Top Dentists 2017

What Goes on at the Dentist's Office Behind the Scenes?

Four stories that offer a peek into the surprisingly exciting world of teeth.

By Jane Kidder, Amanda Raschkow, Jack Russillo, and Cassandra Calderon January 1, 2017 Published in the January 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Down to the Wire

For Wisanu Charoenkul, house calls are not things of the past. The Redmond orthodontist will go just about anywhere to tame unruly wires on patients’ braces —whether that’s the parking lot at a little league game or the bathroom at a local bowling alley. Or, as it happened several years ago, a family room floor. While wrestling with a sibling, a 10-year-old patient managed to hook the braces on his front teeth to the carpet. “The glue that secures braces is designed to let go of your tooth,” Charoenkul says. But the boy was too afraid to yank himself free, so there he remained with his face planted on the ground. Cue Dr. Charoenkul and a mini pair of Leatherman pliers. A few tugs on the boy’s lips and some “awkward shimmying” had him freed of the most unlikely wrestling knockout move. —Cassandra Calderon

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A Wager Gone Wrong

Wisconsin native Libbi Finnessy’s Bellevue dental office is a stage for the bitter rivalry between the Seahawks and her beloved Packers. Patients might arrive for cleanings sporting green-and-blue jerseys, but she makes sure they leave with Packers toothbrushes. One time before a big game, Finnessy bet a patient that if the Packers were victorious, she would earn a spin in his Aston Martin V12 Vantage—a bet that she won. But Finnessy was unfamiliar with the V12’s sensitive clutch (a Toyota pickup girl herself) and promptly backed the classic 007 luxury car into a pillar. So dentist and patient struck a new deal: free dental visits to repay the cost of the damage. “If only he had rotten teeth,” Finnessy muses, because she may be reimbursing her patient with free services for the rest of his life; he happens to be an exceptional flosser. —Jane Kidder

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An Unbearable Toothache

In 2013 father and son Drs. Edmund and Steven Kwan performed a root canal—a routine procedure for the endodontists except for one fact: Their patient, Boris, was a 900-pound polar bear. As volunteer dentists at Point Defiance Zoo, the Kwans were called in after the 27-year-old carnivore, rescued from a Mexican circus in 2002, broke his massive canine tooth from the normal wear and advanced age. “They don’t have any of the decay from too much soda pop that we humans do,” Steven says. Boris slept while the team attempted to access the tooth from the front, but their instruments were not large enough for a tooth three times the size of a human’s. The Kwans needed to swap out the small microbrush for other tools. Even with the unusual circumstances the endodontists were able to save Boris’s tooth, and left the zoo smelling only a little like fish. —Amanda Raschkow

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Young Nala Meets David the Dragon

The lobby of Dr. Purva Merchant and Dr. Kristi Linsenmayer’s Interbay dental practice is stocked with a menagerie of stuffed animals just in case children need help quelling preoperation jitters. This past March a seven-year-old came in with a tooth problem and needed it addressed fast; she would be playing the role of Young Nala that evening in a traveling production The Lion King. Performing all over the country in front of large crowds was one thing, but a dentist prodding around in her mouth made the young actress nervous. That is, until she befriended Danny the Dragon, whose big teeth she happily brushed while Dr. Purva tended to other patients. She made it to the Paramount Theatre in time and pain free, where she put on her makeup, had her hair styled into ear-shaped curls, and sang the opening number with a cast made up of a livelier kind of fake animals. —Jack Russillo

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