Back in the chair
I’m fully reclined in the leather chair again, staring into the light above as Dr. Derrick Johnson, the nationally regarded specialist in implanting lost teeth, prepares to continue the rebuilding process.
Hard to believe a year has passed since he pulled three of my ailing rear uppers and laid the groundwork for what’s happening today. Yeah, I confess to being a bit nervous, but the man is a wizard with the Novocaine administered slowly in precise amounts to avoid pain.
This time Johnson is doing his thing not where we started almost a year ago at his Mountain Home facility, but rather in a second new Integrated Dentistry office just off Exit 88 in Bentonville. Johnson now travels between that new, blue building and Mountain Home.
I’d written previously that Dr. Johnson and I share a common background in that he was a dental student at Ohio State University during my tenure as director of the Kiplinger Public Affairs Fellowship Reporting Program there between 1989 and 1994.
—————— As promised, I’m keeping readers apprised of my progress in having four upper molars transplanted so at age 70 I can continue to chew until chewing no longer matters.
I figured in the big scheme of life’s finances, there’s not much more critical (or enjoyable) in the declining years than being able to chew one’s food, even if it’s gruel with cheddar. With the popularity of implants on the rise, I decided to hit the retirement account and explain the process for those who decide to have it done. Hearing from the one being treated is the best way to know what it’s like.
This was part three in my saga. It was time to actually place three of the four implants into my upper rear gumline where a bone matrix for months has been slowly adhering to my natural bone. One implant had been placed at the last visit when more bone was added elsewhere, so it was time for the posts for my new teeth to be placed in alignment with those remaining below. Adding bone was much simpler than I’d expected, and I never felt it.
It’s always been a concern of mine that somehow my implanted teeth might not line up with the ones below. Then I’d realize how painfully methodical the doctor had been in his X-rays, scans and visual measurements at every step.
His registered nurse, Monica Schneider, had carefully inserted the IV I’d requested to keep me calm (along with a mask to provide laughing gas I’d always wanted to try, such a sissy man), and once numbed from beneath my cheeks to the back of my upper jaws, Johnson began by marking precisely where and at what angles these would go, all based on his models.
In those areas, he then drilled implants into the newly grown bone before hand-screwing their final turns into ideal position. I felt nothing except some slight pressure. All the while he and Monica were telling me to take deep breaths. Did I need more Novocain? Was I comfy?
I found it interesting as I lay listening to the soft music in such a user-friendly environment that, had I not mistakenly eaten that morning, nurse Monica could have given me IV anesthetic to put me to sleep for the 90-minute process. I’d have awakened not remembering anything, she assured.
Sounded nice. But then how could I explain the process except to tell you I fell asleep and awoke to a done deal? So I opted for the numbing and the experience. It provided opportunity between instruments in my mouth to realize what was happening and throw in a bit of chit-chat: “Been on vacation yet? How long in your new place? Like it better than your Mountain Home office? How ’bout them Hogs?”
When he was satisfied the three latest implants were right where he wanted them, he stitched up the openings while leaving the actual implants in place just beneath the surface. In about four months when the bone has fully solidified around them (lots of bone involved in replacing uppers), he’ll uncover them and attach the new faux rear molars.
I’m wondering what it will be like after a year to have a mouth full of teeth again, you know, actually chew normally. Ah, the seemingly simple things we take for granted when we still have our teeth.
When it was over, dental assistant Hannah helped me to my feet. I took a moment to regain some equilibrium and wonder why they call the stuff laughing gas. I never even chuckled, so I’m renaming it dizzy gas.
The following week, it was back to the Mountain Home office where dental hygienist Bonnie took all of four minutes to remove my stitches without a twinge of discomfort.
Now it’s more waiting for bone to do its thing, probably until sometime in November. Then the doctor will see how solid the implants have become. If they pass muster, Mike’s hopefully magnificent molars will be back in business at age 70.