Get It Straight

Clear braces broaden smile, alleviate jaw pain and headaches.

A former commercial real estate appraiser, Christine Skurka, 56, is now in her fifth year as a commercial real estate broker and developer.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Christine enhanced her smile with Invisalign clear braces.

In that ultra-competitive world, Christine is a power broker. She even has the hardware to prove it. It’s a sleek glass trophy awarded by the nation’s top commercial real-estate information provider.

“It’s called the CoStar Power Broker Award, and our office won it for being the top leasing broker on the Treasure Coast last year,” Christine explains. “We obviously did really well, and this year is looking even better.”

Also looking better is Christine’s smile. Christine had an ongoing dental problem that developed way back in her youth.

The problem stemmed in part from the premature removal of a space maintainer, which is an appliance that keeps two teeth apart so that a permanent tooth can grow naturally into the space between the separated teeth.

The early removal of that appliance during Christine’s youth prompted the new tooth – a lower right premolar – to grow inward toward the tongue. That odd growth wound up causing Christine a lot of agony during her adult years.

“You couldn’t see that tooth when I smiled, so my smile always looked okay,” Christine reports. “But I’m a grinder, and because that tooth never grew in right, I always grinded on it, and that caused a lot of problems.”

Those problems included an incessantly sore jaw and headaches, but it wasn’t until well after Christine moved from Fort Lauderdale to the Treasure Coast in 2003 that she found a dentist who suggested a fix for the problem.

“I really liked the dentist I had in Fort Lauderdale, so for years, I just commuted back and forth whenever I needed a check-up,” Christine recalls. “I eventually tried some dentists in this area, but I never liked them as much.

“Then a client of mine who I had leased a space to in the building right next to this one dentist’s office suggested I go see the dentist occupying the building next door. He told me, You really need to go see him, so eventually, I did.”

The dentist Christine was referred to is Stephen G. Blank, DDS, who practices cosmetic and functional dentistry in Port St. Lucie, where he embraces leading-edge technologies as part of his commitment to providing the best care possible for his patients.

Though she initially visited Dr. Blank for a routine exam and cleaning, Christine also mentioned the problems she’d long had with jaw pain and headaches. Dr. Blank identified the misaligned tooth as the culprit and suggested Invisalign® clear aligners as a fix.

Clear As Day

Like metal braces, Invisalign straightens crooked teeth, but they do so through the use of a series of transparent plastic aligners that are virtually invisible. The aligners are also removable for easy care.

Treatment starts with the dentist performing a modern scan of the patient’s teeth, which eliminates the need for gooey impressions. The scans are then uploaded to Invisalign, who fabricates the aligners to meet the doctor’s prescription for each individual patient.

Each plastic aligner is designed to be worn day and night for approximately two weeks, but patients are advised to take them out when eating, drinking or brushing their teeth. At the end of each two-week period, the aligners are changed out for a new pair.

The length of time a patient needs to wear and continue changing out the clear aligners depends on how misaligned their teeth are. Some need to wear the aligners for only six months. Others may need to wear them for as long as two years.

“It was a very smooth process, and Dr. Blank did a great job. He’s a perfectionist, which is good . . .” – Christine

The great degree to which her premolar was misaligned required Christine to wear her clear aligners for more than a year. Christine says the investment in time was worth it because it alleviated her jaw pain and headaches.

“I actually started noticing a difference with my jaw and the grinding after a very short period of time,” Christine relates. “We did have a hard time getting that one little tooth to move. It didn’t move quickly. But we eventually got it where it needs to be.”

Christine is now wearing Vivera® retainers that are designed to keep her teeth from moving back to the position they were in before she began the treatment. She said her entire experience with clear aligners was a positive one.

“It was a very smooth process, and Dr. Blank did a great job,” Christine enthuses. “He’s a perfectionist, which is good, because there was a point where I thought we were done because everything looked great.

“But he said, No, I want you to do a few more aligners and then we’ll be done. I’m glad we did because my smile looks really good now. That’s one of the reasons I’ve already recommended Dr. Blank to a couple of friends.

“That and the fact that he really takes his time with you. Your time with him is your time, and you never feel like you’re being rushed. That’s the way it is with the whole staff. They’re all great. They really are.”


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    • Stephen G. Blank, DDS office

      Stephen G. Blank, DDS, is a 1982 graduate of Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago. He has since completed intensive continuing education studies. Dr. Blank has studied temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders under Mark Piper, MD, D... Read More

    • Stephen G. Blank, DDS

      Stephen G. Blank, DDS, is a 1982 graduate of Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago. He has since completed intensive continuing education studies. Dr. Blank has studied TMJ under Mark Piper, MD, DMD, at the Piper Education and Resea... Read More