"Take care of your teeth, and they'll take care of you," admonishes Santa Monica, Calif., auctioneer and insurance executive Fredric Havens, 62. Last November, he began the first of four intricate—and expensive—surgical procedures to remove and replace eight of his upper teeth with implanted bridgework.
"I had excellent teeth, never a lot of cavities, but I just didn't take care of them," he says. "In my 30s, I lost an upper back molar to gum disease. That was a signpost but I ignored it. It was false economy not to get my teeth checked."
Slowly, but steadily, gum disease took more of his upper teeth. "Never any pain; they just fell out," he says. He tried dentures, but they didn't work well, especially in the middle of an auction when his tongue would hit the denture: "It felt like I had peanut butter in my mouth!"
Deciding enough was enough, Havens went to the dentist: "'Do whatever it takes to save my teeth, doctor,' I said, only to have him tell me, 'I can't. There's nothing to hold them in place.'"
Although Havens thanks his dentist and his surgeon for stabilizing his jaw and putting his "winning smile back in place" with the implanted bridgework, he advises people to be very careful when it comes to oral surgery. "Remember, it can't be done twice. So get the most experienced team possible."
And he's become a stickler for good dental hygiene. "People need to brush and floss every day, and see the dentist regularly. No lapses," he urges.