By the time the surgeon was done removing the cancer in the base of his mouth, Jack Reid only had three bottom teeth left. The surgeon also had to remove a significant portion of surrounding tissue. Thankfully, no radiation or chemotherapy was necessary and his upper teeth remained intact.
But recovery from the surgery was tough, and Jack, a retired psychotherapist, lost about 15 pounds because he was only able to eat soup and soft foods for several weeks.
When he was ready for the next step, he went to see Dr. Ira Kamp, his general dentist in Ithaca, where Jack and his wife moved from Colorado to be closer to their daughter and grandchild.
“Jack was understandably frustrated about his limited ability to eat, speak or function like he used to,” said Dr. Kamp, who teaches part-time at Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program. “Because a large part of the tissue and jaw bone had been removed, I recommended Jack receive treatment at Eastman, where a team of different specialists including oral surgery and prosthodontics are in one place and could effectively manage his complex condition to restore his function and aesthetics.”
“It was indeed a very challenging case,” agreed Alexis Ghanem, DDS (GenDen ’14), associate professor and director of the AEGD One-Year Residency Program. “Traditional dentures wouldn’t work for him, and we determined the best solution would be a bone graft to implement and support the remaining bone and then two implants to support dentures.”
In addition to Dr. Ghanem, Jack’s interdisciplinary dental team included Assistant Professor Dr. Alejandro Sanchez Lara (GenDen ’16, Prostho ‘17), and two AEGD residents, Dr. Oscar Ramos and Dr. Aron Lee.
After x-rays and impressions were taken and evaluated, Dr Ghanem and Dr. Sanchez Lara discussed the options with Jack.
“They made a game plan, and explained to me how they could prepare my mouth in a way that would allow removable dentures to work well,” Jack recalled.
The plan included the bone grafting and the placement of two implants.
"Unfortunately, one of the implants didn’t fuse properly for lack of enough ridge,” explained Jack, who drove two hours each way to for his appointments at Eastman. “Then they did a bone graft again and four months later placed the second implant, which worked really well.
“The care was great and it was really assuring to see so many people working together as a team,” he added. “I thought they were very diligent. It was obvious how very important it was to them to do everything so well.”
As the population ages, dentists will continue to see challenging cases like Jack’s. “Older adults will naturally have a wide range of medical conditions that can impact and affect their oral health,” Dr. Ghanem said.
“As educators, it’s important that our residents get the opportunity to face difficult cases and learn how to manage sensitive situations,” Dr. Sanchez Lara added. “Mr. Reid’s case was very good learning for our residents. We help many patients who are referred from private practices due to the complexity of the cases. We’re so glad we’re able to help them.”
Jack is very appreciative for the help he received at Eastman Institute. “I think I’ve got a lifetime warranty on my smile now,” he joked. “It’s great to be able to eat what I want now. The hardest thing was finding a parking spot.”