A Review Two Years in the Making
April 23, 2012. My wife, Pam, had been watching Clear Choice dental implant commercials for more than a year. Doing a product review was not on our minds today–but finding out a few things? Definitely. Specifically, we needed to know:
1. Eligibility. Were her mandibles in good enough shape to accept the titanium screw anchors? Pam had her teeth out, all of them, in 1997. She has osteoporosis. Dentures were no longer working for her–not that they ever worked all that well–but were dental implants even possible?
2. Cost. She’d been in touch with Clear Choice in Tucson, Arizona, off and on over the months. More than once, she attempted to find out some kind of dollar range for this type of procedure. No go. Which meant (it always does in such cases) that despite the ads claiming they kept the costs down, that part was a flat-out lie. They would be expensive.
Just how expensive, we’d find out before the day was over.
3. Specific procedure. What my redhead pictured, I’m not sure. What I pictured, you don’t want to know. Both of us were scared about half spitless whenever we thought about cutting into her tissues again and drilling pilot holes for the anchors.
During the past week, front desk people for Clear Choice kept calling and texting, encouraging the dickens out of their prospective customer. We actually appreciated that a lot. The fear factor was powerful. Having a skilled “reassurance counselor” reeling us in bit by bit was a good thing.
They also sent Pam an initial form to fill out (not the detailed medical history which would come later) and a map to their office. The latter was excellent, no problem getting there. Nervous to the max but determined, my honey made sure we got there 25 minutes ahead of time.
Why so determined?
For the first few years after she had her teeth extracted, she was mostly concerned with aesthetics, i.e., how she looked. But recently, physical health reasons rose to dominate. It became not merely an emotional desire but a need for survival.
Her tissues are both thin and ultra-sensitive. It had gotten to the point that eating anything with more solidity to it than a soy milk shake was painful. When it hurts to eat and your’e anorexic to start with, keeping a reasonable amount of weight on your frame goes from challenging to almost impossible.
The initial consultation included wraparound x-rays and a CT scan. We got to see both, including an onscreen mockup of her facial bones that scared the living Hell out of me. The lower mandible looked solid enough to take a few titanium screw hits; I could see that. But the upper? Looked almighty porous to my layman’s eye.
Plus, the tech confirmed that yes, that black spot was a hole.
However, the dental surgeon, Dr. Keys, was upbeat. How upbeat? Think Amway salesman. One who actually makes money in multilevel marketing. I mean, this guy has all the right diplomas, he indicated there was no problem with her upper mandible, plenty of good bone for the anchors left (though he’d seen some that were, yes, impossibly deteriorated).
Okay. They’ve done a lot of these. Yeah, they make a lot of money at this, no question about it. But that’s a good thing in a way. If customers (I detest the word “patient” and refuse to use it) were getting burned with that much cash on the line (they don’t accept insurance), lawsuits would be accruing. They would be out of business.
Besides, we’re informed that once the implants are in place, four titanium screws in the lower jaw, four in the upper, calcium will begin collecting around those screws, bond the bone to the titanium. So if there’s enough “for starters”, things actually get stronger over time.
Awesome detail: These implants have little hidden set screws. Which allow the “prosthodontist” (cool term, huh?) to change out the choppers at any time without touching the screws or the bones or cutting anything ever again.
Good news right there.
The money: Pam was hugely relieved that she could in fact get the implants. Had her scared half to death she wouldn’t be a candidate, what with her ongoing osteoporosis and all. Now, for the sticker shock. Get ready. Here it comes:
A. If we told ’em to take their money machine and shove it, just paid for the CT scan (which is “free” if you go on with the program): $195.
B. If she had not been a candidate for the upper implants or if we simply didn’t have enough money on tap for the whole shebang, it was possible to get just the lower implants along with a matching denture for the upper. Which would suck, but get this: Even going that route, sticker shock: $22,600.
C. Eyeballs crossed yet? Pam’s were. Metaphorically speaking, anyway. The whole thing, now, upper and lower implants: $42,000.
No, that’s not a misprint. And yes, we’re going to do it. Massive improvement in our income situation since last summer and early fall have made it possible. Risky as the dickens–we’ll have to “borrow” from our Tax Reserves account and hope it can be refilled by year end–but (*shudder*) doable.
So much for paying off the land, or getting kitchen cabinets, or…but if Pam can’t eat, there’s not much need for land or a kitchen. Funeral arrangements, maybe, which we’d just as soon avoid for a few more decades if at all possible.
A couple’s gotta do what a couple’s gotta do.
Do we consider this a ripoff? Oh, you betcha. By half, at least.
On the other hand, we have faith that these overpaid hotshots really are good at what they do, really care about getting good results for their patients, and are pretty much the only (best) game in town for what we need done.
And, as mentioned, Dr. Keys does have a sense of humor. One of the “key selling phrases” Jim (the tech and money man) uses is, “It’s life changing.” He repeated it so often, it reminded me of every used car salesman I’ve ever known–plus a couple of hardcore timeshare condo sales rats. Just as Dr. Keys was leaving the office after our consultation, sticking out his hand for me to shake, Jim said that again: “It’s life changing.”
Looking Dr. Keys in the eye while pumping his hand, I pointed out, “So are serial killers.”
Keys absolutely cracked up…and I figured, “Must be the right guy. He actually got it.”
Pam’s next appointment is three days away, on Thursday, to get started with measuring her “dainty” mouth and all that jazz.
This evening, she and I decided to publish this product review–after her surgery is done.
But we’ll keep journaling the process in the meantime, and add various updates as well.
Internet Research Interlude: April 25, 2012
We go in for Pam’s second appointment tomorrow. I’ve not yet researched Clear Choice dental implants on the Internet. Which you might think I’d have been wise to do prior to the first appointment, but hey. Now, at least, we have a set of unfettered first opinions as a base from which to judge what others have to say, rather than the other way around.
Notes from the day’s research:
1. By far the greatest number of negative evaluations when it comes to Clear Choice…originated from other dentists. Guess what? Those don’t count. Recuse yourself, judge. Call us skeptical, but we never trust comments made about a business by its direct competitors.
2. It took some digging, but I eventually found a number of evaluations by Clear Choice clients who’d actually undergone the implant process. The “worst” came from a lady who’d at first told them (Clear Choice) that she and her husband couldn’t afford the $40,000 cost she was originally quoted.
Let’s explore that one for a bit. The next day, the CC money man called, said his Supervisor had okayed a drop in price to $30,000. At that point, she and her guy decided to go ahead, get the work done…and everything went wrong.
Our thoughts: A. Thankfully, this was in another state, as was every problem experience reported. Pam and I have zero doubt that with a national chain, yes, you’re going to have problems here and there; it’s inevitable. B. Always pay full retail. That’s a maxim passed on by a remarkable marketer in a book I read back druing my hardcore sales days (think multilevel marketing).
3. Roughly half of the reviews (by actual implant recipients) were highly enthusiastic. Some detailed the process, including the fluffy blanket provided along with the comfy recliner in the recovery room after surgery.
4. Clear Choice has a little-advertised program called Star Spangled Smiles. In each city where they have an implant center, one military veteran in need of dental implants is selected to receive the full treatment for free.
Pam and I are both pro-military to the max. Here, we agreed, was one more sign we were dealing with the right people. Overall? Satisfied with what the research had to tell us.
Oh, yeah. Two more tidbits:
5. Clear Choice is BBB (Better Business Bureau) accredited, with zero “closed claims” for the past 3 years. Perhaps there could be an “open claim” still out there somewhere that hasn’t “closed” yet…but the BBB statement looked good to us.
6. It turns out $42,000 for a full set of dental implants is not a ripoff after all. Not if you judge by the rest of what’s out there, and as true believers in a free market economy, that’s definitely what we do.
It’s possible to get the work done for up to 60% less–if you want to have the work done in Costa Rica. Otherwise, the pricing is right there in the middle of the pack.
Okay. We’ll go with that. Feeling much less ripped off.
Second Appointment: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Pam was even more nervous approaching this go-round than she was on Monday. For one thing, she’s still in sticker shock. Plus, thanks to a few mental health issues plus bad experiences back in the day with other dental providers, my redhead’s trust is not always easily earned.
The staff was just as pleasant, courteous, and welcoming as on Day One. With the sale closed, the money man had no need to go into sales mode, so he didn’t. A few questions had to be answered to my wife’s satisfaction before I cut the check:
+ How were they on follow-up needs, say, a bridge problem three years down the road?
+ Could they understand when we told them that where the average person might need a single course of antibiotics, Pam usually needs three, and of higher than average dosage?
+ Could they get the surgery scheduled fairly soon, before Pammie’s fear level built up to the point of chickening out entirely?
The answers were fully satisfactory. Pam went off to have impressions made while I cut the check for $41,000 (plus the $1,000 paid on Monday via debit card). Then I joined her (and the highly skilled impression-taker lady) while they went through the medical history forms I’d filled out for my sweetheart. Line by line, every entry was briefly discussed.
Note: They have a cooler out front, well stocked with bottled water, V-8 juice, etc. There’s also coffee.
When all was squared away, Pam slipped out to stretch her legs and have a smoke–cigarettes being the lone vice she’s never been able to kick entirely, though her intake is down drastically from a few years ago.
There will be two more trips to Tucson before the surgery run. Also, Mary will reserve us a room at the Quality Inn, less than a mile down Oracle Road from the Clear Choice dental implant center, for the night before surgery. They take the cost out of that $42,000 we done went and paid in full up front.
The next appointments as currently set:
1. Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Final measurements taken for making the bridges. These folks have the complete tooth-making lab right in-house. Very cool.
2. Wednesday, June 6, 2012. Try-in teeth. That day, Pam will get to see how they look and also get a sense of how they’re going to fit. It won’t be “perfect” in that the upper will actually be a denture (so it can be “persuaded” to stay in place long enough for Pam to admire it in the mirror).
3. Monday, June 18, 2012. Surgery day. We’ll stay Sunday night at the Quality Inn, reporting to Clear Choice by 7:00 a.m. She’ll be “in surgery” for 3 1/2, maybe 4 hours, something like that. She’ll leave with a full set of teeth that will be replaced with a “permanent” version some months later, after her tissues have fully healed.
4. Thursday, June 28, 2012. First follow-up: Check healing, check bite, discuss homecare.
How was Pam feeling by the time we left? Relieved. Glad she had a few weeks before the next appointment, to gather herself and start psyching herself anew. And tired. Very, very tired.
May 16, 2012
We arrived at the Clear Choice dental implant center more than an hour early for Pam’s appointment, but there was no waiting. At the front desk, Pam was told she’d need to get a blood test…and that the results could mean a delay in her surgery (currently scheduled for June 18).
This freaked my lady out. She’s psyched herself for that date; any delay is too horrifying to contemplate.
But, once explained, the test did make sense. She takes Boniva, one of the bisphosphonate medications designed to slow (and in some cases actually reverse) osteoporotic bone loss. Turns out that the human body can sometimes hang onto bisphosphonates for a really, really long time–and that elevated levels in the bloodstream make dental implant surgery a bit of risky business.
There are other medications that can help lower that level, but it takes time.
Dr. Luis Keys “measured her face” today in order to help craft the dental prostheses (full upper and lower bridges) as precisely as possible. Opportunity: I snapped a whole bunch of before pictures. You won’t see this anywhere else–one, maybe two, rarely three photos–but never a batch like this. Note: The dark dots on the tip of Pam’s nose and the tip of her chin were placed there by Dr. Keys to aid in his measurements.
Pam also picked out a tooth color, left her upper denture with the implant center (temporarily) for reference purposes, and bit down repeatedly on wax “inserts” to aid the prosthesis-making procedure.
Finally, the doctor wrote out the necessary prescriptions Pam will need both prior to and after surgery: Pain meds (duh!), antibiotics (Pam must be premedicated whenever she faces surgery–it’s a lifetime thing with her), a special mouthwash, and one final Rx to help reduce swelling more rapidly than would otherwise be the case.
Only when reviewing the prescription forms did we notice that Dr. Keys not only sports a DDS designation after his name…but an MD as well. We’re liking that!
From there, it was off to the lab to get the blood work done. That went well. My wife is not an easy blood draw, but the lady who stuck her vein did it perfectly, one hit and outa there.
Pam’s BEFORE Photos, Taken May 16, 2012
My redhead had her teeth out in 1997. For the past 15 years, she’s mostly done without–we finally beat a South Dakota dentist about the head and shoulders enough to get her an upper denture that more or less fit her tiny mouth, but the lower was always too big. Today gave me a chance to record her as I’ve known her this past decade and a half.
When Dr. Keys had the wax forms in Pam’s mouth, I told her sincerely, “You’re going to look 20 years younger.” I wasn’t exaggerating; there wasn’t a wrinkle line one left in her face at that point. Could have showed that effect here but wanted to save it for later, after the surgery…for dramatic effect.
In the meantime, we’re not done posting before pics. (You can of course scroll on down if you’re getting bored here.)
June 6, 2012: Try-In
During today’s appointment, called a “try-in”, Pam got the prosthetic teeth in her mouth…sort of. The teeth were real enough, but they were set in relatively soft wax forms. This meant they had to be a lot thicker than the final chomper “gums” would be, so it naturally felt to Pam like she had a set of Bucky Beaver dentures jammed in there.
Adding to that impression was the denture-style upper palate plate. This, also, would not be part of the real deal on surgery day.
Why do the try-in at all, then?
Simple enough: Everybody got to see what the teeth looked like (forget the fake gums for the moment), and it allowed the doctor to check the bite.
Except for noticeable discomfort on Pam’s part when it came to stretching her tiny mouth enough to get the wax monuments in there, it was a relaxing and relatively enjoyable time. Our trust in pretty much the entire staff is high.
June 17, 2012: Crunch Time
On Sunday, the day before Pam had to be at the Clear Choice Dental Implant Center at 7:00 a.m. sharp for her surgery, we once again headed to Tucson. Because of our 3-hour drive to reach their location from home, Clear Choice had booked us a room at the Quality Inn (7411 Oracle Road).
We had it for two nights so Pam could rest a night after surgery before bouncing back south to Cochise County. Two queen size beds, and a smoking room at that. (I haven’t smoked in more than 40 years, but Pam still hasn’t quite managed to quit.)
Glitch #1: It was not a smoking room after all.
Turned out Quality Inn had switched that particular facility over to “No Mercy For Smokers” just two weeks earlier. Smoking rooms were available when Clear Choice booked the room…so we’ll never know. Did the motel folks fail to notify Clear Choice of the change or was the Clear Choice staff too cowardly to give us a Heads Up? No proof either way, but since we’ve come to have faith in the folks at Clear Choice and we did find a liar or two among the motel staff, we choose to blame Quality Inn.
Either way, Pam swiftly decided to make the best of it, and we managed to muddle through on that score until four-something a.m. on June 18, The Big Day, when….
Glitch #2: Pam spied a sizeable cockroach ambling in toward the sitting room from the bedroom, just moseying across the carpet like he owned it. Which he did, apparently–until I grabbed a tissue from the bathroom and finger-smunched him.
Now we had a humongous potential problem. If even one of the bugs hitched a ride home with us later, stowing away in our luggage, Quality Inn will eventually get the credit for the problem at the Border Fort and the bill for whatever it takes to eradicate the nasty things.
There is of course no such thing as “just one cockroach”. By the time we left the motel forever at around 7:30 a.m. on June 19, we’d seen four of them. The first three died; the last one got away.
Wrote a bit about this, using the following photo to illustrate the point.
June 18, 2012: Surgery
Glitch #3: Between us and the Clear Choice folks, we had one definite and temporarily traumatic-as-Hell failure to communicate. We knew Pam would be getting all of the surgery done and her new (temporary) teeth in her mouth before we left…but the details of how that worked were not explained the way they should have been.
Dr. Keys believes with all his heart that all of this was explained properly…and quite likely it was indeed at some point. But when we were told during the try-in appointment that, “It might only take three to four hours for Pam,” we assumed erroneously that they were talking about the entire freaking convoluted complicated terrifying process.
In hindsight, it’s obvious they meant the surgery only…but that’s not the end of it. After the cutting and drilling and post-implanting and stitch-sewing is done, the prosthodontist sits beside the dental chair and does a lot of work to make sure the teeth the customer wears out of the building fit as perfectly as possible.
Then, while the groggy doggy is coming out from under the anesthesia in the Recovery Room, they go to work in their awesome inhouse lab, precisely crafting the upper and lower prostheses. This takes a couple of hours.
Pam and I did not understand all this. We honestly thought they meant she might well be in and out of there in four hours flat.
Imagine the terror in your wife, coming back into the waking world to discover you’re not only bloody and numb but still toothless. I could see the abject terror in Pam’s eyes, hear it in her garbled voice as the panic hit her.
“Where are her teeth?!” I snapped at the poor girl who’d kindly escorted me back to see my sweetheart in the Recovery Room. “We’re not leaving here without her teeth!”
Found out later I’d frightened the young lady badly; she burst into tears the moment she was out of my sight. (One of the other staff members told me later.)
Before the day was done, I’d terrorized a whole bunch of those honest, goodhearted people on different Pam-related subtopics. They’d never seen a man as hyper-protective of a woman as I’d turned out to be. As far as Clear Choice in Tucson is concerned, Ghost is a loose cannon with a lit fuse.
Truth be told, they don’t know the half of it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch–uh, Recovery Room–it took me a couple of minutes to reassure Pam, to get through her anesthesia-induced fog enough to let her understand. She would have her teeth in her mouth when we left, but for now we’d need to stay put, let her keep waking up while the lab fine-tuned her choppers.
She was freezing, cold-cold-cold, which the good Dr. Keys told us was a side effect of the anesthesia, especially with teeny tiny no-body-fat people. There was a space heater going in the room, blankets galore, but she was still cold.
Glitch #4: Turned out the oral surgeon scheduled to do the cutting…could not even fit his fingers inside Pam’s teeny tiny mouth and had to recuse himself from doing the job at all! Fortunately and more than fortunately, the lead dude (Keys) had smaller hands and nimble-fingered the job to perfection, except….
Glitch #5: They didn’t believe Pam needed the massive amount of anesthesia she needed. We’d warned them, but still. She wasn’t quite far enough into the Twilight Zone, flinched, and the doc scratched the outside of her mouth a little bit with the scalpel.
Kudos: He ‘fessed up immediately, told Pam what he’d done. Few I’ve met in the medical profession would do that. Helluva man.
Note: Pam could hear, see (sometimes out of body, hovering, watching) everything that was going on, and respond to commands. The doctor was blown away at how well she did, acknowledged that she’d performed “beyond his expectations”, better than 95% of those who undergo similar procedures. She was even steady on her feet while still under anesthesia, being helped to the bathroom and back after informing them she needed to pee.
Once a world class athlete, always a world class athlete.
June 18, 2:00 p.m.: Teeth
At around 2:00 p.m., Pam was escorted across the hall to get her teeth bolted into her mouth. I waited in the Recovery Room until they told me to come on over, then got to see my honey with her new set…except they were tucked behind her swollen tissues far enough to remain invisible for the moment.
The way they hid the lug nuts (implant set screws) that hold the teeth in place is fascinating. First, a bit of Teflon tape is tucked into each hole atop the set screw. Then a dab of resin is applied, then heat to melt the resin into place.
My guess is that the Teflon tape keeps the resin from gumming up the set screw heads, though I didn’t ask.
The doctor also gave Pam a little retainer of very soft plastic. The retainer sits atop the lower prosthesis and keeps the newly toothed customer from biting his or her tongue while sleeping.
It works, too. Pam tried to go without it once…and bit her tongue before she’d even dropped fully off to sleep.
By the time we got back to the roach-infested Quality Inn at around 3:30 p.m., Pam was far enough out of the anesthesia to be hurting bad. Her pain pills were seriously inadequate–as she’d known they would be–and she was still having difficulty getting me to understand what she said.
Atop the retaining wall behind the motel, however, there was a Welcome Back lizard, just letting us know he was paying attention.
I don’t know the species, but he seemed like a good omen.
UPDATE: April 25, 2013: I know the species now, thanks to A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona, page 75. This is a desert spiny lizard, Sceloporus magister. It eats (get this):
“…ants, beetles, caterpillars, other insects, spiders, centipedes, small lizards, and plants.”
June 19, 2012: Stitches
We slept little that night. By 7:35 a.m. the following morning (June 19), we were back at Clear Choice. We weren’t scheduled, but Pam’s dental implant job had two super-major issues:
Glitch #6: Some of the stitches in her mouth had been left with tag-end tails sticking out far enough to actually gag her. The longest stitch-tail I could see with a flashlight had to be a good half inch at least.
The tech who took Pam back to help her out–which was done immediately–said yeah, that was sloppy. Not dangerous or incompetent or anything, but definitely sloppy. She sheared the tails off flush with the tissues and that was that.
Glitch #7: She also told my lady, “You’ve got swelling inside (including up inside the nose) where I’ve never seen swelling before.” Beyond that, one look in Pam’s eyes made it obvious she was in turbo-pain. Without hesitation, she was given a prescription for an entirely different (and much more effective) pain medication.
Which we filled ten minutes later at Walgreen’s.
Back in Sierra Vista, we stopped at Denny’s. Not that Pam could eat anything solid yet, but Zach (her son) joined us. She wanted to meet up with him, get some hugs and support, show him her new face.
The kickier pain meds had barely taken the edge off; you can see it in the next photo. Yet even under the pain gun like that, face swollen like a balloon at the County Fair, my redhead cheerfully donned her sunglasses and posed for the camera.
Post-Surgery Day One
June 20, 2012: Home
Back at the Border Fort with no witnesses other than her husband and the cats, Pam had little need to fake it today. We’ve got the pain med cycle more or less figured out, the swelling seems to be going down a bit, and there’s no doubt in my mind that her decision to get dental implants will in time turn out to be a very good decision indeed.
But we’re not at that point yet. Today was still plenty tough. She tells me and anyone who will listen that the pain is worse than anything she’s ever undergone in the past–and that includes having all of her teeth yanked at once (15 years ago), being shot in both feet and ankles, shattering a shoulder after bucking off a bronc and landing on a boulder, gall bladder removal, rinoplasty, you name it.
Plus, she now has thrush in her mouth to add injury to injury.
No, we don’t have to call an M.D. about this in the morning. We already had a bottle of Nystatin waiting in the fridge. It takes almost nothing for her to get oral thrush; with people slicing and drilling in there for hours on end, how could she not?
For the moment (but only for the moment) this post will finish with the next photo–a shot of Pam’s obvious misery some 48 hours after surgery. That misery reached its crest at roughly 1:30 p.m. today, half an hour before she was due for her next pain pill. The swelling in her face had peaked, things were pretty awful, and she was ready to warn off any and all readers who might consider having this procedure done in the future.
By this evening, she’d regained a good deal of composure…and she encouraged me to use this particular photo as well as all the others published here. We’re pretty sure nothing like this page has ever hit the Internet–at least we couldn’t find a blow-by-blow illustrated narrative to match it.
“Show them all of it,” she told me. “Maybe it’ll help somebody understand the process better before they make a decision one way or the other.”
Yep. That’s the idea, all right.
Okay. Our Product Review Rating(s) for Clear Choice Dental Implants–specifically the Tucson, Arizona, operation:
1. Cost: A for Astronomical. There’s nothing cheap about this company.
2. Caring: Five Stars. Their concern for Pam’s well being was blazingly obvious from the start. Of course, without that, we’d never have signed up in the first place.
3. Competence: Excellent. These people know what they’re doing–and when they run into something they can’t handle (such as the surgeon whose fingers wouldn’t fit into Pam’s mouth) they admit it up front.
4. Overall Value: Outstanding. Yes, we have a distance to travel yet, including follow up appointments and, in 6 months or so, replacement of Pam’s temporary prostheses with a more permanent set. But I can already see that we’re going to count this a bargain ten years down the road.
Post-Surgery Day Two
Day Three : 72 Hours After Surgery
Noticeable improvement today. Neither swelling nor pain is gone; far from it. But both are noticeably reduced.
Pam calls Clear Choice and speaks to Mary. She (Pam) will need at least one more bottle of Nystatin suspension to combat the oral thrush effectively, which is no problem for the implant center. Those people understand even though Pam is requiring more meds to get through this than any other customer they’ve ever had.
Part of my redhead’s reason for calling is to say, “God bless you people!”
Mary asks, “Don’t you hate us enough to kill us?”
“No! I went 30 years without a smile, 15 without teeth!”
“And nobody could get it right, could they?”
Pam doesn’t leave it there, though. She adds, “The first day after, I did want to loop a rope around my neck and Dr. Keys’ neck and cinch the knot–but no, not now!”
Later in the afternoon, restlessness takes over. We trek on out to the Canyon General, both to pick up a few more foods she might be able to eat and to ease her cabin fever. We’ve only been home for two days, but time doesn’t have much meaning yet. She’s got to get out.
We do find a few things that might work, including a couple of cream soups recommended by an old friend Pam hadn’t seen in decades.
The woman exclaimed in delight, “You’re Pam!” They’d known each other from way back…and she’d also had some dental implant work done. Not a full set, but to a degree she’d been there, done that.
All in all, a good day. Clear Choice personnel continue to respond in friendly and helpful fashion every time Pam calls in with a question or a problem…or even with an explanation of what she’s been through in the past and why I’m as protective of her as I am. At one point, Mary listens with open enthusiasm to Pam’s explanation of how she’s using ice for the swelling. Ice packs per se are something of a challenge, but filling a smoothie shaker with ice and Lemon Mist Natural soda?
Yeah, that works. Cools her from the inside.
She’s got a long way to go yet, but she’s healing at a decent clip so far.
Post-Surgery Day Three
UPDATE: December 27, 2012
The months between the day Pam had surgery in June and the day she got her permanent set of teeth in December were interesting times indeed. It took quite a while for the post-surgery pain to settle down, undoubtedly in part because of Pam herself. My redhead’s many disabilities leave her in pain 24/7…even without major surgical trauma added to the equation. Essentially, her system is so beaten down that she has no endorphins left.
In other words, her situation was hardly typical. Of 100 Clear Choice clients, it seems unlikely even one would be likely to have it as tough as my redhead did.
The dental staff at Clear Choice referenced that when they acknowledged that she has been in many ways the most challenging customer they’ve ever had.
Fortunately, they were up to the challenge. When my wife needed different medication prescriptions than most people would require, Dr. Keys worked with us until he understood the situation clearly and then took care of business. When Pam had questions, they had answers. When the first casting of the final, “permanent” teeth came out slightly on tilt, they went back to their in-house lab and redid the entire set of bridges to get the bite exactly right.
They were even able to come up with teeth small enough to truly fit my lady’s mouth–which is tiny, about the size the average ten year old child possesses. This is a miracle in itself; no other dentist ever came close. Her old dentures are huge compared to the new implants.
So, now that all is said and done…was it worth it?
Yep. We think so, anyway.
Pam’s appearance is dramatically improved. Instead of covering her mouth with her hand, she’s getting frequent compliments on her new smile. Additionally, she’s able to eat pretty much what she wants these days–especially nuts. She’d been craving various nuts for the past 15 no-teeth years. My honey goes nuts over nuts!
Downside: There is one, and it’s doubtful any implant providers–not just Clear Choice, but any of them–are going to tell you about it up front. The problem is this: Basically, the implants work a lot like dentures…except that you can’t take them out to clean them. When pieces of nuts or hamburger (the two worst offenders in my wife’s experience to date) get stuck under there, it’s not a fun time.
It’s not nearly as bad as regular dentures in one way. With dentures, you have the entire roof plate providing a playground for the odd seed or other irritant to play clean-me games. The upper implants are just like the lower ones–horseshoe only, no plate over the palate.
So, what to do when something does get caught under the implants?
Well, for one thing, take your Clear Choice provider seriously when he or she recommends the purchase of a Water Pik. Pam uses hers daily, to good effect.
SUMMARY: I still wouldn’t consider dental implants, not even if some mad dentist held a gun to my head. I’d rather risk a bullet. But for my wife, yes, it has been worth it. Scary, painful, difficult, and still worth it in the end. She’s eating regularly again, which she was not doing before we made the decision to get her the implants. Her weight is back up from a potentially life-threatening 87 pounds to right around 100 pounds, which is within 4 pounds of her ideal weight.
It’s our considered joint opinion that if you are seriously considering implant surgery and can handle the cost, Clear Choice is the only way to go.
The following photo was taken at Denny’s in Benson during the evening of December 10, 2012. Pam was dog tired, sick–she’d snagged a dose of near-pneumonia bronchitis and was on antibiotics at the time–and sporting a hack job on her hair managed by a 20 year old stylist just out of Hair Hacking College…but the teeth look great!
UPDATE: March 1, 2013
Pam’s other health challenges continue, but she’s powerfully satisfied with her Clear Choice implants.
The only thing that still bugs her (understandably) is the fact that she can’t simply take the bridges out like dentures to clean them when food particles get stuck underneath. Her Water Pik gets most items, but not quite everything.
Despite that, however, she wouldn’t be without them. The pain still shows up, just a little, now and then…but these days, she says without hesitation, “I would do it again.”
That’s a pretty potent testimonial, right there.
UPDATE: September 17, 2014. Pam’s Alzheimer’s Disease (not previously mentioned in this post) is progressing enough that more family is rallying ’round, encouraging her to eat (anorexia), helping her sort and organize what had become a “borderline hoarder” bedroom, etc.–but she’s still feisty, still capable of surprising a lot of folks, and still “satisfied enough” with her Clear Choice implants.
Perhaps because of the Alzheimer’s, though–which is known to lower inhibitions so that those who have the disease tend to tell you what they really think–she does complain that they “feel like chalk teeth”. More than anything else, she considers the ads that tout them as feeling like “your own teeth” to be false advertising. And yes, she still gets food particles stuck under them.
But she is not saying, “Let’s get them taken out.” I’m quite certain that if she thought she was going to lose the implants for any reason, she’d absolutely freak.