You might say that I inherited my interest in the dental industry from my mom. While I was growing up, my mom worked for Dr. Henry Cheney, the previous owner of Amesbury Dental Associates in Amesbury, MA, where I now work. My mom began working there just before she found out she was pregnant with me, so I guess you could say I’ve been around the dental industry my entire life. For the past few years, I’ve worked as a front office coordinator for Dr. Brad Fulkerson, who bought the practice from Dr. Cheney in 2018.
“After years of dissatisfaction with my teeth and smile, I took the plunge and got a full arch reconstruction.”
Since I’ve been working in a dental office, I’ve seen many patients sit in the dental chair and have their teeth and their lives changed. Finally, I decided it was my turn. After years of dissatisfaction with my teeth and smile, I took the plunge and got a full arch reconstruction.
Before my treatment, I was self-conscious about my teeth because they were so small. I joked that my teeth looked like toddler teeth because they were so little. I also had a gummy smile-I felt like too much of my gums showed when I smiled widely.
During middle school I got braces, but when they were removed, everything shifted and I ended up with a small diastema. The diastema wasn’t really noticeable to most people, but it was noticeable to me. To compensate for my less-than-ideal smile, I kept my lips together when smiling. When I was in high school, I had crown lengthening done, but my gums were still pretty long compared to my teeth.
Having a complete smile makeover was something that was always in the back of my mind. But before working in a dental office, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. By the time I decided to do something, I had been wanting a change for a long time. I spoke to a periodontist, and he told me that I could do crown lengthening again and suggested that I wouldn’t need anything further. At the time, it was early in my dental career and I didn’t fully understand that other options were available.
Then I started working with Dr. Fulkerson. He often does comprehensive cases in our office and I saw firsthand some of his work. I’d witnessed the difference that dental work can make in a patient’s life. For many people, getting a smile makeover gives them a better overall feeling about themselves. That’s why it can truly be a life-changing procedure. I understand that the term “life-changing” gets thrown around a lot, but I’ve actually seen it happen with our patients.
MAKING THE DECISION
I was nervous about taking such a big step, though. I was afraid that the restorations weren’t going to look natural. And I know that once you make a permanent decision with your teeth, that’s it! There’s no turning back. But while working with Dr. Fulkerson and witnessing the quality work from Arrowhead Dental Laboratory, my anxieties lessened and my confidence grew. Dr. Fulkerson’s confidence that my smile would look natural was also important for me to trust and believe in the process.
After a consultation, we decided to move forward and place crowns on my upper arch-on tooth numbers 5 through 12. We started the process in February of 2018 with diagnostics and a white wax-up. In March of that same year, we did crown lengthening. A year later, we did a touch-up on the crown lengthening with a laser and adjusted the wax-up. Dr. Fulkerson did the full treatment-the crown lengthening and everything else-in his own office. He also did a frenectomy on the upper arch, which was necessary because of how far down my gums were. In April of 2019, he placed the temporaries and I wore my them for about a month. Then in May 2019, he cemented the permanent crowns.
Everybody in our office got involved in my smile makeover. When Dr. Fulkerson showed me the wax-up, all the team members took a look and gave their input about the length and shade of the crowns. It was truly a group effort. It was great to have their interest and involvement in my case.
Even though I had witnessed the process for other patients, I was surprised at how easy it was. Before my smile makeover, I hadn’t really had any significant dental work done. I’d never even had a crown, and the only fillings I had were surface fillings. So, I was nervous having seven crowns and crown lengthening done! In the end, it was surprising how comfortable Dr. Fulkerson made the whole process.
One of the nicest things was how good the doctor was at realizing when I was getting tired in the chair. Dr. Fulkerson was always careful to give me regular breaks from the chair to keep me comfortable-and he does that for all his patients.
“Now when I consult with patients who are considering a big treatment, I understand exactly what they are going through.”
In total, I was in the chair for about 10 hours over three appointments. The crown lengthening took about two hours, the prep for the crowns took about four and a half hours, and seating the permanents took about three hours.
Seeing the final results for the first time was a crazy experience because I looked in the mirror and saw “adult” teeth! When I look at my “before” photos now, I can hardly believe my teeth were so small. Immediately after completing the treatment, I visited my best friend of 30 years, and she couldn’t stop smiling at me. My husband loves them too! I get lots of nice compliments from people all the time. It’s exactly what I wanted.
I would rate the overall experience a 10+ out of 10! I am beyond happy with the results. Like many patients, my only regret is not doing it sooner. But the timing was perfect-I got engaged in December of 2019 and married the following October. So, I had my new smile for my engagement and wedding photos!
ADVICE FOR PATIENTS AND DENTISTS
For patients considering getting a smile makeover, my advice is to make sure you find a doctor you trust. And don’t “cheap out!” You may see advertisements from other offices where they offer restorations for a lower price, but insist on the expertise and craftsmanship that come with a dentist and a dental laboratory you know and trust.
Don’t compromise on quality. Make sure you get restorations that are going to stand the test of time. You’ve invested time, energy, and money into your beautiful smile, and you are trusting a dental team with your continued care as you return for checkups every six months.
My advice for doctors is that you keep your patients well informed during the process. First, make sure patients understand the timeline. It’s important to help patients understand that the process can take anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks if there are no complications, such as crown lengthening, which can extend the process even more.
While some dental practices may advertise a complete procedure in a day, the quality is simply not comparable. With such a process, patients are not getting everything they would from a dentist who can provide outstanding service and quality work when the process isn’t rushed.
Also, be transparent and explain what will happen at each appointment. Explain the wax-up diagnostic and how it helps deliver the best results possible. Then discuss how the temporaries are important in making sure the lab gets everything just right. Open communication helps the patient understand the process and support your work.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
Experiencing a full arch reconstruction myself and gaining a patient’s perspective has been eye-opening for me as a front office coordinator. Now when I consult with patients who are considering a big treatment, I understand exactly what they are going through. I can help present the treatment more effectively because I can directly relate to how they are feeling. My dental procedure was more of an aesthetic fix than a functional one. My bite was perfectly fine and wasn’t adjusted in the process. Still, the procedure has made a huge difference in my life.
Everybody wants to feel good about their smile, especially when you’re in the front office of a dental practice. In my professional role, I know that patients are looking at my smile every day. I am so happy and proud of the results of the procedure! I’m grateful that the process was such a success for me. Now patients and colleagues tell me-some of them on a daily basis-“I want your teeth!” It’s the best compliment ever. I have more self-confidence in everything I do. And I look forward to the future with my confident new smile.