Larry M. Over, DMD, MSD
Meet Dr. Over
When you meet Dr. Larry Michael Over for the first time, he strikes you as a doctor perfectly suited to helping patients who present some of dentistry’s most challenging cases. A prosthodontist in Eugene, OR, who started his current practice in December 1992, Dr. Over is earnest and enthusiastic as he describes the precision and artistry this specialty requires.
Larry Michael Over, DMD, MSD, is expert in both prosthodontics and its less common sub-specialty, maxillofacial prosthetics, which entails replacing eyes, ears, and other facial or oral structures damaged by cancer, accidents or birth defects.
One of three prosthodontists in the Eugene area, Dr. Over is the only one who limits his practice to prosthodontics. Although the number of prosthodontists statewide is 13, Dr. Over is one of only two prosthodontists in the state who have completed a residency in maxillofacial prosthetics. Dr. Over is also one of few private practicing prosthodontists to be board-certified.
His profession allows him to combine lifelong interests in dentistry and art as he invents realistic-looking prostheses, such as artificial eyes, ears, dentures, implant and fixed prostheses for many of his patients.
“I’ve always loved to work with my hands,” says Dr. Over, whose hobbies include N Scale model trains and sculpting clay busts of his three children. “I love the precision part of what I do, and the fact that it’s involved in the care of a patient at the same time.”
“Larry truly does change people’s lives,” attests Dr. Over’s friend and colleague, Dr. Tim Welch, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who works in the same building. “At heart, he’s a creator, an artistic type in a technical field. You can see it in his patients and in the prostheses he makes. He hand-paints them all and is extremely skilled.”
Dr. Over attributes his interest in dentistry to his father, Dr. Larry F. Over, who practiced general dentistry in the small Oregon coastal town of Toledo. As a boy growing up in Newport, OR, he practically lived at his father’s dental office, which he said was a pleasant work environment with friendly patients. “I was fascinated by what my father did with his hands, the gold work, the crowns and bridge work, the dentures he made.” His father’s work also sparked his interest in art. He discovered that he enjoyed sculpture in college and building models, especially model trains, a hobby he’s had since he was 12.
Dr. Over graduated from Newport High School in 1975 with a dentistry career in mind and went to the University of Santa Clara in California for his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
He studied graduate level microbiology and biochemistry at Oregon State University in Corvallis, then enrolled in Oregon Health Sciences University’s School of Dentistry in 1981.
As a dental school freshman, he met Dr. William Howard, dean of the Fixed Prosthodontics Department and learned about the specialty of prosthodontics and its sub-specialty, maxillofacial prosthetics.
“It was like a light turned on for me,” he says. “I had an immediate affinity for it.” Dr. Over also met Beth at the dental school, where she studied to become a hygienist. They met, he says, in his junior year on Valentine’s Day in 1984, and married two-and-a-half years later. Though certain he would pursue a career in prosthodontics, Dr. Over first wanted to gain experience as a general dentist. He joined the Air Force, where he spent almost four years in active duty. He spent the first year in a general practice residency at a base in Tucson, AZ, then was stationed the next two years at a base in San Vito in Southern Italy, where he was a general dental officer. In late 1988, he and Beth Anne moved back to Toledo, OR to manage the dental practice for his father, who was dying of cancer at the time. Beth Anne worked as his hygienist, the only time he and Beth Anne worked in an office together.
When Dr. Over’s father died in 1989, the Overs sold the Toledo practice and he enrolled in programs for prosthodontics and maxillofacial prosthetics at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. In 1992, Dr. Over received his Master of Science in Dentistry, and certificates in both prosthodontics and maxillofacial prosthetics. Both Northwest natives, Dr. Over and Beth Anne decided to return to start the practice in Eugene, where there were no prothodontists at the time.
Dr. Over credits four dentists in particular who helped him start the practice: Steve Smith, John Stringer, Jerry Olson and William Knight. “These four doctors went out of their way to help me get started,” he says. “Sometimes it can be very difficult starting a practice from scratch, and they took me under their wing 13 years ago. They referred patients to me and provided valuable advice. They remain my very good friends to this day.”
Dr. Over also teaches at Lane Community College, a resource he considers to be very important to the dental community of Eugene. He is an oral pathology course instructor for the Dental Hygiene Program and a guest lecturer for the Dental Assisting Program. He also acknowledges the groundbreaking classes the college is now offering for dental administrators as unique and very vital to the profession.
About a quarter of Dr. Over’s work is devoted to maxillofacial prosthetic patients, who are mostly cancer and trauma cases where people have lost facial structures, not just teeth.
“Most often, I see complicated cases,” he says. “And I like it that way. I love the challenge of diagnosing and planning treatment for these complex cases.”
Most of his prosthodontic patients are mature adults, people who need partial or full dentures, implants or fixed reconstruction, and also want to improve their appearances. Many are geriatric patients whose jaws have atrophied greatly and who need replacement teeth. Sometimes treatment takes a year to a year-and-a-half to complete. Both esthetics and function are key elements of his treatment plans.
His maxillofacial patients present some of Dr. Over’s most challenging and demanding, though gratifying, work. As an example, he cites the case of Dennis Wilhelm, and Indiana patient who suffers from a form of cancer known as adenoid cystic carcinoma, one of the most virulent head and neck cancers.
Dr. Over treated Wilhelm 15 years ago during his residency at Indiana State University. At the time, “Wilhelm had most of his hard and soft palates removed because of the cancer. Dr. Over fitted Wilhelm with an obturator that allowed him close to normal oral function.
Last year, Wilhelm’s cancer recurred, and he came to Eugene to be treated by Dr. Over. “Dennis lost a good portion more of his hard palate, and now has only one side of his upper jaw left from his last surgery,” Dr. Over says. Part of the treatment included making a second orburator to replace the structures removed in his latest surgery. “When he returned to Indiana, Wilhelm could eat and speak again and had a normal oral appearance.”
Another patient, Ruth of Eugene, was a young woman when she lost her left eye, its surrounding tissues and half of her upper left jaw to chondrosarcoma. Recently, Dr. Over made an orbital prosthesis and obturator for her, replacing the missing eye and filling the hole in her face left by the missing jaw. Now, he says, Ruth does not need the patch she has been wearing for about 30 years.
Dr. Over says he never turns away patients who need maxillofacial prosthetic treatment. “Someone needs to take care of these patients,” he states.
At home, Dr. Over brings the same precision and attention to detail to his hobbies as he does his prosthodontic work. For instance, he is designing the plans for three multi-level model railroads for his N Scale trains rather than using standard designs. Currently, he is sketching the three blueprints that will ultimately be close replicas of parts of three Western railroads. “I like to get out and research the actual prototype,” he says. He visited and photographed an old branch line in the Nevada desert and made a three-day bicycle ride over the Cascades and Saddle Mountains to research what to include in two of the model railroads. He’s also working on clay sculptures of his children. He golfs and skis weekly, depending on the season. Reflecting on his work and family, Dr. Over says he’s lucky. “I get to do what I enjoy. I get to help people every day. I’m healthy,” he says. “We see so many people here who are very ill with cancer. You realize it could happen to anyone, and how fortunate you are to have family and health. Those things bring me back down to earth very quickly and help me appreciate what I have.”