Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Tooth Truth

Back again this week with an update. Previously, I wrote about my fear of dentists and pending appointment, but gave little update to the actual outcome. Well... it's time to talk teeth.

On my first appointment, I was... nervous, to say the least. I managed to overcome this nervousness enough that I didn't bolt as soon as I heard the first piece of equipment come on, but I don't think I've ever felt so tired leaving an appointment as I did then. After filling out some paperwork, I was ushered back to the hygienist's chair, where a very friendly Hispanic woman in her mid-forties greeted me. She was the hygienist, and she first listened to my sob story. Apparently, dental fear is very common, and I'm hardly alone in having such huge gaps in my dental work.

On the subject of huge gaps, I did indeed have a cavity in my left molar.What really surprised me is that what I thought was terrible discoloration and possibly a cavity on my back right molar was actually a silver filling. I could not, even under duress, recall ever actually getting a filling done, so I have no idea how long it was in there.

I have a bit (massive understatement) of gingivitis. My gums were pretty puffy and red. The first appointment was a debridement, where the hygienist spent roughly an hour carving buildup off of my gums, occasionally handing me interestingly shaped bits of it as an example of what she was removing. Her good humour and willingness to walk me through the steps of what she was doing, along with them letting me keep a headphone in, got me through that procedure, if only barely. I was tensed up, eyes shut, hands clenched to the chair, back arched for a great deal of it. By the time I was out of the chair, I could barely stand, let alone walk back home from the office.
So after telling my sob story to the dentist as well, he inspected my jacked-up grill and came up with a plan. My molars could easily be fixed with a couple of fillings. The front teeth, he warned, might be a little more complicated, but could still be repaired with fillings; however, depending on the depth of the decay and how near the root it got, may still require root canals. Appointments were made, and I went home to discover later that night that I could, indeed, now floss my own teeth again. And I haven't missed a day since.

Going in for the fillings on the molars was surprisingly easy. The second appointment for the front teeth was a little nerve-wracking, but for the first time it wasn't the drill or the butcher dentistry I was afraid of -- merely the cost. Could I afford a root canal right now? Probably not. Fortunately, the decay hadn't hit the nerve yet. Two of the teeth got indirect pulp caps, but the fillings were successful across all four teeth, and for the first time in years my incisors look like complete teeth again.

Four weeks after the fillings, and my gums are still marginally sore, especially where the composite resin goes under the gumline (and I despise dental cord - the stuff they shove into your gums to push them away from your teeth), but after being looked at by the dentist yesterday, he says they're still healing normally, and he thinks I've dodged the root canal bullet. The best part is that, while the out-of-pocket was a little higher than the original estimate because of the pulp caps, I don't think they billed my insurance, so should an emergency arise I still have a fair sum left before I hit my maximum yearly benefits.

And speaking of emergencies, we're keeping an eye on my wisdom teeth, because I get the occasional twinge in my lower right jaw, and they're all sideways pointing towards the front of my jaw. But unless one of them tries moving any further than they already have, I should be out of the woods and down to regular cleaning and maintenance.

I think, maybe, I'm not so scared of the dentist anymore.

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