For 63-year-old Janet, life is all about grandkids, family, enjoying Bend, flossing her teeth and making pretty things for people going through hard times. Unfortunately, a few years back, she fell upon her own hard time when cancer entered the mix.
Prior to her diagnosis, Janet was planning a much anticipated dental facelift with Dr. Kelley Mingus to restore her bite back to what it was in her 20s. A missing front tooth led to a previous implant procedure that went wrong. And her jaw was experiencing the sunken appearance that occurs naturally with aging and bone loss. Having worked in the dental field her entire professional career, Janet knows the importance of a solid, balanced bite structure. Our smile not only impacts how we look, but also the way our breath, airway and digestive system functions.
"At the end of my first two rounds of chemotherapy, my bite was terrible, Janet said. My teeth were falling apart. I was in constant pain. So your gums kind of follow your bone, and if you have bone loss, then your gums recede. So then my roots were kind of exposed and so every time I drank water or ate, my teeth hurt. If I went to a restaurant, I had to ask for a straw. I can't drink ice water and things like that."
Janet was also feeling the effects of a narrow airway on her sleep. "At night, I found myself there was so little room for my tongue, even though it's just a few millimeters, it was getting so narrow that I would wake up gasping for breath and my teeth would be clenched, she said. I had a debilitated bite is what happened."
She was constantly aware that her teeth were falling apart. "I wasn't smiling, she said. Sometimes I would talk with my hands over my mouth because I was really self conscious and I think I became more quiet."
When Janet was in a good spot with her cancer treatment, Dr. Mingus began the rehabilitation process with a full set of dental crowns. He created a wider smile and opened up her bite so that she has reversed signs of aging and more room for her tongue.
"Ever since that happened, I don't hurt anymore, she said. I sleep comfortably, I don't wake up gasping for breath. And the side effect is I have this just killer smile and I just absolutely love it and I just can't smile enough. In fact, I see friends I haven't seen for a while and I'm like, do you like my teeth? Because I'm really proud of them and it took a lot to get there and it really maintains youth."
A wide, properly balanced bite can greatly improve physical appearance as well as overall function. "He opened up the bite so that alone made my lips fuller, she said. And then these little lines kind of went away, and this little shrinkage thing you could see in the front was resolved as well. So people tell me all the time that I look a lot younger than I am."
Janet is ecstatic with the results of her dental facelift. "The guy is an actual genius, she said. I've never seen cosmetic work in 40 years in dentistry to the level of perfection that he creates. I was looking like an old sick person and now I feel vibrant and more healthy. I don't look in the mirror and think gosh, I'm sick. And so I'm really excited about it. And I can't thank Dr. Mingus enough for giving me a little glimpse of health and that I feel better about myself."
What surprised her the most about the procedure was how quickly he was able to execute her mouth reconstruction process. "I was expecting to be here six or seven hours, and he had done my entire mouth prep in about four hours, she said. And that was fantastic. It's much better than I expected, even with my dental background. I was shocked at how well that appointment went."
Today Janet continues to fight cancer with love in her heart and a smile on her face. "It's really nice to have confidence now to go out, she said. I am more social than I was being. I'm getting out and seeing people. I'm going to lunch with people I haven't seen. I'm meeting new people. And that was something I certainly would not have done previously. And I actually joined a group with some women that we make prayer shawls at church. I would never have done that. I would have stayed home by myself with my dog. So I'm more open, and I feel like I'm living my best life right now."