Sunday, November 13, 2022

Averting a Dental Disaster

This is a story about how important it is not to wait too long to fix any developing dental problems.

In late August, I gave a final update on what happened with my dental implants.

What Happened with My Teeth and Some Advice

The two teeth that were extracted and replaced with implants were #30 and #31 on the lower right side.  Tooth #18 and tooth #19 on the lower left side have been a concern for several years and were on hold due to the two extractions.  Both #18 and #19 had large fillings.  Tooth #18 was missing the inner back corner, and tooth #19 was missing part of the front of the tooth and the inner side was worn down.  

During the 14 months that I had to chew on the left side only as I went through the implant process, I was worried about whether #18 and #19 would continue to hold up.  Throughout late 2021 and early 2022 I checked on the appearance of each tooth around once per month.  They seemed to be holding steady, for which I was thankful.

In June as my implant crowns continued to be redone over and over due to them not fitting, I noticed that the filling in tooth #19 was wearing down further.  It had had three little craters on the edges of the filling which were growing slightly larger but were still quite small.  This was not a good sign, but the changes were minor.

On July 7, I finally got the implant crowns and had no desire for any additional dental work anytime in the near future.  I had had enough.  I continued to watch #18 and #19 hoping that they would last until at least early next year.

I began checking both teeth once per week due to my increasing concern.  #18 seemed to have lost a small piece of filling.  #19 had worn down some more, but I thought that the teeth would be hold together a bit longer.

During the evening of September 14, I did my weekly check on both teeth.  I detected that tooth #19 had changed some more.  As I carefully studied its appearance with my face close to the mirror and with a flashlight shining on it, I became quite alarmed.  I felt that this could no longer wait.  I had no way of knowing how long the filling had before failure, but I felt that it could be down to just weeks or even days.

I have such vivid memories of the pain I had from the infected teeth in the summer of 2021, which peaked from June 29 to July 2.  That was the worst pain I have ever experienced.  I wanted to avoid having a tooth break apart.  I didn't want to have that kind of pain again if I could avoid it. 

Even though the last thing I wanted was more dental work, I called the dentist the first thing the next morning.  I was thrilled that an appointment was available just one week later on September 22.  Since I had a date, I decided to go on a soft diet to prevent the filling from breaking before my appointment.

I was told that my insurance was maxed out for the year due to my implant crowns.  That was no surprise, and I didn't care.  I felt that this was an emergency.  My guiding motto is that I will pay more for something if it will improve the quality of my life.  Getting the tooth fixed before the filling failed was more important than trying to wait until January in order to reduce the cost.

At my appointment, my dentist assessed both teeth.  She felt that tooth #18 was completely fine with no cause for concern.  She asked if tooth #19 hurt or whether it was sensitive.  I replied "no" to both questions but stated that I knew that it was about to fail.  She deferred to my opinion, and we proceeded with tooth #19.  The plan was to leave tooth #18 alone, since she felt that it was okay.

I always remind my dentist that my thyroid condition causes me to need more local anesthesia than is typically needed.  While I don't know how much I need, I suspect from my past experiences that I need more than double the amount that most people need.  My thyroid condition causes my body to metabolize substances abnormally.  Local anesthesia just doesn't do much for me.

The area was numbed, and my dentist started on the top of the filling.  I could feel the drill, although the pain was just very slight.  I knew what would happen if we continued.  She stopped after around 30 seconds and asked if I could feel it.  Since I could, she gave me more local anesthesia.  This how my dental work always goes.

Since my dentist had taken a little bit of the top of the filling, she could see the three breached areas of the filling in tooth #19 better.  She was coming around to my opinion about the filling, commenting that a single firm bite might have been enough to break it.

She could now see that tooth #18 had a cavity in the part of the filling that had worn down some.  That was the part of tooth #18 that had concerned me.  Before continuing with the crown prep for tooth #19, my dentist removed the cavity from tooth #18 and fixed that filling.  I could still feel the drill, by the way.  It was only slight pain, not enough to worry about.  While it wasn't enough to be bothersome at all, it showed that I still wasn't properly numb after two doses of local anesthesia.

My dentist then proceeded with getting tooth #19 prepped for a crown.  As she finished up, I was definitely starting to feel some noticeable pain, but it was still pretty low on a scale of 1 to 10, so I got through it fine.

So, was I right about tooth #19?

After my dentist finished prepping the tooth, she told me that when she started on the side wall of the tooth that the filling popped right out.  She said that I was right and that the filling would not have lasted much longer, no more than two months at the very most.

Whew!  Disaster averted.  I made the right decision.  The filling would not have lasted until my coverage reset.

The entire time I've played this waiting game with tooth #19 I knew that I couldn't wait too long.  I didn't want to get more dental work done, but I didn't want to have a dental emergency, either.  I played the waiting game as long as I could, and I quit waiting just in time.

In order to avoid having the temporary crown come lose, I chewed on the right side only until my October 13 appointment.  That was really difficult for me.  I chewed on the left side only for 14 months, and I still prefer the left side.  In several instances, I put food in my mouth and starting chewing away on the left side and then realized with horror what I was doing.  I stopped myself and switched to the right side.  Fortunately, the temporary crown stayed in place until my appointment.

I got my permanent crown on October 13, and it fit perfectly on the first try.  Yay!  It feels really comforting to know that my teeth on both sides are now in great shape and that for the first time in several years, I don't have to fear disaster whenever I chew.  

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