Chair-Side Philosophy Eases Dental Anxiety

Dentist creates a beautiful new smile, plus he “caters to chickens.”

Cathy is no longer a “chicken” about going to the dentist.

A Florida native, Cathy Thompson grew up in Orlando, lived for a while in Miami and eventually relocated to New Smyrna Beach. She’s worked as a real estate agent for the past 11 years, a job she thoroughly enjoys. However, her real enthusiasm lies with protecting the sea turtles that nest on the beach.

“This is my 23rd nesting season working with the New Smyrna Beach Marine Turtle Conservancy,” Cathy elaborates. “We call ourselves the Turtle Trackers for short. It’s a group that started in 1984. I happened to see them putting a protective barrier around a turtle nest one day and decided to get involved.

“Before I joined the group, I didn’t know much about sea turtles. But once I got involved, they became one of my passions.”

Cathy, 70, explains that sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 through October 31. The Turtle Trackers drive the 13 miles of beach every morning during that period looking for turtle tracks that may indicate a nest has been built in the sand.

“If we discover a nest, we place a protective barrier around it and watch it closely until the hatchlings emerge,” Cathy describes. “Then we do an excavation, where we carefully dig up and count everything to determine the success of the nest. There’s an average of about 100 eggs in each nest.

“All the information we gather is sent to Volusia County and eventually to the state and federal government. The statistics our group and all the other turtle groups collect are what determine the status of the species, whether it’s threatened, endangered or doing fine.”

Sadly, all five Florida species of sea turtle are listed as threatened or endangered, making the work of the Turtle Trackers critical to their survival.

Cathy’s devotion to protecting the health of sea turtles is exemplary. Unfortunately, she spent years neglecting her own health, particularly her dental health. That disregard was due primarily to a deep-seeded fear of dentists that came back to haunt her a few years ago, when she realized she had some loose teeth that needed attention.

In dire need of a solution, Cathy visited Stephen P. Lester, DDS, a skilled and experienced general and cosmetic dentist at Park Avenue Dentistry in Edgewater. She initially met Dr. Lester at a business expo she sponsored as a Realtor®.

“I really liked Dr. Lester and his philosophy of patient care. He told me, We cater to chickens,” Cathy remembers. “He’s very gentle and kind. His office staff is the same way. Dr. Lester explains everything and is a wonderful dentist. He fit the bill for me, so I called him up and made an appointment.”

Avoiding Horse Teeth

“Cathy originally came to us in 2018 with some loose teeth due to moderate to severe gum disease,” Dr. Lester recalls. “There are several solutions for that. One is to remove the teeth. That’s a cure for gum disease.

“Another solution is traditional gum surgery.”

Dr. Lester offers an alternative to traditional gum surgery at Park Avenue Dentistry: nonsurgical laser gum therapy. It is effective at treating moderate gum disease, so he recommended the therapy for Cathy.

“We performed a combination of procedures on Cathy,” Dr. Lester elaborates. “We extracted several teeth that were hopelessly involved with gum disease. We did the laser therapy on the others.

“Laser gum therapy is much easier for the patient and is not painful. There’s no downtime and no healing discomfort. It’s as easy as getting your teeth cleaned. And it’s much less expensive than traditional gum surgery.”

During the therapy, Dr. Lester uses a special type of laser to access and remove inflamed gum tissue around the tooth root. He also removes tartar and plaque buildup from below and around the gumline. The procedure results in cleaner, healthier, more attractive gums.

“Superior Option”

Happy with the outcome, Cathy recently returned to Dr. Lester when an aging bridge became endangered.

“It was a bridge on the top left side of my mouth,” Cathy details. “It was old and deteriorated, and one day it just fell out and I couldn’t put it back in.”

During a brief examination, Dr. Lester discovered that Cathy could no longer keep the bridge in place because the teeth that were anchoring it had broken.

To correct the problem, Dr. Lester extracted the broken teeth that were anchoring the bridge and replaced them and the bridge with dental implants.

Dental implants are root-shaped, screw-like bodies that are surgically placed into the jawbone. New bone naturally grows around implants to form the foundation for an attachment piece, called an abutment, and the replacement teeth.

Cathy Thompson

The replacement teeth can be a crown that is cemented or screwed onto the abutment, a partial denture that can be affixed to one or more implants, or a full denture that can be fastened to a series of implants.

Some patients require a bone grafting procedure to enhance the volume of the jawbone so it can properly support the implant. The amount of time needed for the bone development is about three months.

“I’m a very satisfied patient.” – Cathy

Patients who have been missing teeth for many years may require a graft because bone mass deteriorates when there is no pressure from chewing to stimulate natural regeneration.

Bone grafts are sometimes done when the implants are seated. The implants then need three to six months to heal to a point where they can support a prosthetic. During the healing period, patients are usually fit with temporary replacement teeth.

“Last fall, we placed two dental implants in Cathy’s upper left jaw,” Dr. Lester reports. “We made a temporary partial denture for her to wear while we waited for the implants to bond with the jawbone. Then in March, we placed the permanent replacement teeth — two crowns — on top of those implants.

“We couldn’t make Cathy another bridge because she no longer has anchoring teeth in the appropriate places. She had to decide between nothing, implants or a removable partial denture. She chose the implants and is very happy with her decision.”

According to Dr. Lester, implants are a good alternative to partial dentures and bridges.

“Dental implants are the closest reproduction to God-given natural teeth that dentistry has been able to create to this point,” the dentist contends. “They look and feel like natural teeth. They chew like natural teeth, brush like teeth and, oftentimes, floss like teeth. But they don’t decay like natural teeth.

They’re a superior option for replacing missing teeth.”

“Just Like Real Teeth”

To date, Cathy has received two implants to replace the teeth that were once anchoring her old bridge. She will soon be fit with two more to replace her other missing teeth.

Unlike Cathy who only needed two implants, pictured above is an example of a major restoration supported by implants.

“I love the implants,” she enthuses. “The restorations Dr. Lester attached are just like real teeth. They look like real teeth; you would never know that they weren’t my natural teeth.

“And I can eat anything I want with them. I have no problems whatsoever. My bridge is long gone, and I didn’t want a partial denture, so I’m a very satisfied patient.”

Cathy is also happy she ran into Dr. Lester at the expo. Because of him, she’s conquered her fear of dentists and no longer neglects her dental health.

“Dr. Lester is very knowledgeable, he’s up to date on all the latest dental techniques, and I love his philosophy of patient care,” Cathy raves. “He told me, We cater to chickens, which he does very well. He’s very gentle and kind, so I don’t avoid the dentist like I used to.

“I love his staff, too. Everyone is kind and gentle just like he is, and instead of working on Fridays, they do continuing education, which I think is great. They’re all awesome, and that’s why I highly recommend Dr. Lester and Park Avenue Dentistry.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb



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