Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Root of the Problem

I'm in the middle of a whole process to improve my dental health.  See, since I was little, I've been cavity-prone.  Ridiculously so.  I took fluoride pills and brushed as much as any other kid, but usually had cavities (yes, plural) at every check-up.

When I was in law school, I didn't have dental insurance and slacked on going on for check-ups for that reason.  Big mistake.  Right after I started practicing law and had some insurance, I got a toothache.  I called a dentist, saying I needed a cleaning and check-up, and saying that I definitely had a cavity or two that was hurting.  If only that had been the end of it.  In addition to several cavities that were treated with fillings, I had one tooth so bad it couldn't be filled and had to be extracted, and three that needed root canals and crowns.  It was a time- and money-sucking experience, and it just plain sucked.

Recently, I found out that the root canals I had done "didn't quite remove the infection," and that I still had decay and infection in those teeth, down at the bottom, under the gum line, where the teeth meet the jaw.  Left untreated, this infection would eat away my jawbone and eventually probably cause me some major medical problems, not to mention pain.  My options?  Re-root canal and re-crown them all, or pull them all and get implants.  The latter was the best choice in terms of making sure the problem was eradicated, and no one could promise the former would go well because of the damage to the structure of my teeth after so many cavities and procedures.

So now I'm in the middle of a long process of fixing this issue (again).  My teeth have been pulled, and (after almost three weeks), I have a "flipper" insert with three fake teeth.  It is almost like a retainer combined with a bridge or partial.  It does the job for now, allowing me to eat a little more normally than I could before, with a huge gap there.  I was supposed to have screws implanted in my jaw at the same time the teeth were pulled; it turns out my roots are too big, so the holes in my jaw were too big to hold the screws steady.  Instead, another delay:  I'll get the screws implanted in another procedure in a few weeks.  Then, about six to eight weeks after that, my new ceramic teeth (veneers) will be cemented on to those screws.  Oh, and in the meantime, I'm getting about another dozen or so cavities filled or old, loose fillings replaced.  I literally have been going to a dentist, endodontist, or periodontist about once every week or two for the last few months, with no end in sight.

I'm also using special toothpaste and mouthwash twice a day -- stuff I got from my dentist that is supposed to change the pH of my mouth, so that I won't get cavities as easily.  Everyone has told me that no one who brushes twice a day and flosses daily (which I do -- the flossing habit became a daily "must" after my root canals five or six years ago!) should have so many cavities.  So we're trying to change my body's makeup.  In addition, I have a timer that will make sure I brush for at least two full minutes every time.

So here I am again, trying to manage my dental health.  It's really frustrating to have to spend a great deal of time and money fixing a problem that was "fixed" a few years ago, also by way of a great deal of time and money being spent.  I guess health is one of those things like weight or grief that is is lifelong struggle.  There will always be challenges, and it's never really "off the table" that it might pop up again.

One thing that is different for me about this -- and about everything in my life -- is that I measure things by whether Brian was alive when they happened.  It's been over two years since he died, and I'm now re-facing issues I faced when he was alive.  For some reason, that makes this all a lot more frustrating.  I thought we had faced this together and tackled it before, and here it is again....or still.  I guess widowhood doesn't exactly give you a pass on getting more bad luck.  I'm just lucky that I"m in a position to be able to fix the problem, and to have Sheldon's support while I do so.  He's been great about driving me to and from procedures that require massive drugging, helping me change my gauze, giving me my antibiotics and pain pills according to the schedule (again, very helpful when I'm loopy on sedatives), filling the fridge with soft foods, and just generally doting on me. 

Seriously, though -- when will this problem really be solved?  Will I ever just have a mouth full of healthy teeth?  Will that only happen when they are all fake?

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