on a luxury car.
Then, again, everything in my prosthodontist’s office makes me think luxury – from the tall vase of fresh flowers that greet you in the waiting room to the numbered prints on the wall to his very well put together office manager. Today she wears a short tweed skirt with a black scoop neck blouse edged in pearls. Between her stylish heels, impeccable stockings, and just the slightest hint of cleavage, the message that this isn’t any ordinary dental office drapes over your shoulders and around your consciousness like one of Portland’s more refined winter mists.
Indeed, today my prosthodontist has on an ebony and ivory tie with a pointillist design, and he’s wearing one of his shirts with the gorgeous mitered cuffs again. His assistant has two lovely bangles on her wrist, as well, and the bracelets make the tiniest of tinkling sounds as she works. Both of them are in white lab coats, and when they lean in to examine my mouth – first looking straight on, then in tandem turning their heads up, down and around – they appear as though they are watching some kind of odd, miniature tennis match.
But soon all is per usual. The drilling off of old crowns, the unscrewing of implant parts, the building up of what’s left of various teeth with acrylic, and finally, once the temporaries are on, all the tapping on the strip of red carbon silk so he can get everything evened up.
The only problem was that four hours can get pretty slow when you are lying there without a whole lot to do. I do take notes for these stories, scrawling away without looking on a ledger pad in my lap. But still, especially with him working on crown buildups, I’m mostly transported back to when I first started having troubles with my teeth. All those years in my twenties and thirties when I thought I’d live forever. It was back then that I managed to have one tooth after another worked over in a very major way, all the while thinking my dental problems weren’t really that bad. Sigh… the things you think of when you’re in the dental chair. I slip my sandals off and let them fall to the floor with two loud claps.
My prosthodontist understands, though. And whenever I mention something about what a mess I’ve made of my mouth, he’s encouraging – glass half full all the way. “You’ve still got a lot to work with,” he’ll say. “Your mouth is not that bad.” My mind wraps around his words and somehow my glass turns from half empty to half full, too. Did I mention that going to my prosthodontist’s is always an entirely upbeat experience?
He jokes, too. At one point his dental assistant was suctioning around in my mouth, really going after one area. “Sorry, Jean,” she said, “but there was a piece of cement on your tongue I had to get.”
“Don’t believe her,” he countered. “She just likes the sound. There was nothing there at all.”
Of course, there’s not too much fooling around since he has to concentrate most of the time. But at the end of this particular appointment, there he was again being pretty hilarious about my partials.
I’ve had to wear them for the past year plus but on this day they were to become history. He had my bite adjusted and zillion temporary teeth installed in my mouth. “Well, you’re going to say goodbye to your partials today,” he said. “You might have separation anxiety, but don’t worry, we’ll help you through it. Cindy will give you a 10 minute talk before you go.”