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How Immediate Implants Saved “Refrigerator” Perry's Smile

How multiple disciplines in dentistry plan and manage your care

By Dr. Vesna Sutter

Refrigerator perry's smile makeover.

“All's Well That Appears Well” — Not Always

“All's Well That Appears Well” — Not always true and never more so than with William “The Refrigerator” Perry, “the Fridge” as Chicago Bears fans lovingly refer to him. Fame, wealth and celebrity notwithstanding, behind the public persona is a remarkable human story of neglect and fear of dentistry, but in this case there is a happy ending.

What do you do when you need teeth — immediately? Even fame and fortune can't prevent the loss of your natural teeth when neglect and lack of care finally catch up with you. Suddenly, one day when you are faced with imminent loss of your teeth and there are no more places to run or hide, you must seek help and care.

Many people in this ultimate and uncomfortable position have had to face their worst fears and go to the dentist, only to find out that nothing is ever as bad as it seems. This was just the situation that “The Fridge” found himself in.

As luck would have it, his celebrity did help. In the hands of restorative dentist, Dr. Vesna Sutter and periodontist, Dr. Marty Kolinsky his dental dreams came true. His biggest fears were allayed and Perry was given back his smile and confidence, while avoiding dentures. With the guidance of the caring and charitable Sutter/Kolinsky team, he learned that you don't have to live with pain and discomfort. Just as in the world of football, teamwork can be everything to a winning side. This outstanding team planned the game strategy and called the plays perfectly. Except this time it was his dental team doing the quarterbacking.

For The Record

In 1985, William Perry was a first round NFL Draft pick of the Chicago Bears. Perry, at 6-feet, 2-inches and weighing 382 pounds, was nicknamed “The Refrigerator” for his giant, square-like frame. He quickly became a fan favorite. Perry went on to play for ten years in the NFL including the Super Bowl where he scored an offensive touchdown, a unique accomplishment for a defensive player. He retired after the 1994 season. Since retiring he has founded his own construction company in his native South Carolina and used his celebrity for entertainment appearances.

Refrigerator perry smile before treatment
“The Fridge's” pre-treatment photograph showing his many missing teeth and the remaining loose teeth caused by advanced periodontal disease with pockets of infection.
Photo provided by Dr. Vesna Sutter

Patient Perspective — “The Fridge's Concerns”

Most people recognize “the Fridge” from his football days with the Chicago Bears. While it's not easy to admit, the 380 pound defensive lineman and fullback was scared of the dentist. “I had been in constant pain for many years and I neglected myself not having had any dental care for over 20 years, not even emergency care. Unfortunately, as I grew older my teeth started to get loose. The pain that I was experiencing was becoming more intense and I was in pain more often. Not only that, but I was embarrassed by the condition of my teeth. I knew I had to do something, but didn't know where to turn,” said the Fridge. Fortunately, being a recognizable professional athlete has been a great gift in his life for many reasons, one of which was Dr. Vesna Sutter's willingness to provide him with a ‘celebrity makeover.’ She discussed the modern technology and virtually pain-free dentistry that would be used to restore his dental health. “I lucked out. I was able to overcome my fear and anxiety in the process — it turned out to be an opportunity too great to pass up.”

Restorative Dentist's Perspective — Dr. Vesna Sutter

Every year we try to do something special in our office to give back in return for all we have. We are very proud of the quality of work we provide and wanted to create an opportunity to showcase our work. We offered a celebrity makeover and it was clear that “The Fridge” was in big trouble and needed our services the most. His smile makeover was particularly challenging because of his fear of going to the dentist and because he needed such extensive work. He had already lost many of his teeth and was most notably missing his upper front teeth which gave him his trademark “gap.” He came to us with severe end-stage periodontal (gum) disease and many of his remaining teeth were loose. A team approach was clearly necessary to provide him with a solution to his complicated dental problems.

His options were limited, full dentures (plates) or numerous dental implants with fixed bridges (permanent life-like tooth replacements) were his only real choices. The main advantages of dental implants are that they stabilize the jawbone which otherwise would “resorb” or melt away once teeth are lost. They also provide a lifetime of aesthetic and functional permanent tooth replacements.

Mr. Perry traveled a great distance, which meant multiple visits for treatment would be out of the question and being in the public eye, he couldn't be without teeth at any time. In the right clinical circumstances, implants can be placed and teeth connected to them in the same day, but it requires careful evaluation, planning, preparation and time.

I sent him to a periodontist, Dr. Marty Kolinski, with whom I have worked closely and successfully for years.

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