A Full Arch Makeover Corrects a Childhood Injury.
Getting hit in the face with a baseball bat will ruin your day, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. I’m proof of that. As a child, I suffered a bruising blow to my teeth during a Little League® baseball game. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my problems weren’t over when I was out of pain. It took me more than 23 years to do something about the dental issues that plagued me during that time. In 2016, I reached out to Arrowhead Dental Laboratory in Sandy, UT, to ensure that one traumatic Saturday morning in my childhood wouldn’t cripple my smile forever.
As a kid, I loved playing baseball. I was just 12 years old when the accident happened. When I leaned in to toss a ball back to the umpire, I didn’t notice that my teammate was practicing his swing with a bat. One of his practice swings landed squarely on my mouth. He just about hit my four front teeth out of the park! Though my teeth weren’t knocked all the way out, they were left dangling. And it was excruciatingly painful.
A Painful Inning
I have wonderful parents but when I was growing up, we didn’t have dental coverage or extra funds for dental surgery or implants. So after the accident, my parents called around and found a dentist who counseled them to put ice on my teeth, shove them back into place, and hold them there. The dentist said, “Those teeth will either stay in place and hold, or they will die and you’ll have to address the problem.”
For the rest of the day, my parents sat next to me as I lay on the couch and held my teeth in place with a wet rag. They took shifts helping me hold them in all day long until everyone went to bed at about 9:00 p.m. When we woke up the next morning my teeth were a bit sensitive, but they stayed in place. Everyone agreed that it seemed like a miracle!
Not Batting A Thousand
Three years later, when I was 15 years old, I had four teeth extracted to make room for the movement of my teeth while I got braces. The orthodontist said, “Because of the traumatic injury to your front teeth, there is going to be some movement and who knows how it will end up?” Luckily, everything progressed normally and I wore braces for two years.
Unfortunately when I was 20 years old, I started noticing some discoloration in my right front tooth (tooth number 9). My dentist confirmed the tooth was dying. I had no money for a new tooth so I just went on with my life and left the tooth untreated.
Two years later, I married my wife, Kristin, and eventually we had four children. But even in our wedding photos, the problems with my teeth were visible. I was unhappy with my teeth, and over time they bothered me more and more.
About eight years after the wedding I had my two front teeth replaced with two crowns. Though it was an improvement, I chose the “bargain basement deal.” I think I spent about $500 on both crowns, which, not surprisingly, didn’t allow me much control over the end product. Two years and four root canals later (including both crowns), the problems with my teeth just seemed to be multiplying.
When I visited another dentist for a second opinion, I discovered that the two crowns apparently hadn’t been installed properly and that my gums had relaxed. For years I bled every morning when I flossed. It was terrible! Every time I went in for cleanings, I would have to remind the dental hygienist to take it easy.
Stepping Up To the Plate
The downward spiral of my teeth might have continued if my sister-in-law, Peggy Nelson, hadn’t offered me some hope. Peggy is the Director of Business Development for Arrowhead. One day, she mentioned that Arrowhead occasionally needs volunteers for continuing education courses. She was trying to find a volunteer for an upcoming Full Arch Reconstruction course, and she asked if I might be interested.
Initially, there were some questions as to whether I would qualify, given my less-than-virgin teeth. When Peggy confirmed that I could be a patient, I thought, ‘I would love that! What a difference it would make!’ Nevertheless I was still a little nervous about the commitment involved in removing all my front teeth. I knew there would be no turning back!
Trusting the Coaches
I’m currently the Director of Operations for Rockville Debt-Free Properties, a small commercial real estate investment company in Sandy, UT, that I helped start ten years ago. Part of my job responsibilities involves meeting daily with clients, and I manage the entire process for completing their transactions.
Clients notice my teeth immediately because I smile a lot. When deciding whether or not to get my smile redone, I decided to take the leap largely so that I could project the best possible image at work.
After making the decision to proceed, I worked with Dr. Jim Downs of Denver, CO, to design a smile. Before the treatment, we discussed my ideal smile in detail. I asked Dr. Downs to build a smile that would be similar to my natural smile. I didn’t want to tinker with the shape too much and it was important for me to maintain a natural color. It was a tall order because I wanted compliments on my smile, but I didn’t want anyone to notice I had done anything.
Still, I deferred to his judgment and expertise. We decided to do a full upper arch reconstruction—all fourteen upper teeth—leaving the back molars in place. I trusted Dr. Downs completely and hoped for the best.
Because of my traumatic injury and complicated dental history, I presented as an atypical patient. But apparently my history only made for a more interesting experience for Dr. Downs and the other dentists who observed the procedure.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect during the first visit, but the procedure went much faster than I anticipated—I think it was less than three or four hours. It didn’t bother me much to have a group of dentists looking at me during the procedure, either. Normally I don’t like being the center of attention, but I tuned it out because I wore goggles and listened to music the entire time. Prior to my appointment, I was a little apprehensive, but my anxiety was not warranted.
Throughout the process the staff was very attentive to my needs. Dr. Downs massaged my jaw and checked several times to make sure that I was okay. His assistant, Ciara Halbleib, was great. She was very kind throughout the process—she even applied ChapStick® to my lips to keep me comfortable.
Once, toward the end of the appointment, the numbing agent began to wear off. When members of the team saw me wincing a little, they immediately added a bit more of the numbing agent. Dr. Downs explained that they try to apply just enough of it to last throughout the procedure so the patient can talk and eat for the rest of the day.
During the prep appointment, Dr. Downs removed the existing crowns in pieces. He was able to preserve the majority of what was left of my two front teeth. He prepped four of the back teeth on a Thursday, then the rest of the teeth the next day in order to make the process more manageable while the entire group observed.
From the moment he put the temporaries on, I felt such a difference. It was a wonderful feeling—especially the removal of the front crowns that had been such disasters.
A couple months later, Dr. Downs placed my permanent crowns during another seminar. Seating the permanent crowns was a good experience and required less endurance than the prep appointments because it didn’t take quite as long. When the final crowns were installed, everyone standing around me clapped in celebration!
Dr. Downs explained that some patients have speech issues after the temporaries or permanent teeth are installed, but I didn’t notice any problems. Nor do I recall any bleeding from the gums when the final crowns were placed. While I was in temporaries, I took my home- care routine very seriously—consistently brushing and using the Waterpik® morning and night. Dr. Downs educated me on the complications that could result from neglected home care and it scared me a little, so I made sure I was practicing good oral hygiene.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t looking for a drastic change in my smile. I didn’t want bright white teeth, and I didn’t want the shape of my smile to be noticeably different. My goal was for all my teeth to match, and to adjust the shapes of the two front crowns that had always bothered me.
Fortunately, the shape of my completed arch conformed nicely with my original smile lines. My orthodontist had already done a good job with the shape of my mouth.
I had no history of headaches or any issues with sleeping or snoring. This was something I was questioned about at length during the consultations prior to my procedure. The last thing I wanted was a negative outcome.
So far, the results have been seamless. Everything feels comfortable—my jaw, the way I chew—everything! I experienced some initial sensitivity to cold until Dr. Downs made a minor adjustment. Several months later, I am experiencing no problems whatsoever.
A Home Run
My new smile really hit the mark. I was so excited to see the final results! As I mentioned, I was somewhat apprehensive at the beginning of the process. I thought, ‘I just want to be careful. I don’t want to do anything that will stand out.’
As the procedure progressed, I became more comfortable with the prospect of change. Once the temporaries were installed I thought, ‘Boy, this looks great!’ The final version of the permanent teeth was even better!
My wife was thrilled with my smile as well. So was my mother. But I hadn’t told anyone else what I was doing. I didn’t necessarily want the world to know what was happening, and I didn’t want to be the center of attention. Still, I received compliments on my teeth from people who thought it was my natural smile. The final result was definitely a home run! The changes were subtle and natural enough to suit my personality and my lifestyle.
Patients considering a full arch reconstruction have no reason to fear this type of procedure. On the contrary, the results greatly exceeded my expectations! A bit of effort is required during the process, particularly with the home-care routine, but anything worthwhile takes some work.
In the past, I might have looked at a family photo and been embarrassed about my teeth, but I love to see myself in photographs now. I feel completely confident when I smile, and I stand tall when I talk with others.
For the past ten years in real estate, I’ve been helping people make a nice return on an investment. Now I’m enjoying the returns from my own personal real estate investment—my new smile.