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|
My prosthodontist is practiced with the numbing routine. Once he gets his green surgical coat on, he picks up the shiny syringe with the circular end on the plunger and makes some sharp knocking sound while I’m careful not to steal a peek at the dreaded needle.
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Does the office provide dental health instruction and education?
What arrangement does the specialist have for handling emergencies?
Does the specialist seem genuinely interested in you?Ready to find a specialist?
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“You’ll feel a pinch,” he says. I do my usual Buddhist thing and try to notice my breath. I hear him breathing too while he slowly injects enough Lidocaine to make even the thought of pain a remote possibility. When he’s done, he sweeps the syringe out of my mouth with a flourish that makes me think of a Renaissance painter putting a last touch on a masterpiece.
Outside the bank of large over-sized windows, the forested hillside is changing from a brush of winter grays to the pale chartreuse green of early spring leaves. A single bird’s nest high in the fork of a 75-foot alder shows but there’s no sign of the family that must frequent the picturesque nursery in season. I get up for a pencil so I can make notes and while I’m standing roll my shoulders around and do a couple side stretches to prepare for the long haul.
My guy comes back into the dental suite. “Is your chin numb?” Sure enough, his timing is as perfect as the rest of his scene. “Yes,” I say. “All ready to slice and dice.”
His assistant is back as well in what she calls her pink bunny suit. It’s a filmy surgical gown that looks as though it’s disposable. She laughs along with him at my attempt at humor, and he takes a plastic mold of the gum area he made from an earlier visit to check his incision site. Then things quiet down, and they go to work without a word passing between them.
Two pair of eyes peering down at you from above surgical masks – him in blue on the right, her in pink on the left. Behind what I call her cat glasses, her eyes are expressive, and there are two deep lines above the bridge of her nose and three lines across her forehead like women often get from appealing to the world.
He has the same furrow lines above the bridge of his nose, but his forehead is completely smooth. He’s the doctor and appears completely self-assured. After all, he owns the practice. He’s the boss.
Beyond the silver frames of his oval lenses, his dark eyes don’t blink. He’s busy. Concentrated. Collected. Fingers sheathed in cream colored surgical gloves, he has a firm grip on his silver scalpel. At first the only sound comes from the suction, but then I hear the blade moving through the tough gum tissue. It takes a while, of course, him making little sounds to his assistant when he wants suction in various places. They work together that way, without words, intent on their craft. Engrossed in their art.
He goes back and forth from his dental probe to his scalpel, first poking around this way, and then incising a bit more that way. Ever so slowly in the hush of the dental suite, he cuts down through the gums right to the bone. Finally satisfied, he says, “I have to suture the flap back so it stays out of the way.”
So out comes the first of the silk and off the two of them go on their sewing routine. Him first catching some of the gum tissue and then letting his needle dangle like a tiny fish hook while he makes his knot with a circular twirl of his gold handled forceps. Then her with her scissors clipping one end of the black silk and then the next.
“Are you doing okay?” he asks for at least the third time since they started. I appreciate the inquiries and, even if the epinephrine still has me a little more twitchy than I wished and my shoulders are half-tensed from the effort of patrolling the perimeters of my pain receptors, I nod.
I nod because there really is no pain. No problem at all. The jazz is playing. There’s the first bit of silk stitched nicely into place. And I’m poised for what comes next. Like the lama at the Buddhist center where I meditate always says, “Bring it on.”
Continued in Part Three