Feel Like Your Old Self

Repaired smiles result in restored confidence.

As a corpsman in the Navy, Andrew Blackburn attended not only to the members of his ship’s crew that needed medical care, but also to the sick and injured in clinics and hospitals onshore.

Andrew is proud to show ff his new smile.

In the mid-1980s, however, Andrew was injured himself aboard the USS Canisteo, which was based in Norfolk, Virginia. He hurt his back while on duty helping others and underwent multiple back surgeries following his discharge from the service.

“After I got out of the Navy, I worked as a surgeon’s assistant for a few years, but then I developed paralysis in my legs from the surgeries and couldn’t stand,” Andrew recounts. “I also had to have surgery on my neck and ended up with kidney disease from all the medications they gave me.

“In 2010, I applied for Social Security because I couldn’t work anymore due to all my health problems.”

Andrew was still in his 40s when he was forced into retirement, and the thought of being disabled at such a young age caused him to spiral into depression. Adding to his despair was his discontent with the condition of his smile due to lost and failing teeth.

“My father was an autoworker, so I had good dental care growing up,” Andrew relates. “But no one really enforced the flossing procedure, and I ended up with periodontal disease. Over time, I lost a lot of my upper teeth. The bone around the teeth deteriorated from the periodontal disease so my teeth couldn’t stay in.

“I eventually got a removable denture that was held in place by dental implants, but that didn’t work very well and I didn’t wear it. I’m normally very conceited about my looks and like to show off my pearly whites when I smile. But I wasn’t able to do that, so I didn’t smile at all because I was embarrassed.

“I tried to talk and eat without showing that I didn’t have teeth up top, but that’s hard to do. Because of that, I didn’t go out very much and pretty much isolated myself at home. You get depressed when you can’t see yourself the way you want, and I couldn’t see myself the way I wanted without teeth.”

Eating was complicated as well. Many common foods required extraordinary steps for him to ingest them.

“If we had corn on the cob, I had to cut the corn off the cob to consume it,” Andrew describes. “And with no upper teeth, hamburgers and sandwiches were hard to bite, so I cut them up and ate them piece by piece, which was kind of weird in restaurants. People wondered, Why is he cutting up that burger? Normally, people pick them up and eat them, but I couldn’t do that.”

Andrew finally realized he needed a plan to replace his missing teeth and set out to find a dentist. His wife’s co-worker recommended Clark F. Brown Jr., DDS, of Implant Dentistry of Florida, where Dr. Brown and his colleagues, Alejandro Martinez, DMD, and Jordan Robbins, DMD, provide a full range of dental services. They perform cosmetic and general dentistry, as well as all phases of dental implant surgery and smile restoration.

Strong and Aesthetic

“Andrew came to us with problems regarding his upper teeth,” Dr. Brown remembers. “He had two dental implants in his upper jaw with some teeth attached that had broken off, and the remainder of his upper teeth were decayed and not savable.

“To correct those problems, we removed one of the existing dental implants, which was failing. Then, in a single visit, we extracted his remaining upper teeth, placed four additional implants to give him a total of five and fit him with a new upper fixed denture.

“When securing a lower denture, four implants are sufficient. The bone on the upper arch, though, doesn’t have the same density as the bone on the bottom. It’s more porous, so four to six implants are usually needed to secure an upper denture.”

Dental implants are screw-like bodies that are surgically placed into the jawbone to replace the roots of missing teeth. Once the implant is in the jawbone, new bone naturally grows around it to form the foundation for an abutment and replacement teeth.

“I feel like the man I was prior to losing my teeth… My teeth are back to being pearly white, and I can smile with confidence.” -Andrew

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

Prior to placing an implant, some patients require a bone grafting procedure designed 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.

Bone grafts are not always necessary, but with patients who have been missing teeth for many years, a graft is sometimes required because bone mass deteriorates when there is no pressure from chewing to stimulate natural bone regeneration.

Bone grafts are typically done at the time 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.

Renewed Self-Esteem

Andrew was initially given several choices for his new upper denture, including a removable type as he had before and a conventional one that rests on the gum tissue and requires adhesive to keep it in place.

“He chose instead to go with a fixed denture that comes down to the tissue but doesn’t press into it as he bites,” Dr. Brown reports. “It gives him much better chewing ability and a lot more confidence when he smiles.”

The final set of teeth for Andrew was made with TriLor® and eMax®. TriLor is a relatively new carbon-fiber material that is extremely strong but relatively lightweight, and eMax is a porcelain that has a “nice translucency and is very aesthetic,” Dr. Brown details. TriLor is used underneath and screws into the implants, and the eMax is cemented to the TriLor.

“As a result, Andrew has fixed teeth that are strong and aesthetic,” Dr. Brown explains.

“When he came to us, he didn’t have much up top, but when he left, he had a full set of strong, secure upper teeth. That’s important, because people who don’t have a nice smile tend to be self-conscious and don’t smile a lot. But when they get their smile restored, it makes them seem happier to others as well as themselves. That’s what happened with Andrew.”

Andrew says his personality dictated that he get as close to normality as possible or he wouldn’t be comfortable or happy.

“The denture Dr. Brown gave me gets me there,” Andrew reports. “Dr. Brown worked very hard to give me back my smile.”

Driven By Need

In the 1980s, Marcus* possessed a chauffeur’s license but wasn’t satisfied with the work he was doing. So, in the 1990s, he upgraded to a commercial license and began driving a tractor-trailer. He’s been hauling products across the country on and off ever since.

“I travel throughout the United States and Canada driving primarily tankers,” Marcus elaborates. “They’re food-grade trucks, and I generally haul orange juice, apple juice, milk and other products we eat and drink.

“I enjoy my work. I like the challenges of being on the road, and I like the scenery. It’s always different – never the same day twice. And truck driving is a profession I can always fall back on when things happen, such as a pandemic.”

Like Andrew, Marcus enjoyed good dental health for years. Then, about 10 years ago, he began to develop problems. He believes a lack of routine dental care was a major contributor to the breakdown of his oral health.

“My driving schedule doesn’t really allow me to schedule things six months out, which most dentists require for cleaning and filling appointments, so my condition eventually snowballed to the point that I had to do something,” the 58-year-old shares.

“Thankfully, Implant Dentistry of Florida is just down the street from where I live. I also Googled implant dentistry and, of course, their name came right up, so I made an appointment. When I got there, I met with Dr. Martinez.

“In a way, I expected to be rejected as a patient because my teeth needed so much work. I didn’t know to what degree Dr. Martinez would accept me into his care, but he wasn’t afraid to tackle the challenges my teeth posed.”

Marcus’ oral health did present a challenge. When he first met with Dr. Martinez, he had decay and infection along the facial part of his teeth, and his two primary front teeth were severely worn down and broken.

“The good news for him was that he had plenty of tooth structure to save his teeth as opposed to having to extract them,” Dr. Martinez reports. “On most of Marcus’ teeth, we were able to be conservative, to excavate the decay and place fillings.

“Unfortunately, with the amount of tooth loss and decay on the two front teeth, we weren’t able to just patch them up. But we were able to prep them as anchors to support crowns.”

Treating Marcus required a good game plan, which included creating a detailed treatment schedule.

“We determined how much we could accomplish in one day and how much time Marcus would be required to be in the dental chair,”

Dr. Martinez explains. “By doing this, we were able to get as much work done as possible in a single visit.

Single-Visit Smile

“The care plan I received from Implant Dentistry of Florida spanned about 20 visits, but Dr. Martinez knocked out the first six or seven in the first week,” Marcus recounts.

“During my initial appointment, I got a cleaning and quite a few fillings. Then, I received two crowns on my front teeth.”

Technology played a big role in expediting Marcus’ treatment process.

“We have the technology to prep Marcus’ teeth, scan them digitally and then mill his restorations in-house in one day using our CEREC® equipment, which uses computer-
aided design and manufacturing,” Dr. Martinez reports.

“When we’re done with my treatment, I’ll have a whole-mouth makeover. That’s absolutely the goal.” – Marcus

CEREC uses 3D imaging to accurately scan the patient’s mouth. It then designs the restorations, such as the crowns Marcus received, and fabricates them out of solid porcelain in the office in one visit. There’s no need for temporaries or a second visit.

“After a crown is milled, we glaze and fire it, and it crystallizes into a beautiful ceramic restoration,” Dr. Martinez informs. “We cemented the two crowns onto Marcus’ front teeth after we cleaned out the decay and put simple restorative fillings on his other teeth.

“While Marcus’ crowns were milling and being processed in our oven, I focused on the other restorations, so we really optimized his time. After about two hours, Marcus had a beautiful new smile. He was ecstatic to go to work with the confidence of a new smile.”

“The process is amazing,” Marcus asserts. “The facility is set up with a lab and three-dimensional x-rays. And there’s quite an extensive staff that works there. It allows Dr. Martinez to do all the work in-house.”

Marcus’ future treatment involves filling in the gaps in his teeth with permanent restorations. He has opted to have dental implants placed in those areas.

“We plan to use crowns as the restorations over the dental implants once they integrate with the jawbone,” Dr. Martinez states. “Integration takes about three months, after which the implants are stable enough to handle the restorations.”

Revealing Results

Andrew reports that his new upper denture works very well and is very comfortable. He says it makes him feel like his old self.

“I feel like the man I was prior to losing my teeth,” he states. “My wife says I almost look the way I did as a young man, except for the aging in the face. But my teeth are back to being pearly whites, and I can smile with confidence again.

“Not only that, but my denture allows me to chew with no problem. I can eat everything I couldn’t eat before, including sandwiches, burgers, corn, ribs and apples. It actually brought a lot of foods back into my life.”

Marcus is looking forward to the care he’ll be receiving from Dr. Martinez during future visits to Implant Dentistry of Florida.

“Dr. Martinez said there’s some thinning of my jawbone in one location so he’s not comfortable placing an implant there,” the truck driver details. “He suggested putting a bridge there, but placing implants elsewhere shouldn’t be an issue.

“When we’re done with my treatment, I’ll have a whole-mouth makeover.

That’s absolutely the goal.

“Everybody at Implant Dentistry of Florida, from the receptionist at the front door to the intake person to Dr. Martinez, is very friendly and accommodating, especially considering I have such an inflexible schedule,” Marcus adds. “If I say, I would like to spend the next 10 days with you, they make it happen. My experience with them is really good.”

Andrew has battled his depression with the help of professionals who gave him advice for facing life’s difficult times. The advice gave him the desire to seek treatment at Implant Dentistry of Florida, which changed his outlook on life.

“One thing they told me was I didn’t have to accept my teeth the way they were. I could do something about them,” Andrew recalls. “I was able to find the right dentist to get the job done right, and it’s worked out really great for me.

“I haven’t had a depression episode in a few years. Being able to smile makes me feel better about myself.”

©FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Marcus’ before and after images courtesy of Implant Dentistry of Florida. Andrew’s photo is an FHCN file photo. mkb
*Patient’s name changed at his request.
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    • Implant Dentistry of Florida

      Dr. Clark Brown and his team at Implant Dentistry of Florida are committed to providing you with excellent dental care in a warm, comfortable setting. They provide the latest techniques in implant dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and general ... Read More

    • Clark F. Brown, Jr., DDS

      Clark F. Brown, Jr., DDS, is board certified by the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego, and his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Geo... Read More

    • Alejandro Martinez, DMD

      Alejandro Martinez, DMD, graduated cum laude with a degree in Community Health from Utah Valley University and completed his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree at Temple University in 2019. Dr. Martinez is adept in all aspects of general den... Read More

    • Jordan Robbins, DMD

      Jordan Robbins, DMD, earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from University of Florida in Gainesville in 2017. She completed a general practice residency with the Air Force in Colorado in 2018 and served as a dentist in that service br... Read More