Building Bridge Support
“I always liked my smile, and now I’ll have it forever.” – Noah

“I always liked my smile, and now I’ll have it forever.” – Noah

A dental splint secures shifting front teeth and saves a smile.

Noah Bigman sought an occupation that would facilitate giving back to his community. He considered several professions and ultimately settled on a career in the medical field.

“I served as a registered nurse, primarily in the hospital setting, for 10 years,” shares Noah, 40. “I recently decided to further my career, so I went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. To do that, you need to get a master’s degree in nursing. While going to school, I worked at a home health agency in Volusia.”

Once Noah received his advanced degree and completed the required clinical experience, he began working as a family medicine nurse practitioner. 

“As part of my job, I manage patients with acute and chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and hyperlipidemia, which is a high level of fats, or lipids, in the blood,” Noah describes. 

“For children, I treat coughs and colds, manage vaccinations and provide care for everything in between. Nothing I’ve done before has given me the satisfaction of giving back to my community that I get from being a nurse.”

Noah is as devoted to caring for himself as he is others. He’s always taken especially good care of his teeth, which is why he was shocked to hear a dentist tell him several years ago that he needed thousands of dollars’ worth of work done.

“I only went in for a cleaning and this dentist told me that my teeth were in terrible shape, were full of cavities and needed a lot of work,” Noah recalls. “I was really upset because I thought my teeth were fine. He had me thinking I was doing something wrong.”

Before committing to the extensive treatment plan, Noah sought a second opinion at Park Avenue Dentistry, the Edgewater practice of Stephen P. Lester, DDS.

“Dr. Lester has an excellent reputation as the best dentist in east Volusia,” Noah reports. “I thought, Let’s give him a shot. The first thing Dr. Lester did was arrange for a cleaning and take some x-rays. After looking at the x-rays, he said there was nothing wrong with my teeth and that I didn’t have any cavities, which was a huge relief.

“While I was there, though, I mentioned one thing about my teeth that had been concerning me. I told Dr. Lester that even though I previously wore braces and had twice used Invisalign® aligners to keep my teeth straight, my front teeth were still moving.”

Virtually Indestructible

There are several reasons teeth move, Dr. Lester contends. The movement may be due to the individual’s habits when sleeping. Many people grind or clench their teeth at night, which can cause the teeth to shift. Or, it may have to do with their bite. Sometimes, the cause is unknown.

“In some cases, teeth just shift on their own,” the dentist observes. “The upper front teeth don’t have much support to keep them in place. The lip pushes back and the tongue pushes forward. They may drift from side to side because there’s only a tiny edge where two adjacent upper teeth touch.

“Back teeth are essentially square and don’t drift front and back because they’re held in place by other big square teeth. Front teeth are shovel shaped, so they don’t have that advantage.”

Dr. Lester first suggested that the movement in Noah’s teeth could be stabilized by a bonded retainer, a type of metal retainer wire that is attached to the back of the teeth. But Noah chose to reject this option.

So, to keep Noah’s teeth from moving, Dr. Lester created a type of bridge called a splint. It involves placing crowns on Noah’s upper front teeth and hooking the crowns together so they’re actually one fixture. Held together as a single unit, the teeth cannot move.

“Noah liked the size and shape of his teeth and wanted to maintain their appearance,” Dr. Lester notes. “We created the splint to look like his teeth looked before we treated him, so there were no actual cosmetic changes. It was more of a mechanical procedure.”

“I was happy with my smile and wanted to keep it,” Noah confirms. “I just didn’t want my teeth to move because I was in a cycle of needing braces every couple of years. With the splint, Dr. Lester was able to do something minimally invasive to keep my teeth from moving.” 

Noah’s bridge was made of zirconia, a newer material for dental restorations. Derived from the element zirconium, zirconia is a porcelain made from zirconium dioxide that is very durable.

“It’s virtually indestructible,” Dr. Lester assures. “As a test, I once placed a zirconia crown sharp side down on our wooden kitchen table and struck it with a three-pound hammer. The impact simply drove the crown into the table like a nail. The crown wasn’t damaged. That’s how strong zirconia is.

“People who clench their teeth at night, and you can really clench hard when you’re asleep, will not break restorations made of zirconia, whereas some of the other dental porcelains might fracture.”

Dr. Lester’s aim when creating Noah’s splint was to maintain the size, shape and color of Noah’s natural teeth. According to Noah, Dr. Lester achieved that goal.

“My teeth look exactly the same as they did before. Nobody can tell anything is different,” Noah enthuses. “The crowns in the splint were based on my old teeth, but they won’t move like my old teeth. I always liked my smile, and now I’ll have it forever.”

Being a nurse practitioner, Noah holds members of the medical field to very high standards. In his opinion, Dr. Lester exceeds those benchmarks. 

“Dr. Lester is more than knowledgeable. He’s an expert, the top 1 percent of dentists out there,” Noah praises. “They don’t make dentists like him anymore. He’s definitely old school. He sits down and communicates with you rather that just tells you what you have to do. I’ve never encountered that in a dentist before, and I really appreciate it. I recommend Dr. Lester and Park Avenue Dentistry without reservation.”

© FHCN staff article. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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