Born Again

New smiles created with Dentures in a Day.

Photo courtesy of Ralph Johnson.

Ralph Johnson

On July 12, 2014, Ralph Johnson, 64, was born again. On that warm summer day, the Brooklyn, New York native received a life-saving liver transplant. But Ralph’s new life was quickly threatened again when he developed graft-versus-host disease, a condition that is typically a death sentence for liver transplant patients.

“The graft is my new liver and the host is my body,” the retired law enforcement officer explains. “With graft-versus-host, my body’s immune system recognized that there was a graft in my body and immediately began attacking it. This occurred even though I was taking medication to suppress my immune system.

“But I was able to overcome the graft-versus-host disease after spending three and a half months in a hospice unit at the University of Pennsylvania. While there, I was given experimental drugs, including high doses of steroids, to save my life.

“The people at the hospital told me I might be the only person to survive graft-versus-host after a liver transplant. The staff at the University of Pennsylvania was great, but I also had a strong will to survive. I published a story about my experience in a journal for organ donation.”

The immunosuppressant medications Ralph took restricted his immune system’s ability to function so it wouldn’t attack his new liver. But with decreased immune system function, Ralph was susceptible to invading germs. Consequently, he developed infections in his mouth that affected his teeth. That soon prompted a search for a dentist to address his dental issues.

“There were bacterial infections in my teeth that had to be resolved to maintain my health,” Ralph confirms. “As a result of the infections, I was living with some discomfort, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Much of my concern was with the appearance of my teeth. Some of them needed to be replaced.

“I went online and began reading the reviews for Dr. Gaukhman and Venetian Dental. As I read the reviews, I became more and more impressed, so I set up an appointment.”

Ralph’s choice for dental care was Alexander Gaukhman, DMD, at Venetian Dental in Venice. Dr. Gaukhman, who offers exceptional general, cosmetic and restorative dentistry as well as emergency dentistry, also has offices in Sarasota and Osprey.

“To address my dental concerns, Dr. Gaukhman suggested we start fresh,” Ralph relates. “He recommended giving me a new look, a whole new smile, by removing my teeth and replacing them with dentures.”

After agreeing on that plan, Dr. Gaukhman began his treatment of Ralph by taking impressions of his teeth. From those impressions, a set of temporary dentures was fabricated in Venetian Dental’s on-site dental lab.

Two days later, after the temporary dentures were completed, Ralph returned for a second appointment during which his teeth were extracted and he was fit with the temporary dentures.

Same-Day Service

Venetian Dental’s on-site lab allows Dr. Gaukhman and his staff to fabricate full traditional dentures in just one day. Dr. Gaukhman explains that, historically, much of the time needed to deliver dentures to a patient involved simple transportation.

“After the dentist acquires all the information needed to fabricate a patient’s dentures, the usual procedure is to send that information to a dental lab,” Dr. Gaukhman informs. “The dentures are designed and prepared at the lab and then sent back to the dentist for fitting in the patient’s mouth. It can take up to two days to transport each way. Then, if adjustments need to be made, additional time is required to return the dentures to the lab.”

“My new dentures from Venetian Dental are outstanding. They look really good. People can’t tell they’re not real teeth.” – Ralph

Recognizing that such delays can be a hardship for patients, especially those in pain or who lose or damage a denture while visiting Florida on vacation, Dr. Gaukhman decided to offer dental lab services in his own office. This effectively eliminated transportation delays and allowed him to provide many patients with same-day service, or Dentures in a Day.

“Dentures in a Day are particularly beneficial when the patient is in pain with their teeth, when an infection is present and when the patient does not have time to wait for their dentures,” Dr. Gaukhman elaborates.

“In these cases, the patient comes to the office in the morning, and by the afternoon, their dentures are ready. And that’s the best thing about Dentures in a Day. Patients can come in with broken teeth, failing teeth or infections, and they leave with perfect smiles.”

With the Dentures in a Day option, Dr. Gaukhman schedules the patient for an early-morning appointment to take impressions and develop a treatment plan. While the dentures are being prepared in the Venetian Dental lab, the patient is able to leave the office to relax or take care of personal errands or business.

A second visit later in the day enables the dentist to perform an initial fitting of the dentures and to note any changes that need to be made. Once the adjustments are performed, the patient returns to the office later that same day to receive the finished dentures.

“With Ralph, we performed the work in two visits because he was not in pain and was not in a hurry,” Dr. Gaukhman explains. “Still, the bulk of the dental work was done in one day, because once his dentures were ready, he came in, we extracted his teeth and fit his traditional dentures the same day.”

Dr. Gaukhman notes that by fitting the temporary dentures immediately after Ralph’s teeth were extracted, the dentures act as a BAND-AID® of sorts. They help decrease bleeding and swelling because the gums can only swell to the point of the denture.

“In about three months, when my gums heal, I’ll get my permanent dentures. The procedure on my teeth wasn’t painful, but then I just survived three and a half months in a hospice unit unable to walk. Nothing can equate with that.”

Advanced Research

After friends of New Hampshire native Maurice Whipple invited him to Florida for a visit, he decided he liked the state so much that he wanted to retire here. Maurice bought a home and became a permanent Florida resident in the late 80s, but he still spends the hot summer months with his children up north.

These living arrangements have worked out well for Maurice. Unfortunately, not everything has worked out positively for him. For years, the retired electrical contractor had trouble with his teeth. Those issues eventually reached a point where he had to have his teeth replaced.

“My dentist told me I had very hard teeth, but they were prone to cavities, no matter how much I brushed and flossed,” Maurice shares. “I knew I was going to end up with dentures eventually, but I managed to put it off for a long time.

Photo by Jordan Pysz

Maurice can relax comfortably now that he has implant-secured dentures.

“It was around 2000 that I had to finally get my upper teeth pulled and replaced with a denture. Eighteen years later, my bottom teeth started heading south on me, and I knew I would eventually have to have them pulled out as well.”

While Maurice contemplated a denture for his bottom jaw, he also considered replacing his upper denture with an improved appliance. After learning about dentures secured by dental implants, he decided that implant-secured dentures were the better way to go.

“My old upper denture fit well, but it had this plastic part that covered the whole roof of my mouth to create a vacuum to hold it in place,” Maurice describes.

“That plastic part made me gag a lot, so I knew I needed to get rid of the roof part of my denture. I heard that implant-secured dentures don’t have that plastic part to them, so that’s why I looked into them.

“I called three dentists who offer implant dentures, and Dr. Gaukhman was the most experienced. He was also convenient. His office is located close to where I live. He also had the best deal and was very pleasant to work with. That’s the main reason I chose him.”

Dr. Gaukhman agreed that implant-secured dentures were a good option for Maurice.

“I told Dr. Gaukhman what I wanted, and he said, That’s what you should have,” Maurice remembers. “I did a lot of research before I made this move. I looked into individual dental implants, but that route was too expensive for me. Implant dentures addressed my concerns and were something I could afford.”

Classic Example

Dental implants are screw-like posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone to serve as the foundation for replacement teeth such as crowns and dentures. When secured by implants, dentures don’t slip or move; they stay in place when patients speak and eat. But that’s just one of the many advantages that implant-secured dentures have over traditional dentures.

“A drawback of traditional upper dentures is a decrease in taste,” the dentist describes. “The tongue is mainly responsible for discerning taste, but the palate also plays a role. Because traditional dentures cover the palate, patients can be deprived of sensing the full complement of tastes. Implant dentures, on the other hand, are horseshoe-shaped and do not cover the palate, improving taste.”

Another issue that can occur with traditional upper dentures is the gag reflex that Maurice often dealt with. Some patients, including Maurice, experience this problem due to the denture being over the palate. By not covering the palate, implant dentures eliminate this gag reflex.

Traditional lower dentures are generally more difficult to keep stable than upper dentures. Because there is no palate on the bottom of the mouth, less suction is produced to hold lower dentures in place naturally. As a result, they tend to slip while patients are eating and speaking.

“The dentures Dr. Gaukhman made for me look very natural. People don’t know they’re not real teeth. . . . Everything turned out perfectly.” – Maurice

“Adding dental implants stabilizes lower dentures, so they do not move around,” Dr. Gaukhman observes. “In addition, dentures secured by implants have stronger chewing capability than traditional dentures. Patients can eat foods they could not eat previously, improving their quality of life.

“Implant-retained lower dentures are generally secured with two implants. We typically secure upper dentures with four implants. It’s due to gravity that I can use two implants on the bottom but need four on the top.”

Dentures have to work with or against gravity. Lower dentures move down with gravity, so two implants are sufficient. Upper dentures have to work against gravity, so four implants keep them more secure.

”Maurice is a classic example of what we offer for implant-secured dentures,” Dr. Gaukhman asserts. “We gave him a new upper denture stabilized by four implants and a new lower denture stabilized by two implants.”

Perfect Match

Maurice looked forward to getting his implant dentures, but in first meeting with Dr. Gaukhman, he made it clear he wasn’t looking forward to the dental work that would get him there. Dr. Gaukhman took care of that issue as well.

“I have my blood pressure under control, but when I go into a dental appointment where the dentist is going to work on my teeth, my blood pressure skyrockets,” Maurice acknowledges.

“So I told Dr. Gaukhman I wanted to be put to sleep when he did the drilling and other work, and he did that for me. He made me very comfortable. I didn’t experience the slightest bit of pain, not even after Dr. Gaukhman put in the implants.

“So I was real happy with Dr. Gaukhman’s process. When I got my upper denture eighteen years ago, the dentist pulled my teeth and put in my denture before my gums had completely shrunk back to their normal size after being swollen. As a result, I ended up with a loose denture.

“This time, Dr. Gaukhman placed the implants, then waited a few months until the bone adhered to the implants and my gums healed. He gave me temporary dentures to wear during that time.”

Maurice was in New Hampshire during the time his implants were healing, so when he returned to Florida, he was ready to receive his permanent dentures. He’s thrilled with the finished products.

“I got my permanent dentures in January, they fit perfectly, and I love them,” Maurice raves. “The bite is perfect, and they look good. Dr. Gaukhman pretty much copied the look of my old denture on the top, and for the bottom, he showed me sample teeth and let me pick what I wanted.

“Some were narrow teeth, and some were wider, but they matched up really well. The dentures Dr. Gaukhman made for me look very natural. People don’t know they’re not real teeth. I’m so lucky. Everything turned out perfectly.”

Maurice is especially pleased that his new upper denture has no plastic covering the roof of his mouth. He points out that one benefit of that is he can better taste his food. But that’s not even the best part for him.

“The main benefit of the implant denture for me is it eliminated the gagging I experienced for eighteen years with my old upper denture,” he says. “And my bottom denture doesn’t move in my mouth at all.

“I should have done this in 2000 instead of waiting. I definitely recommend Dr. Gaukhman and Venetian Dental. They did excellent by me. Nobody could do a better job than they did.”

Simply Outstanding

Dr. Gaukhman did well by Ralph as well. In one day, he gave Ralph a brand-new smile and relieved his dental discomfort. Like Maurice, Ralph is extremely pleased with the results of his treatment at Venetian Dental, and he’s already considering dental implants to secure his dentures. For right now, though, he’s happy with them the way they are.

“My new dentures from Venetian Dental are outstanding,” he raves. “They look really good. People can’t tell they’re not real teeth. I just light up with my new smile. I’m a smiley person anyway because I overcame some really critical medical situations and was given a gift of life. I feel so fortunate, so, yeah, I’m enjoying myself now. I have a lot to smile about.”

Ralph is also happy with his experience at Venetian Dental. He gives kudos to Dr. Gaukhman and his staff. 

“The Venetian Dental staff is professional,” Ralph describes. “They’re friendly, helpful, good people, and they made me feel very comfortable. And Dr. Gaukhman is outstanding. He’s personable and honest.

“And he’s very, very good at what he does. He was really understanding of my situation and took me under his wing. I’m very grateful to Dr. Gaukhman. I recommend him to anyone.”

Print This Article
    • Venetian Dental

      Venetian Dental is devoted to restoring and enhancing the natural beauty of your smile. Their state-of-the art dental offices offer the latest in dental technology and patient amenities. They provide comprehensive treatment planning, and use r... Read More

    • Alexander Gaukhman, DMD

      Alexander Gaukhman, DMD, earned his dental degree at Nova Southeastern University College of Dentistry, Ft. Lauderdale. He completed his undergraduate studies at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton. Dr. Gaukhman is a diplomate of the Inter... Read More