By Jacob Moss
On November 3, 2014, I completed my dental implant process. For the first time in my life I had a “permanent” set of teeth.
As a 23-year-old man with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, permanent teeth had always been an abstract concept to me. The process was long and, at times, difficult; but now I’m done. It is a strange feeling being done. Although I started the actual implant process five years ago, it was really 23 years in the making.
Growing up, my dental situation was, for lack of a better term, inconsistent. I was born with eight teeth.
Through the years I had various bonding procedures to correct their conical shape and I had braces to close gaps. But all the braces in the world can’t close all the gaps if you’re working with only eight teeth. I was never overly self-conscious about my teeth. Growing up, I was more aware of my lack of hair than my lack of teeth. I ate what I wanted to eat and most of the time didn’t think twice about it.
As I got older, I realized that I would most likely have to have dental implants. The thought of implants scared me. I was probably only 12 or 13 and the idea of having titanium screws implanted in my face was less than appealing. I didn’t like talking or thinking about implants. And, for the most part, my parents respected that and kept the topic of implants on the back burner until it was actually time to discuss them seriously.
During my senior year of high school, I began the process that eventually led to my implants. I was scared and didn’t see why I had to even consider changing my teeth. As I said before, I could eat what I wanted and wasn’t too concerned about my appearance.
I began consulting with a dentist who, much to my relief, proposed a treatment plan that did not involve dental implants at all. Instead, he suggested a permanent bridge, something that would be cemented onto my existing teeth. I was relieved. No implants meant no drawn out painful process.
The feeling of relief was short lived. In the following months, I received a crash course in questionable dentistry. The temporary bridges my doctor made for me often came loose, exposing my extremely sensitive teeth, which he had ground down without warning or novacaine.
I was frustrated, in pain and constantly living with anxiety that the temporary bridge may fall out at any moment. Fortunately, my negative experience with him was greatly outweighed by the overwhelmingly positive experience I had with my second doctor, Harel Simon.
My parents were referred to Dr. Simon by the pediatric dentist who took over my original dentist’s practice when he retired. His entire approach to dentistry was the polar opposite of my previous doctor. My first appointment with him he strongly recommended going the implant route. The roots of my natural teeth were very weak and the bridges the previous doctor outfitted me with were heavy. Eventually everything would quite literally fall apart.
Right off the bat, Dr. Simon encouraged me to voice any and all concerns I had as well as to ask as many questions as I could think of. I knew this guy for 15 minutes and he’d already made me feel more comfortable than the doctor before ever had.
As surprising as it sounds, I am grateful I had my negative experience with the previous doctor. It forced me to grow up a lot and stand up for myself in a way I never had before. Rather than jumping into a new treatment plan without explanation, Dr. Simon explained everything in great detail and addressed all the questions and concerns I had. Soon afterwards we decided to proceed with a new treatment plan that included implants.
To call my new treatment plan extensive would be putting it lightly. The end game was full upper and lower bridges fixed to a total of ten implants. The length and nature of the treatment plan became a strong deciding factor for where I chose to attend college.
Fortunately, my first choice school was also the closest to Los Angeles. My close proximity to home would allow me to continue my treatment while attending school. I was about to simultaneously embark on two of the most daunting journeys I had ever faced. I was nervous but at least now I had a doctor I trusted and treatment plan that I understood.
TO BE CONTINUED…