Category Archives: Teeth

Being (a) Patient: Tough Decisions and Temporary Solutions

I have avoided writing this blog post for almost five months. I actually did write one back in June; when I first found out I can’t yet afford to finish my dental reconstruction. The shame and frustration of admitting that reality were so raw I couldn’t bring myself to post it at the time.

Since then I have tried to save enough to get to the point where I could put most of the money down to get the eight crowns and two posts I need but I am not quite there yet. I have enough money to start the work but the large payments I would have to make in the months following, make me uneasy because I would essentially be eating Ramen noodles the whole time and living in terror of ANYthing that might go wrong.

If I have learned anything from this situation (actually…I’ve learned a lot,) unexpected things happen. As much as I would like to stick my head in the sand right now and throw all my money and credit cards at my prosthodontist and be done with this trial, it’s not financially responsible and there is no way I can justify it. Besides, I am way too into healthy eating to survive on processed, freeze-dried noodles!

I am, however, impatient to make some progress. I want all my teeth to stay in 24/7. I also want to break bread with other people. I haven’t shared a meal with another human being in over two and a half years.  (It can be kind of gross when you are missing two front teeth and have braces.) I want back those things that I took for granted before but now I won’t. I would be grateful to have that kind of functionality back.

I asked my prosthodontist last week if we could at least do temporary crowns on the two implants and bond my two worst teeth. He went to work, taking measurements and an initial mold. When I called yesterday, his office manager told me they need me to come back next week for more measurements because, “he is trying to get [me] the best deal on parts.” (Kind of makes me sound like a car, doesn’t it?)

I still don’t know how much this temporary solution is going to cost. Hopefully, it is feasible. The temps will have to be redone when I get all eight crowns. So, I already know that it will end up adding to my total cost in the long run but it will be worth it. I just can’t endure another year in braces and a plastic flipper! I really need to get out of limbo. Being able to share a meal with loved ones and smile without being self-conscious will be priceless! Sometimes, progress is more important than perfection.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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Being (a) Patient: Progress Isn’t Always Pretty!

Five days from now,  I will go to my uber-talented prosthodontic clinician who will once again rebuild my much abused flipper.

What’s a flipper?  A flipper is a dental prosthesis that simulates teeth that are missing.  It’s used by damaged people like me and pint-sized beauty queens  who are in between their baby teeth and adult teeth.

I have not been able to wear my flipper for over a month, due to a complication with the augmentation bone graft, I had done in  September to restore the bone I lost when I fell.  Originally, my periodontist cut my flipper back to keep it away from the graft.  However, it was still cutting off the circulation to my gum.  So, I had to lose it to ensure the best possible result.

I have mixed feelings about wearing it again.  Physically, I am more comfortable without it.  It tastes like plastic.  It presses against my gum and hard palate all day.  It makes me gag.  It make me cough.  It makes me angry.  It reminds me to hold the handrail on stairs.  Emotionally though, it makes me feel safe.  It makes me feel like maybe people will think I just have adult braces.  It makes me feel less… vulnerable.  I don’t like to feel vulnerable.

I keep my top lip pulled down when talking to people.  When I laugh or even smile, my hand flies up to cover the gap left behind by my two missing front teeth.  I’ve realized since this has happened that a toothy grin can compensate for more than just physical insecurities though.  When you can’t flash a smile, tilt your head and toss your hair, your personality flaws become glaringly obvious.  When it comes to conversation, I’m not an artist.

I think, perhaps, writers are writers because it gives us a chance to express what we would have liked to have said in any given moment, if only we could have thought of it at the time.  If only…

I am determined to learn from this experience and be better for having gone through it.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet.  Habits form over decades; not all at once.  Change doesn’t happen all at once.  I hope that by the time this is all over that I can look back and see that I have taken one step at a time in the right direction.

Love and Many blessings to All,

Cynthia

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Being (A) Patient: The Next Step in My Dental Reconstruction

Tomorrow, I go to three of my dentists.  (I know, you must be so jealous!)  The next step in my dental reconstruction is demolition.  My lateral incisor (tooth next to the right front tooth…) is being extracted.  I have mixed feelings about this as you might imagine.

Of course, it’s nice to be making progress.  Every procedure puts me one step closer to a complete smile.  On the other hand, losing another tooth is a bummer.

I fought hard to keep my teeth after I fell.  Had the residents at the hospitals had their way, I ‘d be sporting plates and screws in my upper jaw and most of my front top teeth would have been… I can’t even write it.  Thankfully, my oral surgeon saved them all.  My lateral incisor though, every clinician agreed had to go.  Before it went though, it was put to work.  For the last eight months, my orthodontist has been slowly pulling it down with my braces.  The procedure is called a super eruption.  The tooth is helping to draw down bone, as it is slowly pulled out.  Any millimeters of bone growth I can gain will really help, as I am told it is difficult to grow vertical bone from a graft.

After my lateral is excised tomorrow, my periodontist will put in a socket graft.  Once that heals, I’ll be ready for the big one: ridge augmentation.  My perio will graft in the area where I lost jaw bone above where my right front tooth was knocked out.

I’m grateful to be moving forward.  And I’m grateful to this tooth.  I am also a little nervous.  I am hoping this is the end of the losses.  And things just get better and better from here.

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

 

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Being (a) Patient: A Moment of Gratitude

When you have been through as many dental consults as I have (six periodontal, four prosthodontic and two orthodontic) and several months of procedures with an oral surgeon, you can get pretty tired of going to dentists’ offices, especially when the actual dental reconstruction work hasn’t started yet.  It begins to feel endless before you even begin.  Then the blessing comes.

I had to have my broken bicuspid bonded in order to be able to have a brace put on it.  The entire front was missing. I am going to be in braces for over a year. So my prostho didn’t want to put a temporary crown on it for that long.  When he said he was going to bond it, I figured it would like a patch, similar to the blob of bonding material my oral surgeon put behind another tooth to save it.

So, you can imagine my surprise when he molded it to look like an actual tooth…  not just a tooth either, MY TOOTH.  I could barely talk when his assistant put the before and after photo up on the monitor. It looked like it had never been broken… like nothing at all had happened to it.  It looked perfect!

I know it’s just one tooth and a temporary solution at that.  I still have a looooooong way to go in this dental reconstruction but it’s hard to express how it good it felt to have that first little step be so beautiful!  I felt a little bit more like myself than I have in a long time.  Even with my appliance in, I felt uncomfortable smiling wide because I knew my broken tooth would still show.  Thursday night, I wore the widest, brightest (had a cleaning too) smile that I have had in almost six months when I showed his work to my family.

I knew the prosthodontist I had chosen was an artist.  …I can always spot one a mile away.  I wasn’t worried about whether he could do the work but it is awfully nice to see proof that I was right in my own mouth!

What was your big moment of gratitude this week?

Love and blessings to all.

Cynthia

 

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Being (a) Patient: The Long and Bumpy Road

When you have an injury or illness that requires a long plan of treatment, you’re probably going to hit the wall more than once.  At least that’s been my experience thus far.

I have been having one of those weeks where I was starting to feel like the 10 steps I went forward in May to get my smile back…well, I fell back seven.  When you have 4 doctors (or in my case dentists: a periodontist, a prosthodontist, an orthodontist and an oral surgeon,) they aren’t always going to agree on everything.  I also found out it would be a miracle if I don’t end up with any pink porcelain (which is used to simulate gum tissue when there has been bone and/or gum tissue loss.)  And some of the people who are closest to me are sick of hearing about my teeth after four plus months and think I should stop seeking out the holy grail of treatment plans and just get on with the fuckin’ work already.

Can’t really blame ‘em there.  I am sick of it too.  I would love to just get on with the treatment already but I am also terrified.  I have felt like I have been putting a puzzle together in the dark since I fell.  Whenever I think I have all the pieces together, a light flashes on just long enough to reveal that something isn’t quite right yet.

I have made progress for sure.  I managed to avoid the plates and screws that the residents at the hospital wanted to put in my jaw.  I found a great oral surgeon who set my jaw and saved the other three teeth; they wanted to pull in the hospital.  I nixed the treatment plan that would have left me an 8 tooth bridge from upper premolar to premolar, as well as, the douche-bag perio who said it was my only option.  Thankfully, I’ve found a skilled team who can deliver on keeping me in all separate teeth.

So, what’s the problem then, right?  Four millimeters is the problem… four fuckin’ millimeters of vertical bone loss above my missing central incisor (or right front tooth to you and me.)  Between my body growing it and the bone graft(s), I need to gain 4mm (and have plenty of gum tissue) in order to avoid pink porcelain.  Is pink porcelain that big a deal?  Well, when you have a high smile line or a somewhat gummy smile like I do, it’s going to show.  I keep flashing on an image of a youngish Wayne Gretzky with his pink-topped crowns.  I couldn’t figure out why his upper gum looked like it had a squiggly dark line running through it at the time.  Now, I know it was pink porcelain.

My prosthodontist is an artist and I am sure even if pink porcelain is required that I won’t look like an ice hockey-player by the time he is done but, you know, I also will do everything in my power to make sure I gain those four fucking millimeters!

What experiences have you had as a patient?  How did you overcome them?  Is there anything you wish you had done differently looking back now?

Love and blessings to all,

Cynthia

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