Was anyone wondering about what’s going on in my mouth?
I’ve been neglecting my teeth for a long time.
There was a time when I had dental insurance. Those were wonderful days. I had my teeth cleaned twice a year. A dentist peaked in to see how things were going. I had any cavities filled and a night guard made to fit my teeth and keep me from grinding while I slept.
Then I hit the road with my boyfriend and dental care pretty much went out of the window. Brushing our teeth was hardly a priority, much less going somewhere for a dental check-up and cleaning. We were seldom anywhere long enough to find a dentist, much less make an appointment and get our mouths in there.
I will admit here (with much embarrassment) that I sometimes went days without brushing my teeth.
I began paying for this neglect in 2011. My teeth hurt. I thought it was from grinding at night. I often fell asleep without putting in the night guard, and I suspected sleeping without it was making matters worse. The pain went from bad to intense, and I was taking a lot of ibuprofen to get through the days and nights. I started making an effort to put the night guard in before nodding off, and my teeth hurt less. I thought that meant things were better in there.
In December of that year, I found out that the state of my teeth had actually gotten worse. A lower molar was infected and needed to be pulled. The tooth had quit hurting because the nerves were dead. There was no saving it.
I got a referral from a poor people’s dental clinic. They sent me to a dentist who pulled it for the low, low price of still more than I could really afford. Here’s a tip of the hat and big thanks to family members who gave me the money I needed to join the masses missing teeth.
I hit the road again (thankfully, alone this time) and while I was a little better at brushing my teeth every day (and sometimes at night too!), I wasn’t exactly paying close attention to my oral hygiene. When day-to-day survival took priority, it was easy to stop thinking about my teeth.
In the July of 2014, I started having excruciating mouth pain. I was back to taking ibuprofen several times a day.
I couldn’t tell what exactly was happening in the depths of my mouth, but it felt like my bite was all wrong and my uppers and lowers were no longer meeting up correctly. It felt as if my upper back molar, instead of resting on the lower back molar, was banging around on the gum behind the lower molar.
I drove a friend to an area dental clinic. During her appointment, I asked if someone could take a look at my teeth . I was allowed to self-report my poverty, and I was squeezed in. The dentist buffed down a tooth (the top one, I think), and that helped a lot, at least in the moment.
I thought I was all better, and I celebrated with a bean burrito. My relief was short-lived. The next day, I was in pain again.
When I probed with my tongue, it felt as if the gum around my bottom back molar was separated from the tooth. I could flap it around with my tongue.
I couldn’t chew and reduced my diet to instant mashed potatoes, smoked kippers, egg drop soup, mashed tofu in broth, chocolate pudding, and refried beans with cheese. Slowly, the swelling went down, and my gum quit flapping. The pain lessened. One day in August, I could eat regular food again.
Sometimes the pain would flare up. I’d pop an ibuprofen and eat mashed potatoes until I didn’t hurt anymore.
In late January 2015, I went to a dental clinic where folks train to be dental hygienists. The trainees who see patients are close to graduation and are under close supervision. All services are free. During my first visit, twenty x-rays were taken. Then my mouth was examined prior to making an appointment for a cleaning.
I explained the problems I’d been having to the student hygienist, her supervisor, and an actual dentist. The dentist said that my wisdom teeth (which are still beneath my gums) had become active. He said this activity had caused the swelling and pain. He recommended I have all four wisdom teeth removed.
Before I took any action regarding my wisdom teeth, I was back at the clinic for my cleaning. Moments after the student hygienist began poking around my teeth with her metal instruments, she started apologizing that she had flaked off a piece of my tooth. Soon the instructor was peering into my mouth, then the dentist. Long story short, the dentist determined that the student hygienist had actually flaked off a seal or a filling that had probably been loose, and I now had a deep crack in my tooth that needed attention they couldn’t provide.
I contacted a dental college with a clinic. The college requires payment of $69 before they consider accepting someone as a patient. They wanted me to have three consultations before they did any work on my mouth. They wanted to do another series of x-rays. I made an appointment, but I was unsure if this program were right for me.
In the meantime, The Lady of the House called her family’s dentist to find out what she charges for a consultation. The verdict? FREE consultation. AND the office manager was able to squeeze me in the next day.
So here’s what’s wrong with my tooth: it has both a crack and a hole in it. It needs a crown. The crown costs $900. Sigh. I called the dental school and asked them for an estimate of the cost for the same procedure. Their charge is $700, plus $69 for the consultation. I’d still have to go to the three initial appointments, and I have no idea when the work would actually start (or finish). Also,The Lady and her family trust their dentist and rave about how gentle and nice she is. I’m not sure I want a student learning to put in a crown using my mouth as the practice ground.
Today the dentist starts work on my mouth. In about two weeks, she’ll be able to do the second part of the crown process. Hopefully, my nerves are still alive and kicking and I won’t need a root canal. A root canal would involve another dentist (a specialist) and more money.
I just want to be able to eat with no pain and not worry that I’m going to end up spitting my tooth into the palm of my hand.
And good lord, yes, I’m brushing my teeth at least twice a day now, and flossing as well.