My Experience with Periodontal Disease

June 30, 2017

My Experience with Periodontal Disease

My experience with periodontal disease has been extremely personal and very emotional so I would like to tell my story in the hopes that anyone like me might address this terrible disease instead of hiding from it like I did. From a very early age I was always told how important it was to take good care of your teeth. You see my grandfather, who took care of me every summer, had lost most his teeth when he was very young and wanted me to understand how impactful that was. He would constantly tell me, “Johnny take good care of your teeth so you don’t end up like me.” As a young boy, I brushed my teeth regularly and flossed a few times a week. I was always very proud of my dental regimen and my dentist would tell me that I was doing a great job. When I turned nine my mother took me to get braces and even thought my teeth were healthy, I always had two front teeth that stuck out a little. I remember being so happy about getting my teeth corrected and once again, the importance of healthy teeth was drilled into my head by the orthodontist. He would routinely show me pictures of children that did not take care of their teeth. He would warn me that if I did not brush and use a water pick, all my time with braces would be a waste. From that point on I tried very hard to take good care of my teeth and always thought I was doing a good job. That was until a few years ago, when my dentist noticed what he called a “pocket” in my gums around my back molar. He mentioned that it was something he wanted to keep an eye on but at that time he was not overly concerned about it. After a few years, the pocket was getting worse and he insisted that I visit a periodontist. This is where my story begins to take a darker turn.

I remember that day vividly because I honestly was not prepared for what the periodontist discovered and what he was telling me. He was a very intelligent man but his delivery was very direct. I walked in thinking that I had one area of concern but learned that I was going to lose teeth including several front teeth. The unfortunate part of this interaction, was that the doctor’s delivery of the message was so abrupt that he was almost accusing me of not taking care of my teeth. He also tried to force me into a very expensive contract that I had to sign at that moment if I wanted to stop the “problem”. I was extremely uncomfortable and his combination of forceful sales tactic and almost belittling me, brought back all those childhood fears and feelings of losing my teeth. After all, how could I have been so “stupid”? How could I let my teeth get so bad? Needless to say, I made every excuse not to address my condition and ignored my symptoms. For over four years I worked with my dentist to “keep my disease at bay” but it wasn’t until I started having other heath related issues that I realized how my oral health was connected to my overall health. After experiencing some excessive fatigue, difficulty sleeping and even some heart issues, I decided to talk with my regular doctor. He ran several tests and identified that my body was fighting some sort of infection. He also recommended that I talk with a heart specialist about my chest pain and other symptoms. After working with both doctors, several tests and many conversations they convinced me to visit a periodontist to get an evaluation of my periodontal disease. They both agreed that many of my general health issues seemed to be tied to my periodontal disease. Based on their direction I received a referral to what I thought was going to be another normal periodontist, but I was wrong.

The referral I received was for Taly Dental Specialists and after reading about them online I made an appointment. I had some expectations from their reviews but I was still concerned that this was going to be another visit just like my last one. Imagine me a professional 44-year-old man afraid to go to the dentist!! I was terrified about what was going to happen, what they would find and how was I going to pay for everything?? Well I will tell you, from the moment I walked in to that office I knew I was in someplace special. From the beautifully decorated office to the warm reception as I walked in the door, something was different. I filled out my paperwork, on a computer, and thought, “this was very simple”. Before long I was sitting in a dental chair and Dr. Flores was looking at my teeth and checking their mobility. I could tell that he immediately realized something was wrong but he didn’t abruptly say something like, “wow we have a problem here” like my previous experience, instead he very politely asked if they could take some digital images. I was still a little scared to learn the truth about what damage the disease might be causing but everyone was so nice, that they were putting me at ease. In a few moments, they were taking the images and as the machine was passing back and forth I could not help but realize what incredible technology they had in the office. I’m a bit of a geek and I had never seen so many monitors and computers in a Dental office. I remember thinking to myself, “this is the place I should have come years ago.” In a very short time Dr. Flores and Dr. Huaman were sitting with me in a large conference room reviewing my scans. It was so surreal to see the damage this disease had done to my bone structure in a three-dimensional image on the massive flat screen TV, but unlike my past experience both doctors were so supportive. It was amazing how quickly they formulated a treatment plan that helped me retain as many of my original teeth as possible. It was incredible to be hearing that while I had a few teeth that needed to be removed, most them could be saved. It was right at that point that I started to break down! All those years of carrying around the pain of knowing I was not addressing something that was affecting my health and the guilt of how I could let something like this happen, just overwhelmed me. I honestly started to cry. After several minutes, Dr. Huaman and Dr. Flores began to explain that my condition was not my fault and that there are many people who suffer from the same condition. They even explained that part of my condition might be genetic and I realized genetics might have been why my grandfather had similar issues. They shared several stories of patents and their recovery but what struck me most was how compassionate they were. They were nothing like the other periodontist I had visited. Instead they were gentle and kind. They were concerned and very quickly put me at ease again. As I recovered my composure Dr. Huaman waited for me to take a few deep breaths and we started discussing my treatment options. I think that point was probably the easiest for me because I love anything mechanical, so the discussion about the surgery and the laser treatment fascinated me. I remember feeling like I was about to embark on a journey that would take several months but would all be worth it. After a few more discussions I started asking what this was going to cost me. We left the conference room and Dr. Huaman walked me over to a small office where I met Evy. Up to this point, I thought this was the most compassionate group of people I had ever met, but when I met Evy I realized that this was a person with a huge heart. She is the sweetest, nicest and most understanding person. She sat with me for over an hour and helped me through every single line item, explained every cost and even discussed options for insurance coverage. That day when I left the office, I had the most amazing sense of relief. I felt like I was finally taking the first step toward restoring my life and this new “family” of people were going to help me every step of the way.

My surgeries started in October and everything has been phenomenal. My recovery has been fast and uneventful, my medical insurance has covered more than I ever could have imagined and I feel fantastic. I’m now beginning the restoration process and Dr. Flores has already placed my first implant. It is so exciting to be on the home stretch of this process but the best part is that my general health has drastically improved. I am sleeping better, my heart is doing well, my blood pressure is lower and my fatigue is non-existent. I never knew that something like periodontal disease could cause so many other problems but it’s amazing how great I feel. I know that my story might seem silly to some people, after all how can a grown man be afraid to take care of his dental issues, but I wanted to share it just in case there is someone out there like me that is struggling with this terrible disease. It is so difficult to appreciate how our internal fears can keep us from addressing something so important but I understand. No matter what your fears may be, periodontal disease is very aggressive and it will impact your general health. It is so important that you take care of this disease as soon as you can. If anything can be learned from my story it’s that your fears are just that, fear. If you go to a Periodontist that does not treat you with dignity and respect, don’t let that discourage you. Please know that there are amazing people out there like Dr. Flores and Dr. Huaman. People that have a passion for helping and compassion beyond compare. No matter what, your fear is you must address this disease before it does its damage and if you can find a family like the team at Taley Dental, it will make the process that much better.

Taly Dental, thank you so much for everything you have done for me, my family and especially my little girl who inspired me to finally face my fears.

Thank you from every part of my soul,

John Hickman