By Mike Odom | Photography courtesy of Done In One
It’s no great secret that life sometimes has an enigmatic way of offering us exactly what we need to rise above our seemingly hopeless situations. The problem is that solutions don’t always present themselves as such. It takes faith and imagination to seize these potentially life-altering moments before they pass. I want to provide an anecdotal example of this phenomenon in action in hopes that my story can help others recognize blessings when they emerge and use them to their advantage.
The present-day portion of this tale began for me when a young periodontist named Daniel Noorthoek fatefully appeared in my life and offered me a cure for the pain to which I had reluctantly grown accustomed. Armed with an admirable air of confidence and steadfast determination, he single-handedly carried me across long-established enemy lines and helped me overcome a lifelong, legitimate, and all-too-common phobia of dentists and their offices (which I considered torture chambers). Ultimately, he gifted me the ability to smile again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Long before I was comfortable even conversing with a dentist, I had a deep-rooted phobia. And, I want to make it clear that “phobia” is not an understatement.
When I was eight, I flew face-first off of a skateboard and lost my two front teeth to the sidewalk. The dentist my mother took me to in 1988—who had undoubtedly received his license a century before—did a number on my unsuspecting psyche, and I wouldn’t step foot inside a dental office for decades. Later in life, I stood, shaking, in front of a mirror, trying desperately to remove a throbbing molar with a pair of pliers, giving up only when I heard an audible crack—a sound that I will never forget.
More incidents such as this occurred, and when I did finally make it to a dentist, it was only because doing so seemed like a more sensible option than tooth pain–induced suicide. I forced my way in and demanded to be seen immediately, lest my blood be on their hands. Luckily, they obliged and led me down that seemingly never-ending hallway to an office with a dentist’s chair. “Sit down,” the dentist told me impatiently. I did. Those were the only words he spoke to me before, during, and after the pitiless removal of the molar. I was grateful for the instant relief, though still as traumatized as I had been before I entered. I vowed, again, that this was the last time I’d sit in one of those torture chairs.
(I want to add here that the dentists I encountered throughout my journey may very well have been doing their absolute best with the conditions that I had burdened them with. I blame no one but myself for the pain I went through.)
Then, two years ago, just before Christmas, I stumbled across a BuzzFeed article about a dentist that had done some pro bono work for a fellow Redditor who was also fast approaching the end of his rope. The dentist practiced out of Jacksonville, Florida, where I (miraculously) happened to be living at the time. The timing of the article and its implications reaching me seemed otherworldly—I hadn’t slept in a couple of days because the entire right side of my face was swollen to twice its size. I sat there wondering if my infection could get any worse. Not a day went by that I didn’t recall a family friend’s tragic passing; he had died from a cerebral abscess—a tooth infection that had made its way to his brain.
He told me that he had something in mind, and for me to take care of the teeth I had left as best I could, and to trust him. So I did.
My mentality when it came to caring for myself had completely changed since I passed into the “golden years” of my late thirties. I had been blessed with the proverbial girl of my dreams and a perfect little boy who, at a year old, was starting to get little white teeth of his own. Now that I had a family, I could no longer allow fear to keep me waiting around for the worst to happen.
Beyond desperate, I took a long needle and forced it through my upper lip and gums and into my sinus cavity. The pressure was relieved instantly, and I tried not to swallow what streamed out of the tiny hole. But my alleviation was short-lived; by the end of the day, my sinuses were filling back up with what I described to my fiancée as “extremely poisonous, foul-tasting, concentrated pain juice.”
I pause, yet again, to point out the signs I mentioned at the beginning of my story: my mind stumbling back upon that random article; the documented exchange taking place on Reddit; the Christmas season; the Jacksonville location; the oral disaster I was struggling with. When combined, all of these things were impossible to ignore. Maybe I wasn’t doomed to a lifetime of pain. Perhaps if the stars aligned, I thought. It can’t hurt to try. I distinctly remember thinking, What if?
Taking all of this into consideration, and with all my home remedies exhausted, I decided to reach out to the dentist from the article. I wrote him a message describing my situation and, to my surprise, he responded, telling me to come in the very next day. That was when I first met Dr. Daniel Noorthoek, the kind soul who would change my life.
After brief introductions, it was time to see how much damage I had done by avoiding practitioners who could’ve helped me. The X-rays went surprisingly smoothly, and Dr. Noorthoek informed me that a number of my teeth needed to be removed immediately. Every terrified fiber of my being told me to get up and run, but I decided to trust him.
I figured this was as good a time as any to admit to Dr. Noorthoek, hesitantly, that I might be the most poverty-stricken individual ever to step foot into his luxurious office. I had not a single dollar to my name. If anything, I was in the red. He didn’t care.
“Sit down,” I heard a dentist say again, recalling one of the worst days of my life. But this time, there was a postscript. “We’re going to fix you so that you don’t have to live like this anymore.”
When you are in as much pain as I was, hearing that is everything.
Once I agreed to sit and was rendered completely numb, which Dr. Noorthoek insisted on repeatedly confirming to ease my fears, he set to work. I don’t know what it took to get all seven of my cracked and decaying teeth out, but what I thought would have been my worst nightmare went by faster than I could believe. I never felt a thing. When the process concluded, I was grateful to the point of speechlessness, and not just because my mouth was an unfeeling, swollen mess. It was yet another occurrence of instant relief. I tried not to cry and mostly succeeded.
Dr. Noorthoek talked to me as I slowly came back to reality, and I waited nervously for the bill that I would have no way of paying. It never came. Out of nowhere, he said that he was going to get me a new set of teeth. Not dentures—new teeth. The idea was unfathomable. I couldn’t even afford X-rays, and implants seemed entirely out of reach. He told me that he had something in mind, and for me to take care of the teeth I had left as best I could, and to trust him. So I did.
By the time Dr. Noorthoek fist-bumped me and made his exit, I considered him my friend. For the first time in my life, I was no longer afraid of a dentist.
I need to pause the story here (last time, I promise) to make clear what kind of person Daniel Noorthoek is. He put himself through eleven years of college (the first in his family to attend) and dental school by working full-time at Subway, all while incurring massive debt. After earning his bachelor’s in microbiology and cell science and his doctor of dental medicine degree at the University of Florida, he decided to pursue his interest in removing teeth. Noorthoek spent three extra years in postgraduate classes to become a periodontist. He procured his master’s degree in science and dentistry and began his career with prominent private practices in Boca Raton and Jacksonville. Striving to find ways to improve upon his chosen field of implantology, he mastered emerging procedures including TeethXpress, All-On-4, and Teeth-in-a-Day. Since then, he and his team have been dedicated to perfecting their revolutionary Done In One procedure, using modern facial recognition software to design custom teeth in virtual reality. A master ceramist then handcrafts and finishes the teeth. All this occurs within forty-eight hours.
Daniel Noorthoek’s eyes are on the future; his goal is to transform the field of dentistry.
Before he bade me farewell after my first visit, we sat around and calmly shot the breeze (the best I could after being on anesthesia) after what I had previously imagined would be the most traumatic experience I’d had since I was eight. That was the moment I realized that the whole concept of my dentist phobia was antiquated, left over from a time long before we had the medical advancements of today. I lived in anguish for years while detrimentally avoiding the bogeyman; now I was sitting in his office, liberated from constant torment. By the time Dr. Noorthoek fist-bumped me and made his exit, I considered him my friend. For the first time in my life, I was no longer afraid of a dentist.
The nurse came back to give me some aftercare papers, and with them, she placed a one-hundred-dollar bill into my hand. She said it was from Dr. Noorthoek and to get my son something for Christmas. I’m sure that sounds like I’m embellishing my tale for dramatic effect, but it’s God’s honest truth. When I got into the car to go home, I handed the money to my fiancée and tried explaining what happened the best I could through a completely desensitized face. She ended up putting two and two and “dendist gamme fuh Rbbee Chsmas” together and understood. It was her turn to cry.
What we spent that money on was a lip-tie surgery that Robbie needed from a pediatric specialist. I have Dr. Noorthoek to thank for helping set my son on a path that will lead him away from where his father had taken the exit into oral negligence. I’ve had not a single bout of tooth pain since that day, and I never will again.
Because it was all we could afford, we sent Dr. Noorthoek a thank-you card. He said that it was the best thank-you from any of his pro bono work and that he still has it hanging on his refrigerator. After getting to know him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he really did—he’s just that kind of person.
We kept in touch sporadically over the next couple of years, and then in August of 2018, I received a message from Dr. Noorthoek asking if I was ready for my new teeth. I just stared blankly at my phone for a spell, wondering how to respond. He told me the dates he wanted me to be there, and I relayed the message to my fiancée—and we both cried. Again.
Dr. Noorthoek called me a few days later and filled me in on his Twelve Arches of Christmas program. He had partnered with an implant company, BioHorizons, which donated enough materials to do both arches for six dentally challenged individuals who desperately needed new teeth and couldn’t afford them. He said that our first meeting, just before Christmas a couple of years prior, had been the inspiration for this whole charitable idea.
I went in a day early to record a presurgery interview with a talented director out of Jacksonville. The testimonials from some of the participants have been compiled at the Done In One website.
The actual surgery took about an hour and a half. I received eighteen extractions and two sinus grafts, which were necessary due to the alarming amount of bone loss I had incurred. The entire procedure streamed live online, and I focused on Dr. Noorthoek’s voice throughout it. It kept me in a good place. I never felt any pain, and it didn’t come close to living up to the horrifying scene that my imagination had conjured up in expectation over the years.
The next afternoon, I arrived—a little sore but more excited than anything—for the delivery of my Done In One set of teeth, and by that evening, I had a brand new mouth and the ability to smile with zero apprehension. During the entire two-day process, I was probably in the office for a total of five hours. In contrast, undergoing this procedure using previously available methods would mean twenty to thirty hours of office time spread out over ten to fifteen visits. Like I said: the man is transforming dentistry as we know it.
The next afternoon, I arrived—a little sore but more excited than anything—for the delivery of my Done In One set of teeth, and by that evening, I had a brand new mouth and the ability to smile with zero apprehension.
Fear is a devastatingly powerful emotion. Even with everything at stake—the once-in-a-lifetime offer of pro bono dental work, the promise of solace instead of agony, the very future of my family’s well-being—I’m not sure that I would’ve found the courage to return to a dental chair ten or fifteen times. Forty-eight hours was all that I could muster. I went from destitution to a full set of permanent, straight, white teeth and all the potential they provide in less than two days. The Done In One procedure is the only reason that I’m in the right state of mind to share this experience. I owe everything to this medical advancement and its innovators.
I don’t know what the future holds for Dr. Noorthoek and me. He will go on to do great things in the field of implantology, and, thanks to pioneers like him, my son will never need to experience the pain and anxiety of generations past. I know that he has committed to traveling the country teaching the Done In One procedure to other specialists, envisioning that this process becomes available to the masses and helps far more people than he can reach on his own. I know that, as of today, I no longer have to cover my mouth when I laugh or smile. I no longer have to suppress happiness to avoid humiliation. I also know that I’ve made a lifelong friend in Dan Noorthoek.
Most importantly, I know that my dream of having a nice smile has come true and that all I had to do was face my worst nightmare (and swallow my pride and accept a hand from a kind stranger). My faith in humanity has been restored by someone who genuinely wanted to help a less fortunate family, uncaring of the cost or profit. Selfless acts such as these can be the catalysts for healing the divisions that exist in our world. I know that my life has been changed and I want to pay it forward every chance I get.
I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t wait to go out in public and show off my smile. But as I sit here writing this, it’s all I can think about. And if there is a picture of me in the byline, I can promise you that I’ll be smiling.
I hope this story has inspired you to join me in doing so.
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Visit GetDoneInOne.com to see more patient stories and videos and learn more about Dr. Dan Noorthoek and his team.