Come along on the real life dental implant journey of Jean Johnson. Get an inside look at the process, recovery and the beginning of life with a new smile.(Editor’s note: Any treatment undertaken to combat a dental problem has varied results for different individuals. The experiences portrayed here are those of Jean Johnson and would be different from the experiences of other dental implant patients. A conversation with your dental professional is the best way to determine the appropriate course of treatment for you.)
By: Jean Johnson for Dental1
Part One | Part Two| Part Three | Part Four | Part Five|
I’m right on schedule for dental implants according to professional stats that track the baby boomer population and its extravagant ways. Not only did us boomers tend to skate around the edges of good dental care in our younger days, the experts say we’re now willing to ante up big bucks to keep our smiles looking like the real thing. Being so easily read aside, there I was on a bright sunny day in early spring heading off across town to the dental office for implant surgery.
My prosthodontist knows how to prime you for the event. We’re in Portland so we don’t go for the cappuccino and hand massages or whatever the Californian guys are apparently offering trendsetters. We reserve our coffees for espresso bars where the baristas the Northwest is known for brew up drinks that need savoring in proper context. Plus, we Portlanders have our own style – a style based on bookstores, breweries and bicycles. With our communal brows arched, we agree our way is considerably more grounded than the glitz of the Hollywood crowd to the south.
Once I reach the waiting room – where he rarely keeps you long – there’s a tall vase of fresh yellow sunflowers and tiger lilies in perfectly clear water. The red bougainvillea draping down warm terra cotta walls of a villa somewhere in Europe also catches your eye from the numbered prints he has hanging on the walls. And in the background, jazz plays from our town’s commercial-free station.
I’m an old hand in the dental chair and have had more crowns and bridges and root canals than one speaks of in polite company. Still the idea of having someone drill into my jaw bone gets my attention like having a cavity filled never did. The release they have you sign doesn’t help matters either.
It’s an 11-point consent form straight from the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, and says things about how irreversible numbness might occur in the lip, tongue, chin, cheek and teeth. But I try not to dwell on that bit of information, not to mention the statement that talks about how the practice of dentistry is not an exact science and hence “no guarantees or assurance as to the outcome of results of treatment or surgery can be made.”
Not to worry, though, I guess. So far, so good. In the hands of my guy things are working out pretty well – from jazz with which he greets you with to black silk thread with which he closes. My guy – a familiar way to refer to your specialist perhaps. Somehow, though, after having him take your head in a football hold for a couple hours at a time, barriers do tend to slip away. Anyway, he’s just the type you want working your teeth. From the knot of his conservative dark blue polka dot tie to the cuticles of his nails, he’s an individual with an eye for detail.
And speaking of the eyes, at 41 and dapper, he’s very easy on them in his beautifully pressed white shirts with the cuffs and collars just so. His assistant of 10 years is the same way – easy on the eyes. She puts an extra-large pink bib on me and runs the cord with the little alligator clip around my neck. And when they tip me back in the dusky green dental chair, I look up at the long strands of her shoulder length blonde hair and can’t find a split end anywhere. These people are pros.
I opted for a sedative when I had my pre-implant sinus bone graft which was done months back at another specialist’s office. While that experience was quite the horror story and an entirely other matter, what I mostly experienced was that heavy sedation and I do not get along at all. I may still be a little crazy after all these years, but a purple haze of prescribed downers left me in a compromised state. Not a place you want to be in when you have to handle post-op care at home.
Consequently, when time for the official implants rolled around, I decided to go cold turkey with trusty old Ibuprofen. So there I was with very little buffer between me and the reality of it all. Given that, there seemed little point in closing my eyes. So, like my mouth, I left them wide open and watched the whole thing.
Continued in Part Two