Baumhower: Jeremy after dentistWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I never knew how much stress I was carrying with my smile.
An incident occurred during a basketball game when I was 12 years old. My face ate the wood floors at the Catholic Club; the contact instantly broke my front tooth in half, leaving the exposed nerve hanging — and I still finished the game.
This is the only story in my history that shows any toughness on my part.
My family dentist fixed the tooth with a cap, which didn’t match in color. At the age of 13, I became aware I had an off-colored smile, with newly matching blue gums above the formerly healthy tooth. I don’t remember smiling a lot before this incident because our home was never overly loving, and my father was battling alcoholism. The dental work that was done made it nearly impossible to smile afterward.
Fast-forward 20 years to when I moved my family back to the area. I found a dentist office that worked with my insurance, filled with a friendly staff. My first visits were amazing with courteous and compassionate dentists who were great with my children.
Then something unexpected happened. They sold the practice to a firm outside the city. Most of the support staff stayed, but new dentists were shipped in.
During my next visit, I was convinced my 20-year-old front tooth/cap could be replaced and covered by my insurance company at little cost. And, while they were replacing it, the dental staff wanted to make it a brighter shade of white, which of course I agreed to. I had little knowledge about dentistry, except I know I hated the sound of the drill.
I later learned the new replacement tooth was affixed to my jaw with a single metal post.
Imagine something skinnier than a toothpick, being the only thing holding a front tooth in place. They wanted to make money off the teeth whitening, having no other reason to replace the 20-year-old cap.
Being a man who values food and eating proved one thing — the replacement job did not work. Over the course of six years, my front tooth broke off completely more than 10 times. Each time another new dentist would remark on how surprised he/she was on the technique of replacing the front tooth — and that the new fix was only temporary. Eventually, they said, I would need some procedure that would cost over $3,000, with insurance unlikely to cover it.
That, my friend, creates some deeply buried stress.
In January 2014, my tooth broke for the final time. I was told it could no longer be reattached, there was no more quality bone to connect the tooth to. Having no dental insurance at the time, and a family of four to feed, I had only one option. The only fix I could afford was to wear a “flipper” — a sportier way to say and describe a denture. It’s something hockey players wear until they retire and have their teeth permanently fixed. For over 14 months I was buying Fixodent and pasting my front tooth into my mouth.
I told no one. To make matters worse, the flipper broke and I started fixing it with Super Glue.
So as I was making TV appearances, getting married, growing my public presence — I was wearing a ghetto-rigged, Super Glued, front tooth flipper.
This is the reason why I smirk and express my face in ways other than smiling. It probably explains the eyebrow … possibly.
I cannot understate the amount of subtle and deeply buried stress one carries with a bad smile. It’s embarrassing, it made my heart sad and was my Achilles’ heel.
Then, something unexpected happened.
In early February, I received a message from a friend on Facebook. Marcia Kozy stated she read my columns and posts, she told me her husband was a dentist and they were curious as to why I rarely smiled.
I agreed to come in and we scheduled a meeting. A couple of minutes into the appointment, I felt an urge to get something off my chest. I admitted something that I rarely had before – I hated my teeth and despised my smile.
It was at this very moment, I saw Dr. Paul Kozy’s heart. I never met the man before, but learned so much in a short amount of time. Paul immediately put me in a chair, ordered X-rays and examined my situation. Turns out, he is one of a few dentists in the world who does the exact procedure my mouth needed.
As I sat in the chair, this man who looks like a cross between Woody Hayes and Carty Finkbeiner examined my mouth thoroughly and excitedly. I learned about his practice: it’s truly family-owned and operated. His two daughters, Bridget Kozy Snyder and Jackie Kozy Baither are both dentists and joined the family business. I also learned about his 5-year-old grandson, who, like my child, has a beautifully gifted mind. One in 68 makes the world extra small.
Recently, I underwent a three-hour surgery to fix a problem I’ve lived with since I was 12. I was sedated with a bag of Valium, conscious and making jokes throughout the procedure.
At noon, Paul handed me a mirror and allowed me to see his work. I was confused, most likely from the drugs, but it was the weirdest thing to see. My teeth looked beautiful.
There is a video coming soon, including this moment where you can see how completely amazed and mesmerized I was. You will also see me on drugs, where at the time I described how I was feeling as “noon on St. Patrick’s Day.”
I did not shed a tear in front of Paul, but I have shed many since.
Paul gave my kids a gift that day. He gave their dad a smile. Something we all are getting used to.
If you are unhappy with your smile, carrying that deeply buried stress, I strongly suggest calling Kozy DentalCare. Dr. Paul, Dr. Jackie and Dr. Bridget make people smile better every day.
Paul played baseball at the University of Toledo, his daughters both went to Ohio State and they are an old-school family dentistry business. It felt like home in their office.
For me, the hardest part is trying to learn how to smile. My kids all have beautiful smiles and take perfect pictures in one take. That’s a skill set I would like to have.
My face has been sore, not from the procedure, but from stretching in ways it wasn’t used to — from smiling.
Thank you Dr. Paul and Marcia – I deeply appreciate the work you’ve done and heart you’ve shown.
Jeremy Baumhower can be reached at email@example.com.