Dr. Drews and I like superheroes. Superheroes are fantastic in their problem solving abilities and their passion for helping others. In fact, on days when our egos are really inflated, we fancy ourselves to be superheroes and decide to dress the part.
Nah, we're not that narcissistic, just fun loving and attention seeking. We really did dress up as superheroes for an event, but we don't really have a painting of that on our wall. Like superheroes, we do work hard and have a commitment to making things better. And, like superheroes, we are at our best with the help of our teammates, our sidekicks if you will.
Sidekicks are vital to superhero stories. They're in just as much peril as the hero, sometimes more, and they never get enough credit. What would Batman do without Robin? Captain America without Bucky (the Winter Soldier)? The Green Arrow without Speedy, Doctor Who without his companions? I could go on forever . . . but my point is that Dental Assistants are the sidekicks of the dental world, and boy do we have some great ones! And they're vital to our story, too.
You've heard of Charlie's Angels, right?! I feel like Kayla, Renee and Chelsea are the Angels of Drews Dental Services, the sidekicks who deserve way more credit than they get on a daily basis.
In this post, I'd like to give you some inside information on these three, and the awesome skills (superpowers) they bring to the table each and every single day.
Kayla - "Kayla Spice"
Kayla has been assisting for 7 years and has spent most of her assisting career in the field of endodontics (root canals).
Root canals tend to be the most dreaded procedure in dentistry, mostly because of the tooth ache you have right before you need one. The procedure itself is usually painless, and having an assistant like Kayla around helps to ease our patients' anxiety, no matter what type of treatment they're receiving.
Kayla's superpower is that she's a smile creator, and that's true both in the field of dentistry, and in the broader scope of life. It's just hard NOT to smile when Kayla's around.
Kayla also creates smiles on the faces of everyone in the office with her quirky sense of humor (she snorts when she laughs sometimes which is simply infectious), and her loving spirit.
She never forgets a birthday and has been absolutely pivotal in keeping up the morale of the team. They say unicorns poop rainbows. Sometimes I think Kayla does, too.
I like to call her "Kayla Spice" because of how she wears her hair sometimes ... which totally reminds me of a Spice Girl. 🙂
Since joining our staff at Drews Dental, Kayla has transitioned into the role of Esthetic Coordinator, which means she's the one who coordinates all of our chair side bleaching appointments. I always thought it was kind of funny (in a dental geek humor kind of way) that Kayla became so involved in chair side bleaching after years of experience with endodontics, since bleach is the disinfectant we use when irrigating the root canals.
Yes, we use bleach during root canal treatments to disinfect the canals. No, it's not ACTUAL bleach we're using when we whiten your teeth, so please don't swish with Clorox. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the most commonly used "bleaching" agents, and the results can be pretty spectacular.
Check out some of Kayla's favorite whitening cases:
Most of our patients who decide to whiten their teeth desire something that will brighten their smile without looking like they took a bottle of White Out to their teeth. (Read more about why you should avoid an overly white smile.)
This patient was in her mid twenties and her teeth had darkened some due to normal aging and some moderate coffee drinking. The GloScience whitening procedure gave her a natural looking, lighter smile the same day, and we fabricated bleaching trays for home use so she could maintain her new shade.
An important thing to remember is that no whitening product can change the color of fillings or crowns. The patient below wanted to lighten the appearance of her teeth, but also to restore the two chipped central incisors. We elected to whiten her teeth first, which allowed us to choose a lighter shade material when restoring the incisal edges of her centrals. We then fabricated the bleaching trays afterwards to fit the new architecture of her mouth.
Another advantage you'll notice to the custom bleaching trays and the chairside whitening systems is when teeth are not in perfect alignment, you can still whiten them! Notice her lateral incisor (patient's left side, our right side) is tilted inwards, tucked behind the left central incisor. If this patient were to use whitening strips this tooth would not whiten as well because the strip wouldn't uniformly cover this tooth.
Renee - "The Impressor"
Renee, our newest assistant, joined us in November of last year. The bulk of Renee's dental assisting experience is in orthodontics, where she assisted for five years. This has given her a wealth of experience in taking impressions and working with younger patients - both of which require an extraordinary amount of patience sometimes, particularly when treating someone with a sensitive gag reflex!
Impression material is gross, messy, and can sometimes be quite uncomfortable, which is why we use the intraoral scanner whenever possible. The scanner also gives us better accuracy in many cases. But yeah, those who classify themseleves as "gaggers" tend to find it more comfortable than traditional impressions.
Renee's superpower? In the short time I've worked with her, I can attest to the fact that she exhibits tremendous patience.
If you are lucky enough to be one of Renee's friends, you know her superpower is she's a natural born caretaker, the "Mom of the friend group," so to speak. We all need that person who looks out for us, the one who is responsible enough to plan for the unexpected, and who is willing to stay sober enough to make sure nobody else does anything stupid.
This personality type makes for a GREAT dental assistant because, let's face it, dentists are pretty needy and our assistants help us keep it all together. Furthermore, our patients are well cared for when our assistants have that mothering instinct about them (and all our assistants do).
While we are not a full-fledged orthodontic office, we do provide a clear aligner system called Clear Correct to align teeth, a process which allows you to correct your overbite or to close those spaces between your teeth without showing metal like traditional braces.
Here are some of Renee's favorite Clear Correct cases:
This case is really cool because it illustrates that clear aligners are not just good for straightening a slightly crooked tooth here or there, but can also have functional benefits.
This patient's chief complaint was her overbite, and related to that was the positioning of her two lower central incisors. On the left you'll notice how the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth significantly, and those two central ones had tilted inward. The right side illustrates a more appropriate overbite (a slight overbite is the ideal relationship between upper and lower teeth), with proper alignment of the incisors. To illustrate the functional difference, imagine biting into an apple with the left bite vs. the right bite. Not only is this patient's smile more esthetically pleasing, but it's also more comfortable for her.
The case below illustrates how crowded, "crooked" teeth can be brought back into line with Clear Correct. This patient was unhappy with the overlapping of her front teeth in both the upper and lower arches, and the altered position of her teeth made her mandibular incisors prone to chipping.
The final result on the right was achieved after 2 years of aligner treatment followed by some limited bonding and polishing of the lower incisors, providing the patient with a much more beautiful esthetic result, along with correcting the functional disturbance responsible for the premature wear on her mandibular teeth.
Chelsea - "The TARDIS"
Just like the T.A.R.D.I.S. from Doctor Who, which is bigger on the inside, Chelsea is proof that sometimes big things come in small packages.
Chelsea started assisting in 2008, the same year I came back to Maine to start practicing dentistry. She was my first assistant, and I was her first doctor. Cute, huh? We were delighted to add her to our team last year, and it's been a total blast working with her again!
Having spent 10 years assisting in general dentistry, Chelsea has seen it all! She is super organized, but that's not her superpower . . .
Chelsea's superpower is her ability to create things. At home this manifests in her home renovations, crafting, and school projects with her boys.
At work, it means she knows what the final product should look like before we even start, which helps her anticipate our next moves and give me and Dr. Drews the tools we need to complete our work effectively and efficiently. And, she has fun while doing it, keeping every appointment lighthearted and entertaining.
Her favorite aspect of general dentistry involves cases where there is a huge "wow" factor - restoration cases that are also esthetic, where we take a very diseased "smile visible" tooth and make it look beautiful again.
And here are some of the cases Chelsea likes to work on:
Cavities on front teeth are among the most common reasons we see new patients who haven't been to the dentist in awhile. The patient below had a lot of failing anterior restorations with new and recurrent decay in multiple locations. The culprit? Sugar. He liked his soda and energy drinks, which ultimately led to the problems we see on the left (with even more extensive decay underneath those restorations and between his teeth). He was embarrassed of the way his teeth looked and subsequently didn't like to smile. By the end of his appointment he was smiling a lot more! The results on the right were achieved using TPH Spectra composite (a tooth colored filling material).
This next patient had a similar issue: lots of sugar intake and many years without regular dental care. The decay patterns we notice with sugary beverages tend to be on the smooth surfaces of teeth, particularly the fronts of teeth near the gumline, and in between the teeth. (Compare this to sugary foods like sticky candies which tend to cause cavities in the grooved, chewing surfaces of the teeth.) While this patient still has other areas to address, by restoring his upper front teeth he now has increased confidence and motivation to continue his journey towards optimal oral health. In this case the teeth were restored with another tooth colored filling material, Shofu Beautifil composite.
It's amazing what can be done sometimes to save teeth, even in cases that may seem hopeless to the untrained eye. The patients above came in not knowing if their teeth were even salvageable, and were pleased to see the great progress that could be made in just one appointment. 🙂
Just like Dr. Who, Chelsea is able to see the potential in things that may appear worn down and broken, a great skill in dentistry. Don't let her small size fool you - this one is capable of great things!
Heroes Aren't Heroes Without Sidekicks
There are so many aspects of our dental team that work together to achieve greatness for our patients. The angels of Drews' Dental Services are just one component, but make no mistake - they are an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
While superheroes get the most credit, we all know they owe a great deal of their success to their sidekicks, the people who help them the most along the way. Chelsea, Renee, and Kayla are superheroes in their own right, really. They keep us on track, order and organize our supplies, seat and prepare our patients, pour our models, send out our lab cases, take impressions, shades, x-rays, make our temporary crowns, disinfect our rooms, run sterilization, anticipate our needs when sitting chair side, and so much more.
Dr. Drews and I are honored to have these three as part of our team!
If you want to see them live, in action, just give us a call at (207) 782-5308 or contact us to get a front row seat. I love superhero teams, don't you?!
Love & Saving the World, One Tooth At a Time,
Kristie Lake, DMD