Patient Story: A Veteran Finds His Smile Again With All-on-4 Dental Implants

Each year, the Surgical Arts Centre offers a transformative treatment to a veteran in need in an effort to show our thanks to the men and women who put their lives at risk in order to protect our country.

This year, maxillofacial surgeon Dr. John Holtzen and Surgical Arts teamed up with Dr. Stacey Gividen and Big Sky Denture Group to give 71-year-old veteran Lauren Kelly a second chance at a winning smile.

Battles on and off the field

Kelly grew up in Washington State before joining the Marine Corps. He completed basic training and flight training to become an officer and a pilot just as the Vietnam War begin. He served 13 months in Vietnam and several more years as a jet fighter pilot before leaving the military for other careers, which included working in the hospitality industry and software industry.

When he was 63 years old, Kelly was diagnosed with leukemia. He battled the disease and won, but his teeth, which were already being affected by age, were also adversely affected by the aggressive chemotherapy he received.

“It was hard to eat, and you get obsessive about smiling, going out, and having people see you,” said Kelly of his poor teeth. “I’d gone in to the dentist to see about dentures, and they talked about the All-on-4 option, and of course that looked good. But it was too expensive for me at the time.”

He wasn’t sure what to do until he heard that the Surgical Arts Centre was looking for a veteran to assist.

The best solution and a second chance

Once everyone was on board to help, Kelly’s transformation began. The bulk of the process took place on a single day, in which Kelly’s teeth were removed and four implants were inserted into the top and bottom of his mouth. A temporary set of teeth were installed for six months, and then the permanent teeth were connected to the posts. These teeth should last for the rest of Kelly’s life.

“The All-on-4 procedure is a life-changing way to give folks like Lauren back the function and quality of life that time and disease have conspired to take away,” said Holtzen, who executed the procedure with the help of the Surgical Arts team. “Smiling and eating are fundamental to what it means to be human, and the opportunity to restore these pleasures is nothing short of amazing for both the patient and our team.”

Kelly was sure that the teeth would improve his life, and that he would be better off than some of his friends who had dentures and complained about their discomfort. But he had no idea just how much better his day-to-day would be with All-on-4.

“It’s made a tremendous difference in my life, Kelly said. “Being able to eat again is amazing. But it really hit me when we had friends over for New Years because I could smile again. I had also stopped doing volunteer work because I didn’t want to be seen. Now [my wife and I] have plans to volunteer, and to travel and see people. It’s like a whole new life. I don’t feel like I have to hide.”

The All-on-4 solution look, feel, and function like real teeth. Unlike dentures, they do not have to be maintained in any way other than the care needed for natural teeth. And unlike dentures, they do not break or need to be refitted. Dental implants also prevent the deterioration of the jaw bone over time that occurs with dentures.

Kelly not only appreciated his new teeth, he also appreciated the treatment that he received at the Surgical Arts Centre. During his cancer treatment seven years ago, he had several scary, months-long experiences in hospitals, and he was hesitant to return to a medical facility for any reason. But he was surprised and comforted by his treatment.

“I ended up being in the hospital probably for nine months overall, with one four-month stretch,” he said of his experience with cancer, “so I have a real aversion to being around medical facilities. It was very reassuring to walk into Surgical Arts because everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It calmed me right down.”

Dr. Holtzen and the team at Surgical Arts enjoyed working with Kelly just as much.

“Having the opportunity to help someone who has put his or her life on the line for our way of life is a great privilege,” said Holtzen. “I only hope all those we don’t get a chance to touch personally, will see this as a sign of our gratitude for them as well. Working with and getting to know Lauren was humbling and inspiring, because like most veterans, he is so humble. He takes little credit for the great sacrifices he has made and seems surprised by the gratitude we feel.”

With new trips and volunteer opportunities on the horizon, Kelly is simply planning to enjoy his retirement and his new teeth, all with a smile.

“I’d never heard of the all-on-4 before I went through it, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like having a whole new set of teeth, you don’t even have to think about it. All the horror stories from my friends about dentures, I have none of that,” he said. “It is almost an odd feeling, because I look in the mirror and I have new teeth again!”

Schedule A Consultation Alpine Oral and Facial Surgery

Dr. Holtzen and the team at Alpine Oral and Facial Surgery have helped hundreds of patients find their smile again through All-on-4 dental implants. To learn more about the procedure, to ask Dr. Holtzen a question, or to schedule a consultation, please contact us today or call (406) 549-6600.

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