MY EXPERIENCE WITH FULL ARCH RECONSTRUCTION
I was never horribly unhappy with my smile. In fact, some of my good friends said my smile was one of the first things they noticed about me. However, there were some things about my teeth that I wasn’t one hundred percent happy with. For one thing, I felt like I had a gummy smile and was therefore always a little careful when I smiled to place my lips in such a way as to not show too much of my upper gums. Another thing I didn’t like was that my teeth (numbers 7 and 10) weren’t even. A third concern was that my Shimbashi was 8 by 8 (completely square), whereas aesthetically, I knew that the ideal was to have a more rectangular shape. Lastly, I’m a bruxer, so there wasn’t much left to my molars. At different times over the years I had contem- plated having some cosmetic work done to fix some of these issues, but as most people do who are relatively happy with their teeth, I just “brushed” off that idea and lived my life.
However, unexpected serendipitous opportunities sometimes pop into our lives and totally change everything. One afternoon, I was at Arrowhead Dental Laboratory discussing some professional matters with my boss, Kent Garrick. In the middle of the meeting, Kent received a phone call. It was from a patient who had been scheduled to undergo a Full Arch Reconstruction (FAR) the following day, as part of a professional course for dentists. An unexpected conflict had arisen and the patient was no longer able to make the appointment.
Panic is the best word to describe the look on Kent’s face. How were we going to find someone else willing to undergo the procedure on such short notice?
Since by nature I am a problem-solver and enjoy helping out, I instinctively volunteered myself. “I’ll do it,” I told Kent. Yet as soon as I heard those words coming out of my mouth, I instantly regretted it. How could I make such a life-changing decision on a whim?
The rest of that day was a whirlwind. I was immediately rushed off to start the process. I spent the afternoon getting impressions and photos taken of my teeth. The crew then began working on my White Wax-Up (WWU), in order to have everything ready for the next morning. With each step of the process, I felt more and more committed. My hands were sweating and my stomach felt a little queasy. I knew that even if I wanted to back out of it, it would be both very awkward and very difficult. What had I done?
That evening was probably one of the longest and most emotional of my life, next to the birth of my son. This decision would truly alter the way my life would proceed from that point on. I spoke with my best friend about it and he emphatically argued against me having the procedure. He adored my smile. Why change it? He spent 20 minutes on the phone trying to talk me out of it. My mind was spinning and I hardly slept that night. I had at least one or two anxiety attacks in the middle of the night and when I did drift off to sleep, I woke up crying a few times. How could I have gotten myself into this situation?
The next morning, bright and early, I found myself in the dentist’s chair. I planned to meet with Dr. Downs, someone who I had grown to respect and admire over the years as an Arrowhead employee. I knew he was exceptionally talented and one of the best dentists in the industry, so even though I still felt panicky, I had a sense of comfort in knowing that Dr. Downs would be doing my Full Arch Reconstruction.
During the initial session, Dr. Downs went over every single detail of my case: every tooth, every crack, everything! My teeth were essentially a complete mess and I hadn’t even realized it. I had fractures up and down most of my anterior teeth. A crown was leaking. My molars were approaching a complete demise because of my bruxing issue. It was a matter of time before I would need to get most of my upper arch crowned anyway. Never in all my years of dental visits had I ever experienced such a thorough exam. No previous dentist had ever examined every detail of my teeth and explained how and why things happened and what I could expect if I avoided taking care of the problems.
I felt a great sense of peace after meeting with Dr. Downs. My mind was at ease and I felt a calming wave flow over me. I felt one hundred percent better and knew that I was making the right choice. I was looking forward to fixing the underlying problems, having proper function of my teeth and of course, correcting my initial gripe—my gummy smile.
Everything else that day went as scheduled. My prep went great. It was, however, a little nerve-wracking being worked on with 15 to 20 dentists hovering over me to watch the process, but I survived. Within a few short hours, I was completely prepped and my temps were on. I had a new smile. My temps took a little getting used to. They opened my bite about 2mm. But I didn’t have any complaints about them. They really did look beautiful and no one could believe they were only temps.
I had temps for about three months—a little longer than most patients because I was a seat patient for my permanents during a later course. In the interim, I met with a lot of clients as part of my regular routine. I received so many compliments on my new smile and my teeth—and they were just the temps!
When I was seated for my permanents a few months later,I was ecstatic with the results. Looking in the mirror at my smile for the first time, I was totally taken aback. I couldn’t believe w hat I saw. The permanents looked exactly like my originals did,only better. My teeth, especially numbers 7 and 10, were the appropriate size. My molars were no longer worn away. The translucency and texture of the teeth looked completely natural.So much so, the doctors who I work with couldn’t tell I had new crowns. I was amazed! And finally . . . the gumminess of my smile was gone. I couldn’t have been happier.
Today, when I smile, it’s with absolute confidence and no concern about any aspect of my teeth or my gums. A day doesn’t go by without someone saying, “You have the most beautiful teeth.” Even my best friend, who was originally against it, has warmed up to my new, improved smile.
Even though some of the initial decision-making process was difficult for me, I’m so glad I volunteered for this experience. Now, I can totally relate to patients who are having the same types of concerns. When I meet with dentists, I can give them firsthand details of what it’s like to get a full arch reconstruction and all of the feelings that go along with it. I can tell them with absolute certainty that I’m glad I did it and I wouldn’t trade my new smile for anything.
COVER STORY CREATIVE TEAM
Aesthetic Dentistry: Dr. Jim Downs, Denver, CO
Porcelain restorations: Ben Biggers, Arrowhead Dental Laboratory, Sandy, UT
Photography: Justin Grant, JustinGrantPhotography.com
Hair and Make-up: Melinda Johnson, Salt Lake City, UT