In recent years, deployment of our troops to the Middle East has been a common occurrence. Often times we hear about the casualties of war, but too often, the episodes of day to day combat are often left unspoken, yet not without its consequences. Many of our troops return safely and unharmed, but not all. Too frequently, we hear of soldiers who are bombarded by small arms fire and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) while along routine patrols. Broken bones will usually heal quite well, but head traumas, a common injury resultant of IEDs, can have a lifelong effect. Not only can there be permanent brain damage, physical impairment, and PTSD, but also these soldiers are usually medically discharged and left to find careers outside of the military. This can be devastating for those who, from the time they were a youngster, only wanted to be a soldier.
Enter Michael. Originally from Indiana, Michael was an E1 when he served his first deployment to Iraq in 2006. There he was hit by IED’s and a white phosphorus grenade and also encountered countless small arms engagements while on reconnaissance missions. Michael survived those injuries only to again be deployed, this time, to Afghanistan in 2009. Again he suffered injuries from a vehicle rollover; a head injury resulting in trauma to his brain. Michael suffered a head injury, and trauma to his brain again. Michael received excellent treatment by doctors at Ft. Carson, but in 2013 he was medically discharged.
Prior to his discharge Michael was referred to me for treatment of sleep apnea…..and that’s how we met. After his discharge, Michael has continued to treat in our office, and with other health professionals, slowly improving his health. During Michael’s military career in the infantry he spent some time as a medic and enjoyed his experience. After much observation and further discussion, Michael joined our practice as a dental assistant in training; and has started a new career in dentistry. Michael has come a long way in the past six months, learning procedures that most dental assistants never experience. But most of all, he has seen how quality dentistry can change peoples’ lives and how important a healthy smile is to a strong self-esteem. Thus, Michael has decided to not only change his career, but change his life….over the next few weeks, we will be doing a major functional and cosmetic makeover for Michael and he has agreed to not only allow me to tell his story, but also to document the process of changing his smile….and changing his life.
The Beginning…diagnosis and treatment planning
Our first appointment is to collect information about Michael’s overall health, including his oral health. This includes a thorough health history, oral cancer screening, a gum survey, a complete set of x-rays and in Michael’s case a 3-D CAT scan to evaluate his jaw bone for implants and healthy jaw joint function. With this information, Michael and I, together, determine what he would like to achieve in his smile and the level of oral health he would like to obtain. Michael has decided he would not only like to have a great smile, but also, he would like to replace missing back teeth to maximize his function. This, then, will involve a complete rehabilitation of his mouth.
The next step is impressions of his teeth, taken to make stone models of his smile. The stone models are then mounted on a jaw simulator to represent Michaels’ existing bite. Then the teeth on the stone model are modified with wax to create Michael’s new smile and ideal function bite. This is called a diagnostic wax-up and is the first step in giving Michael a new smile
A very important tool in creating a new smile for Michael will be a complete series of before photos of Michael’s smile from different angles, as well as his facial contours. Michael will then get to see his new smile on the waxed models, before starting any permanent changes. In many cases we can make acrylic temporaries of the waxed simulation to overlay on the existing teeth to give the patient a more exact preview of their new smile. This is called a mock-up. Once Michael approves the diagnostic wax-up, we’re ready to get started.
We’ll be documenting Michael’s progress on our website and our Facebook site. The next step will encompass a series of appointments to do the treatment. As we progress, we will show video and photos of Michael’s progression as we complete his rehabilitation.
See our video interview of Michael and his progress towards his rehabilitation on our website at RotaDental.com
Also see the finish in the winter issue of Colorado Springs Living Well Magazine.