Say It with a Smile

New dentures give woman boost of confidence.

Michele Kornett admits that when she was younger, she was a bit wild. The electronics technician grew up on a farm in Northwestern Indiana, so she liked to let loose when the chores were done. Unfortunately, she paid a price for her lifestyle as a youth when she got older.

Photo courtesy of Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach.

Michele Kornett

“In my younger years, I was a partier, and I sometimes got drunk and got into fights,” she confirms. “In the process of all that, a tooth was knocked out.” Michele had a bridge put in to replace the missing tooth.
“Back then, when I was in my mid twenties, I didn’t take very good care of my teeth,” Michele continues. “I never smiled, and if I laughed or giggled, I’d cover my mouth. I had big buckteeth, and at some point, they got punched, so the teeth broke away from the bridge.
“At that point, they started poking forward, and then the tooth next to them got so infected that when the bridge broke, I looked like I had ‘summer teeth.’ Up north, we always joked about people who had summer teeth – some are there and some are gone.
“I wouldn’t smile. In my field, if I had the perfect smile, I’d be a millionaire, because I can sell anything. I’m a person who has that quality, but the thing that held me back was that I didn’t like talking to people because I had horrible teeth. Your smile is who you are, and I just never smiled. Everyone who knew me thought I was the saddest person.”
It didn’t help Michele’s smile that her experiences with dentists had been consistently negative. As a result, she developed a serious aversion to the health care professionals.
“I went to a couple of dentists up north, and they didn’t listen to me,” she relates. “I told one who was working on me, I can still feel that. That’s a lot of pain. I beg you to stop. I literally walked out of one dentist’s office with a tooth halfway pulled because it hurt so bad, and they tried to tell me it was pressure, not pain.
“When I moved to Florida, I called dentists here – same thing. One dentist told me my mouth was so far gone, there was nothing he could do for me. He told me to try the health department.”
Michele made an appointment at the health department, where the dentist was very blunt. She told Michele she was going to “yank out all of your teeth.”
“At that point, I said, I’m done, I don’t care. My teeth can fall out on their own,” Michele states. “I wasn’t going to sit and be some dentist’s torture victim because that’s how I felt. I was having nightmares about going to the dentist. My teeth were failing and infected and my jaw was swollen, but I wouldn’t step foot in a dentist’s office.”
Observing Michele’s condition, a friend tried to convince her to go to the dentist. She had one in mind that she knew would calm Michele’s fears and resolve her problems. The dentist was Alfons Bucaj, DMD, of Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach. At first, Michele resisted, but her friend persisted, and eventually, Michele agreed. Initially, she was extremely nervous.
“When I met Dr. Bucaj, I thought, This man’s got some giant hands. How’s he ever going to be gentle in my mouth,” remembers Michele. “Then I talked with Dr. Bucaj some more, and after twenty minutes, he made me feel like I was important, my career and my life were important, and he knew that my smile meant everything to me.
“Dr. Bucaj guaranteed me there wouldn’t be any pain during my treatment. He made it very clear that my nightmare was over.”

Assess, Evaluate, Triage

Dr. Bucaj says that when he first met Michele, it became obvious that her biggest concern wasn’t her pain. It wasn’t her infection. It was her confidence because she wasn’t happy with the current aesthetics of her teeth.
“She wanted a confidence boost because she deals with the public all day as an IT professional,” notes Dr. Bucaj. “She has the clinical skill in her profession. She just wanted to be able to communicate confidently with people to take her to the next level, and that requires a good smile.
“Michele’s had many dental issues over the years, but she also had a severe phobia of going to the dentist. Her typical experience was one of pain on top of more pain. In our practice, we cater to patients who have a fear of dentists.”
Dr. Bucaj explains that the hardest part of working with fearful patients is making them feel comfortable. He says he begins by listening to them to determine what their primary complaint really is.
“The first thing I do is sit down,” he says. “I get eye-to-eye with them. I let them speak, I listen to what they say, then I repeat what they tell me. Then I tell them, You’re in a safe place. We are not judgmental. We do this for a living, and we see this every day, all day. We’re going to take good care of you. You’re in good hands.
“Once I’ve established a trust, I assess, evaluate and triage, which is a method of getting them to vocalize their chief complaint. What was most important to Michele? To her, it was the confidence of a great smile. From there, I assessed her phobia level and determined that she was a perfect candidate for IV sedation.
“IV sedation essentially takes patients’ brains out of the picture,” explains Dr. Bucaj. “They become unaware of the activity taking place, so it makes them comfortable and shuts down their phobia. It keeps the fear from hindering the treatment process and helps people with phobias have much better dental experiences.”

Photo Bombing

As part of Michele’s dental treatment plan, Dr. Bucaj removed her failing teeth and made upper and lower dentures for her. Both are secured in place by dental implants. Michele was immediately amazed by how natural the dentures – and her smile – appeared.
“When the work was all done and I smiled for the first time, I saw the most beautiful teeth, and they didn’t look like dentures,” she marvels. “My smile is great now. When my kids take selfies, I keep popping up in their pictures in the background with my best smile. They’re like, Really?
“Now, I can talk to people. I can approach them with a smile. The dentures are life-changing.”
Also amazing is Michele’s new attitude toward going to the dentist.
Dr. Bucaj has made her feel so comfortable, she no longer fears her dental appointments.
“I’m so happy,” she says. “I tell everybody with any kind of tooth problem about Dr. Bucaj and Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach. Dr. Bucaj changed my life.”

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    • Dental Implant Center of Vero Beach

      Dentist Al Bucaj, DMD, in Vero Beach, Florida practices a full scope of general and cosmetic dentistry with expertise ranging from porcelain veneers to dental implants, crowns and bridges. Dr. Bucaj can now correct a wide variety of what were... Read More

    • Alfons Bucaj, DMD

      Alfons Bucaj, DMD, is a diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and the American Board of Oral Implantology. He is also an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. Dr. Bucaj graduated from Nova So... Read More