Choose The Right Path

May 2006

By: Dr. Scott R. Harden

In a sudden panic, John awoke from a deep sleep, fearing all of his teeth had fallen out during the night. John instinctively reached up to feel his teeth and confirmed he was only dreaming, but sadly acknowledged the realization that his teeth truly remained loose because of long-standing gum disease. His subconscious mind was working overtime assessing many factors and sent up a red flag to alert him. John had no idea that his worrisome dream would soon become reality.

John felt very vulnerable as he sat in the dental chair at Fountain View Family Dentistry, awaiting his diagnosis from Dr. Scott Harden. He confessed he has lived with the looming anticipation he would one day loose all his teeth. His father and mother both wore dentures by the age of 35. John’s teeth were extremely crowded, preventing him from ever achieving good oral hygiene. He had never received orthodontics. In fact, his teeth stuck out so far he could not even bring his lips together. A clinical exam revealed John had lost 80 to 95% of his supporting bone and all of his teeth were very loose.

John’s infrequent dental visits as a child carried over into his adult life. He could not remember the last time he had his teeth cleaned. Despite all this, John still remained in denial about really loosing his teeth due to not traveling down the right path in dental care.

Personal choices and experiences throughout our lives greatly influence who we are and how we react to life’s challenges. John had delayed in seeking out dental care and I could relate to how he felt. I recall one particular experience where my father assigned me the task of cutting down about a dozen trees on our property. These trees were 15-20 feet tall, and the roots were tearing up our driveway and sidewalk. Upon returning from work, my father discovered the trees were still there. My poor excuse about being distracted by my friend’s new motor-cross bike, made few points to dissuade him from a long lecture about dependability, whereupon he labeled me a “procrastinator”. This lesson went deeper that the roots of those trees. I vowed never again to delay on things again, and joined the club of over-achievers that day.

John sat prepared for surgery, several weeks after his initial visit. A discussion regarding hopeless teeth and severe infection resulted in a treatment plan designed to remove all of his teeth and replace them with dentures. “I wish I had not waited so long, and that I had more options”, John replied, “but I will be glad to at least get rid of the constant pain and suffering I’ve endured for so long.”

John emerged from surgery feeling as though a heavy weight had been lifted off of him and could not believe how good his new smile looked. “I can even close my lips when I swallow”, he exclaimed.

Life provides many choices that can have a great impact on many things including our own health. Take it upon yourself to choose the path to visiting your dentist regularly and avoid the pitfalls experienced by John.