By: Jean Johnson for Dental1
Click here to read an interview with Dr. McAndrew
Janice Orlik has only had her dental implants since April 2006, but she’s already a believer. “Three days after the surgery I was eating chicken salad and pasta,” said the 51-year-old grandmother who lives in Maryland. “And the difference in my appearance has been miraculous. I had people come up and say, ‘What did you do? Have a makeover?’
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Stay involved in the process from beginning to end.
Take your time choosing the dental professional that is right for you.
Consider all aspects before making your choice. This includes – office location, office environment, how you feel about the office staff and if you feel comfortable with the clinician.
Be sure to ask questions along the way if you're unsure about anything.
Don't be afraid to ask for a mirror to check out the situation in your mouth (if you're up to it). This can go a long way toward feeling empowered and understanding what your clinician is repairing and restoring.
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“For myself, I have noticed that the lines that were forming around my mouth because of the huge overbite are disappearing. It’s made a big difference in my whole appearance, and I do look a lot younger. People are amazed that I am a grandmother and say I look like I’m in my 40s. It’s one of the best things I have ever done. Just amazing.”
The road to her dental problems started years ago – the result of the less advanced dental care available in her youth. “Back then you went to the dentist if you had a toothache, and if your teeth didn’t bother you, then everything must have been OK,” said Orlik.
“There was no flossing. Plus all the horror stories of pulling a tooth with the leg up on the chair. Those kinds of experiences are traumatic, and you don’t want to go back after that. Thank goodness the old days of dentistry are gone. Now they make it painless, so if you can get over the sound of the drill, you’re OK.”
Coming of age in an era not known for its dental prowess was only part of Orlik’s problem with her teeth, though. Family genetics played a significant role. “I lost a tooth with every pregnancy, and I had a lot of broken and decayed teeth on my uppers where I had this implant work done. Both my sisters have the exact same teeth, and my mother had her teeth removed when she was in her 40s. My mouth was basically an odd shape – kind of deformed. Normal is a half moon, but mine was more like a horseshoe.”
For years dentists had told Orlik she had little hope but to become a toothless old woman. “The shape of my mouth – there wasn’t a whole lot they could do. I wouldn’t have even been able to hold dentures with the original shape because I had thick bone in the roof of my mouth.”
But one day last year when she was visiting with her regular dentist about what could be done, the clinician said, “I have the perfect person for you to see.
“It was so great,” said Orlik. “There was none of that referral thing where you take a number and make a call. Instead she walked me right over to Karen McAndrew’s office and asked her to talk to me.
“I liked Karen from the get go. She was straight forward and up front, and she talked in a soothing voice, giving me various options including the one she suggested: That I was a good candidate for teeth in an hour. I felt very confident going with what she thought was the best approach,” she said. “She really was the sweetest. Nobody likes going to the dentist, but her approach was ‘Why wouldn’t you like to come here?’ Also she treated you more like a friend than a patient. I really appreciated that.
“The other thing was that I was fortunate because my husband was right there pushing me all the way. ‘Don’t worry about the costs,’ he’d say. “I don’t care how much this costs. You need to have it done.’”
Orlik’s lower teeth are in good enough shape that only a single implant will be needed at some point in the future. So this recent ‘teeth in an hour’ work focused on her upper mouth – first removing the teeth that were still rooted, then doing some bone grafting and a sinus lift, and finally placing implants and a fixed denture.
“Doing it this way with the teeth in an hour, I didn’t have to go through waiting to heal between the implant placement and when they put the teeth in,” said Orlik. “What I had done was extracting the teeth in August 2005, and they gave me a prosthesis to wear while I was waiting to heal. We could have done the next work in December, but since my teeth came from Sweden where implants were invented, we had to wait until early April. I had the entire top done. Instead of placing each tooth individually, they put a whole fused set of teeth in. They are permanent and imbedded in your mouth – not removable which is really nice.”
As far as worries over the procedure, Orlik confessed, “It was scary. They’re going to drill into my bone, I thought. Like OK, but I didn’t know anything about implants – not that I’d heard any horror stories, but I just didn’t know.”
Orlik says that McAndrew explained everything that would take place, but she still logged onto the Internet to see what she could find out. “Ironically it was two weeks before I had the implant surgery that I was able to go online and actually watch a surgery taking place. It was kind of neat and helped relieve me of all that apprehension because after seeing the procedure, I knew what they would be doing and why each step was necessary.
“In my case they had to do some bone grafting. They took bone away from the front where I had an overbite and used that to thicken the sides. I also had a sinus lift and had no problems at all. I had them put me out with an IV, unlike when I had the implants done – I just took the pill and was out of it but aware of everything that was going on.”
As far as pain in the aftermath, Orlik says she managed it with nothing more than a single Ibuprofen daily. “The first couple weeks were kind of like my mouth knew there was something in there that shouldn’t be there. I had a lot of throbbing but they said that was normal.”
The main thing now though, says Orlik, is that she feels like a new woman with many good years ahead of her. “I’m not afraid to smile anymore or afraid to laugh. Before if I would laugh, I was one of those people who would cover their mouth. But now I love the appearance of my teeth. Everybody says ‘gosh, they look so natural.’
“It’s great because we’re not aging as quickly as our parent’s generation did and we will do anything to try and keep that youthful look.”
As far as function goes, Orlik is nothing short of stunned. “Right now I am taking it easy while things heal, but the surgeon that Karen McAndrew worked with said ‘In seven to eight weeks I will have you biting into an apple – and not a cut apple, actually biting right into an apple.’ He said the same about carrots. ‘You’ll be biting into a carrot and I don’t mean from the little end, I mean from the big end.’”
Very excellent news. Of course, nothing comes without a price – not only the cost of the procedure but also new oral care habits.
“Yes, you know, the flossing in between because I have to get up and under the implants. And if I’m munching on something, I’ll go up stairs and brush right away. I would have never done that before, but now if something’s stuck between my teeth there’s no fiddling around with your tongue the way you do. It’s upstairs to get the floss and get it out.
“So this has really made a big a difference in my oral hygiene, but I’m glad to take care of these teeth. They’ve made such a wonderful difference in my life already. It really is amazing,” Orlik said.