May 21, 2019

After all these years, I meet my first “denturologist”

My final fitting.  Dr. Linden tries my new partial on me. Proud lab technician Lori looks on. Receptionist Jessica captured the moment.

My final fitting. Dr. Linden tries my new partial on me. Proud lab technician Lori looks on. Receptionist Jessica captured the moment.

Orange, CA–Over the years I’ve been treated by a whole assortment of specialists. Far more than I’ve been able to keep track of–medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, osteopaths, physical therapists, nurses.

Now I’ve met one who has a unique specialty.  He’s a family dentist who specializes in dental prostheses. Makes just dentures, full and partial. I call him a “denturologist”–it’s a word I just made up.

A bit of background. I’ve had a heck of a lot of dentistry over the years.  With this dentist and that one and then another.

For fillings. Extractions. Root canals. Crowns. Implants. And dentures, but just partials, thank God.

I’d be shocked to see how much $$$ I’ve paid out in total. But it’s been money well spent for the most part.

Oh, I’ve been paying for dental insurance of late, too. That’s been very nice.  But it’s far from free.

Most of this work got done in the United States.  But I’ve also sat through hours of dentistry in Mexico (Tijuana and Guadalajara), Ukraine (Kiev), and the Philippines (Manila).

Ninety-five percent of all of it has been quite satisfactory, including the work outside the U.S., which may surprise you.

True, I’ve had a couple of excruciating experiences, but that was long ago, when you knew going to the dentist was going to turn very painful.  Pain was a part of it.

I have lived to see astonishing improvements. The wonderful ultra-high-speed drill. Much finer needles. Fluoridation of the public water supply, which some consider controversial, but I think is worth the risk, if there is any.

Also faster and better anesthetics. Simpler X-rays, and much safer, too–and now digital imaging. And most dramatic of all, dental implants. I’ve had three, all at the same time. And how good they are.

And one more great improvement. It’s the better training for dentists. Not only to help patients with their teeth, but to get them through the experience with less tension and anxiety. That’s so important.

Speaking of this, I went to a dentist for a long time who had studied hypnosis and used it, but without tipping off his patients. I knew because we were close friends. I believe it works.

You know, when I was a boy, there was only one kind of M.D.—the general practitioner who visited his patients at home with just his  black doctor’s bag.

It didn’t seem to contain much more than a stethoscope, an arm cuff for blood pressure readings, a thermometer, a few instruments,  and some bandages and ointments and a few dark brown bottles with a few potions he favored. But his care and, most of all, bedside manner, were considered excellent.

Now, if you’re like me, you go to a general practitioner, sure, and undoubtedly he uses the latest hi-tech this and that. But you don’t stop there. You go to a specialist. And there’s such a variety–dermatologists, oncologists, cardiologists, urologists, opthomologists, on and on.…..  All possible, I think, largely because of the arrival of Medicare and private medical insurance and .

Same thing with dentists. We have periodontists, endodontists, orthodontists, and still others.

So dentistry, like medicine, has gotten infinitely better.

The result of all this? There are several, but two big ones.

One: we now keep our teeth much longer and better. It’s not uncommon to live into retirement with all your teeth. That hasn’t been my experience. Far from it.

Which baffles me. I’ve been meticulous in caring for my teeth. For decades I’ve made regular visits to the dentist, including for preventive cleanings. In addition to all the care to this tooth and that one. So why have I been beset with so many problems?! Doesn’t seem fair.

By the way, I remember when I was young, some people, especially women, were eager to have all their teeth extracted and get full dentures. Usually right after their first experience with a dentist.

Getting them all pulled would save them pain and money in the months and years ahead, they would eat better, their smile would be prettier, and losing their teeth was inevitable anyway.

Result Two: we now live in a time when pain in the dental chair is largely past-tense. What a feat! How wonderful!  Pain now is a rare occurrence.

The biggest pain now is paying the bill, even if you have dental insurance.

And now, after all these years, I’ve had a totally new experience. It’s been discovering Dr. Frederick Linden, the denture dentist. Here’s how that happened.

In January I had to have my upper right molar extracted.  It was a key tooth and a great loss. An expensive one, too.  More that one dentist got to work on it over the years. In time, I paid for a root canal for it plus a crown. Then a second crown. So, hundreds of dollars.

As you know, when some people lose a molar, or any tooth, they sometimes say, “Well, I ‘ll just get along without it.” Of course, often doing that might spoil your smile, or make it harder to chew, but it won’t be a tragedy. A lot of people get along with half their teeth gone.

Believe me, that never came into my mind.

I liked the dentist who did the extraction. It was my first time with him. That happened because my molar went bad just when I was leaving Connecticut for California just before Christmas. My big concern was finding a good dentist fast.

I didn’t know any dentists here. A friend recommended him and I felt lucky to come under his care.  When he got finished, I felt he had done a fine job.

I said to him, “Well, doctor, what do you think I should do now?”

He looked at my whole mouth again, and much more carefully. Took more X-rays, including a panoramic one. For you uninformed, the camera circles your whole noggin, and the dentist gets a view of your entire mouth. Quite remarkable. Finally he pronounced himself.

“Already you have an upper partial. It replaces four teeth. You’ve had it a long time. That dentist did a fine job but it’s getting old. And now you need something to replace that molar that I pulled.” He paused a bit.

Then, “What I think would work best for you would be a new partial. It would replace the four missing teeth your present partial covers, but swing behind the six teeth to the left of it, and provide a molar for the one that’s now gone.”

My gosh! That isn’t what I had expected to hear.  I digested his words, then said, “How long would that take?”

“First, we have to let that hole heal–you know, where that molar was. We should allow several weeks for that. It will be a problem if we skip that. And then three weeks or so after that for your new partial.”

“Well, doctor, how much would that cost?”

“I’ll make an analysis of the best way to go. Then my secretary will call you. She’ll do that in two days, if that’s okay. Then you can decide.”

I waited impatiently to get the word from her. I really wanted to get the job done.  I knew the price would be higher now. All prices are higher now, right?  As you see, I’m good at rationalizing.

Then she called.  Explained everything. Then said,
“The price will be $2,600.” Then, as a sort of consolation, “But that should cover everything.”

I whistled when I heard that, well, to myself.  I felt the price was high. And one thing nagged me.  She used the word “should.” I would have liked it better if she had said “would.”

Yet, I had a big thing in my favor.  As I said, I did have dental insurance.  A good plan.  I called its 800 number and was told 45 percent would be covered.  Very nice.  That said, I must tell you that the annual premium is also something to whistle about.

A big complication has been that I’m not just in one place here in Southern California.  I’m on the go–two days here, three days there, one day over there.  Which has been wonderful.  But I kept saying to myself, “I’ve got to do something!  Just can’t put this off!”

Now I must tell you I have loved my three implants.   And that’s because they work so well in every way. I feel they are my own, very sound teeth! All done, by the way, by the same dental implant surgeon, over a period that took more than four months.

So now I considered another one.  My old implant surgeon was no longer around.  I spotted a big newspaper ad that offered one implant with a crown on it for $1,499.  Very tempting.

I went and saw that implant dentist.  He examined me and said, “You have bone loss in your jaw where you lost that molar.  You’ll need a bone graft.  That will cost $300 and will delay my doing the implant. Got to make sure it takes!”

Imagine that–a bone graft. Talk about big improvements in dentistry! Cadaver bone, by the way. Did you know that?

True, the price of implants is coming down. But the process is still long and unpleasant. That implant dentist   will disagree, I’m sure, but that’s my opinion. I’d have to stick around a long time to get it all done.

And, once done, I would still have that old partial denture that should be replaced, I had been told. So, I said no about the implant.

Besides, there was something about that dentist than I didn’t like. It bothered me that he had an M.B.A. as well as his dental degree.

Then, in that same newspaper, I spotted a new ad.  Not a great big one.  A tiny one—really a fancy classified. Here is what it said, to the best of my memory.

“Need a denture? Come to us. We specialize in dentures, full and partial. That’s all we do. Excellent dentures that are affordable! We have our own in-office lab for more control and faster service. General dentists do 2 or 3 dentures a month. We do 25 or 30. We know dentures! We also do relines and repairs, often while you wait”‘ Plus his address and phone number.

I liked it.  Clipped it out and put it in my wallet.  And forgot about it.

Two weeks later, but in a different newspaper, I read the same ad. I did some checking online and liked what I found out about Dr. Frederick Linden.

He has been a dentist  42 years. He grew up in cold and windy Chicago. He got his dentist degree at the University of Indiana, which I checked and saw was excellent.  Joined the Navy and served as the staff dentist at the Navy hospital in Long Beach, California.  I learned all this from his website.

After his service, he was a staff dentist at two hospitals for four years, then opened his own family practice. You know, doing everything for men, women, and children. But what he enjoyed most was making dentures.

“They are a great solution for many patients. And I really enjoy working with my hands! Designing and making fine dentures can be very challenging.”

He got a wild idea–to open a denture practice.  Yes, just dentures, full and partial.  That was a big novelty in itself back then, and still is.

Most general dentists do dentures.  Which means that they make the necessary impressions and design the denture.  And then job out the work of making it to a dental lab. Then they try it on the patient and make any adjustments necessary.

Dr. Linden took his concept a big step further.  He decided to have the lab in his own office—integrate it!  That would give him closer supervision, speed up the process a lot, shave costs, and allow him to drop the price.

I questioned him a lot. He told me that new concept of his has worked out beautifully.  It’s been his specialty for 15 years, and he doesn’t know of any other dentist doing it anywhere close.

He has designed and made dentures for thousands of patients.

I made an appointment.  His office was an hour away. I found it is a small storefront in a shopping center. His big sign says, “Affordable Dentures”. Who wouldn’t feel good about that?

It’s in a Target shopping center, with ample  free parking. I parked right in front of his door.

His office set-up is simplicity itself.  He works with only his receptionist-secretary, Jessica, and his technician, Lisa.

His office seems to have been designed by Henry Ford himself. It’s so simple and efficient. Reception area. Bathroom. His treatment room And somewhere in the back, his office and lab, which are off limits to patients.

Finished with the paperwork for me, Jessica seated me in his dental chair, which was more of a lounge chair.  No drill.  No X-ray camera.  No rinse and spit basin.  No big, powerful overhead light.

He walked in. A hefty man, age 68 he told me. Dressed in an open-necked shirt and chinos, but carefully pressed. Pleasant, but businesslike and given to few words.  He did answer all my questions, and nicely, even though he wasn’t aware I’d be writing this.

He has a long counter nearby with a few instruments and supplies.  The first meeting took thirty minutes.

He scrutinized my mouth, examined my present partial, told me that my gums are okay as are my other teeth, and saw no big problem.

“I can design a metal partial like the one you have now.  Or a plastic partial that would be more flexible.  The same price–$1,100.  That would take three visits. We’d be done in two weeks. It would include adjustments after that if necessary. Most patients don’t require any.”

I thanked him and said I’d think it over. What he had done had taken 25 minutes.

Quickly I decided to go ahead. Jessica had checked. My insurer, Altus Dental Insurance, would pay half, less a $50 deductible. To proceed, I’d pay half of the balance now. I handed her my Visa credit card.  I’d pay the balance at the end.

I was in his chair in 10 minutes. He went right to work—doing much of that at the counter two steps from my chair.

He mixed some gunk and used it, with my partial out, to make an impression of my upper gum. It was obvious he knew what he was doing.

Firmly but so carefully, he removed the fresh impression from my mouth and studied it. “Excellent!” he said. I was out in 30 minutes.

Returned a week later. He had the partial finished and showed it to me. “But these are not the final teeth,” he told me. “They will require adjustments. That’s what I’m going to determine today. Then we’ll go ahead for the final piece.”

My old denture had two clasps, one at each end. This one had three. “It will do a better job. You’ll be happy! But I must check one thing—how much the clasp in the middle will show.”

He snapped it into place on me. I liked the way it really snapped in. Click! He spent a full two minutes studying it in place, trying to move it a little bit this way and that way. Then handed me a mirror.

“Take a look, please.” I did. I liked what I saw. The teeth matched my natural teeth. But I wanted to be sure. “Will this be the final color of them?”

“Yes, they are an excellent match. Now smile, please. A big smile! I want to see how much that center clasp will show.”

I smiled wide. He asked me to smile a second time, really wide. He told me, “It does show but just a little bit. If you want just two clasps, I can remove the center one. But it won’t function quite as well. What do you think?”

I told him I wanted all three. If somebody noticed, well, I felt they’d be nice and wouldn’t let on.

I did have a chance to chat with him as he worked. I found him open and friendly. At the end I told him I planned to write about my experience. That pleased him. It would please any dentist, I think. If he felt he had done a good job.

I had been with him a few minutes short of half an hour. Quickly I was back in my van. Jessica did her job the way he did his. She was efficient and friendly. No dawdling.

In a week I returned for my final visit. It all went smoothly and swiftly. I made my second and final payment. Jessica seated me in Dr. Linden’s chair. A few pleasantries and then he went to work.

It felt strange in my mouth, which was expected. It was bigger, and there were more contact points between my upper and lower teeth. And my upper lip rubbed against that center clasp.

“You’ll get used to it very fast. Before long, it will feel as comfortable as you’re old one.”

To myself I thought, it’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes. Which is a good comparison.

Only one minute adjustment had to be made–he had to file down one of the teeth a hair.

“How long would might it be if a sore spot developed?” I asked him. “I was thinking to start the drive up to my daughter Monique’s up North this afternoon. Would that be okay?”

“Very few patients need a further adjustment. But it’s possible.”

“Well, then, I’ll stay over till tomorrow. Just in case.”

“That’s an excellent idea.”

I was on my way in a jiffy.

The next day, everything seemed fine. No pain. No bad fit of my uppers and lowers at any point. My new partial felt different because it was bigger and had that third clasp. I was sure I’d get used to it fast.

That’s been the case. I’m eating and chewing just fine.

There should be more such “denturologists”! But just as efficient and cost-conscious.

~ ~ ~






  1. Joan Perrone says:

    Hi John,

    Since I worked for an orthodontist for 19 years, plus I have a partial denture and crowns and bridges, I can relate to everything you wrote about. I’m glad you had a good experience.

    Dentistry has, indeed, changed a lot over the years. It used to be “drill and fill” and now it’s mostly preventative and cosmetic.

    Keep on trucking!!! 🙂

  2. Lucie Fradet says:

    I like happy endings. I know how you like apples; so there should be no problem with that. Enjoy! Hugs, Lucie

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