By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
To see a patient smile for the first time since who knows when ... to witness tears of joy when she sees herself in the mirror with her new "pearly whites," those are Dr. Thomas Parham's favorite patients and his most rewarding experiences at his "A Better Denture" practice.
Dr. Parham explained was always interested in medicine, but he knew being a physician was not at the top of his list. A graduate of the Medical College of Georgia and a dentist for 23 years, after 40,000 extractions and more than 1,000 dentures, he retired. Then the idea for "A Better Denture" came along.
"Our specialty is pulling teeth and making dentures," Dr. Parham said succinctly. "No fillings, no cleanings, no crowns, no root canals."
In this age of specialization, A Better Denture describes the practice and the services.
It isn't that he hasn't performed all the rest, both for other practices and in his own previous practice, but moving back to the area he decided to provide the best quality dental product in a timely manner at a reasonable cost to the patient and to that end A Better Denture practice was born seven weeks ago.
"There are two kinds of patients," Dr. Parham said. "One is 'dentureless' -- no teeth. Either they haven't had a set in a long time or they've worn theirs out and they want a new set."
The second kind may be missing a number of teeth or have other dental problems, and it will be a new set of dentures for them. "But either way, it's a one-day process and we don't skip any steps."
There are steps that require an hour between sittings, but he will ask the patient to just wait an hour while his lab works, instead of telling them to "come back next Thursday and we'll do the next step."
"Normally you take an impression and it goes to a lab," Dr. Parham said.
Where A Better Denture differs from other practices is it has its own lab and its own equipment and technician -- Jesse Keith, who had worked with Dr. Parham at another practice. Mr. Keith and Dr. Parham work closely together to perfect the dentures.
Dr. Parham is involved in every step with the technician to insure the set of dentures will be the best they can be as to form and fit and length of palate as well as the "floor" of the mouth. A Better Denture creates immediate dentures so the patient does not have to wait up to three months after extractions for the final fitting and be without teeth during that period.
Back to the process, after that initial hour they do what they call a "try-in." It is a full set with teeth, much like trying on a pair of glasses, to see if the patient likes them or not. Dr. Parham is looking at the bite, to make sure the top and bottom meet as well as the occlusion. If adjustments need to be made, it goes back to his lab, instead of going off premises to another firm.
As Mr. Keith works on making the final set of dentures, the patient can run some errands or rest for about three hours.
"The process for people with teeth is a little bit different, but very similar," Dr. Parham said.
They don't have a try-in, because their other teeth are in the way.
"We make the dentures and they are fitted and leave with them," he said. "They come back the next day for an adjustment" because slight changes will be made due to tight spots or spots that pinch which may not have been obvious the previous day.
At this point a temporary soft lining is placed in the denture for comfort and to allow for the healing of the gums. A later adjustment when the gums are healed then requires a permanent liner installed due to bone changes. There may be two or three adjustments down the road, which is part of A Better Denture's service.
As with any kind of business, you are as good as the people working there, and A Better Denture is proud of their employees. They are skilled in what they do, and tend to the patient's needs with care and professionalism.
Quality product, timely service and reasonable price, which Dr. Parham said depends on the quality of the teeth and the quality of the denture, as well as the services provided.
"My prices for a dentureless patient starts at $450 for a set, upper and lower, no extractions." His prices may go up to $1,600 depending on added services. "We take most insurances including adult Medicaid," Dr. Parham said.
"We also participate in a plan that's called Care Credit," he said.
It is a loan plan owned by GE Credit that grants approval in less than five minutes based a patient's income and helps pay for the procedure.
A Better Denture is at 800 S. Nova Road, Suite L, Holly Hill. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The phone number is (386) 265-5975.