Category Archives: Smile

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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justdragonfly

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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justdragonfly

 

 

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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justdragonfly

Being (a) Patient: Holding Out for a Hero

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have never been shy about saying that western allopathic medicine is good for putting people back together when they are broken, and for acute care when someone’s life is in danger, but when it comes to treating chronic conditions and disease…not so much.  I believe that if you are looking for someone to take care of your health, start by looking in a mirror.

I know that I am responsible for my own health.  I have studied nutrition, yoga and various wellness practices.  I walk regularly.  I meditate.  I eat a vegetarian whole foods diet.  Yada yada yada…When it comes to health and wellness, I was on it… and then I got broken.

After this accident, I was completely overwhelmed by how my mouth was going to be put back together.  I knew in my bones that the plan the hospital had come up with, wasn’t the way to go.  So, when I found the doctor who fixed my upper jaw without screws or plates, I was elated and tried to dump the responsibility for the rest of my care on him.  I asked him to put together a team for me to do my dental reconstruction.

Like most doctors would, he complied by finding specialists who he liked and were located in my geographic area.  The only problem was they weren’t right for my particular case.  The periodontist he referred me to had the chair-side manner of an icy, wet blanket.  (I suspect he was part reptile…)  He gave me only one option for a course of treatment that was totally unacceptable to me.  Shortly, before I left his office, he looked at the photos of my smile before the fall and coldly said, “You’re never going to look like that again.”

I left his office enraged and called the doctor who had referred me to this monster.  I won’t bore you with the dialogue but it boiled down to what the Hell was he thinking sending me to this douche bag? (of course, only in more polite terminology.)  After some back and forth, he said “You have to get a consensus.  You’re going to need to go do consults with several different specialists until you find a doctor you like and then pick the plan you like the best.”

He was right.  The punch in the gut I got that afternoon turned into a kick in the ass.  I realized I was being a baby.  I never really had dental work before or orthodontics ever.  My teeth were always straight and healthy.   Aside from a few fillings when I was a teen and getting my wisdom teeth pulled, I only went to the dentist for cleanings.  I let my fear and ignorance turn me into a helpless victim.  I wanted someone else to fix this problem and I just wanted to show up to wherever it was being performed.  I just wanted to wake up when it was all done with a beautiful smile again.  Reality called and reminded me that I am responsible for my own care.

So, I started doing my own research on NY periodontists and prosthodontists.  Then I began the expensive time-consuming process of being examined and doing initial consults with these fellows.  I have learned a lot about my condition in the past few weeks and the various ways to treat it.  I haven’t picked one yet but I have it narrowed down to three perios.  I still have to hear the third plan.  So far, I am happy to report that, they are much more acceptable than the initial prognosis that I was given in that first reptilian consult.  Also, the specialists I am considering working with now, all have experience working with people who were injured in accidents, as well as a good deal more compassion for what I have been through.  They actually all like the fact that I have been consulting with other people and have been becoming educated about the various processes to reconstruct my gum and fix my teeth.

The bottom line is we are all responsible for our own bodies, regardless of what our condition is and how much help we need to fix it.  Take your time, find the right people and the right course of action for you.  Learn as much as you can and be an active participant in your own treatment plan.  Don’t just be a patient, be your own hero!

Love and blessings to all,

Cynthia

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Scars: What can ya do about ‘em naturally?

It’s been five and a half weeks since the accident.  While Doc fixes the inside of my mouth, I’ve decided to focus on the outside, namely my upper lip.  You can see in the photo below, I still have quite a fat lip and that jaggedy scar is what remains of the deepest cut you can get.  Basically, I ripped my lip all the way through in two places.  So, the scar continues on the inside of my mouth and loops around in a U shape back out again…Ugh!

Unretouched photo of my lip 5 weeks and 3 days after the Fall

Unretouched photo of my lip 5 weeks and 3 days after the Fall

 

So, how do I fix it naturally?  Well, since I got home from the hospital I have been rubbing aloe and organic lavender oil on it at least twice a day.  Most people know about using aloe vera to soothe burns but may not realize that aloe has swelling reduction and skin rebuilding properties.   Lavender oil, according to herbalist Brigitte Mars, “is an essential oil that is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It can be applied topically to wounds, burns, bruises, insect bites and blisters. Lavender reduces the risk of infection, reduces pain and stimulates skin regeneration. When inhaled it has a calming effect on the nervous system and gives comfort during times of trauma.”

My mom has offered several times to buy Mederma for me.  An offer I appreciated but being a nature gal, I wanted to find out what was in Mederma before I tried it.  It turns out that the active ingredient is an onion extract.  There is much debate about whether Mederma is effective or not.  However, I did learn that rubbing onion on a scar may well work on its’ own. Onion is believed to inhibit the over-production of collagen thus suppressing the formation of scar tissue and is an also an anti-inflammatory.   So, I have added rubbing raw onion on my scar to my routine.  (Smelly?  Perhaps… but after being on a liquid diet for 5 and a half weeks, I kind of like it.)

Doc suggested I massage my fat lip to keep scar tissue from forming and because he thought felt a salivary gland dropping down.  (Weird, right?  I had no idea we have secondary salivary glands in our lips either! )  Anyway, I had already been using coconut oil to keep my lips soft and chap-free.  So, now it is massage oil as well.  Coconut oil is also good to use on scars because it may prevent and reverse free radical damage.

I ordered Vitamin E oil and Shea Butter too. Vitamin E is good for skin because it increases circulation and is also a very effective anti-oxidant against free radicals.  Shea Butter is a good source of Vitamin E and Vitamin A.  Shea Butter is also an incredible emollient that will moisturize your skin and make it silky soft.  Keeping the skin soft is important because the last thing you want is for damaged skin; is for it to get dry, leaving it even more vulnerable to further damage.  To that end, I have also been wearing a hat outside to protect my face from the sun, to avoid it getting dried out or burned.

So, what are your tips for treating scars and damaged skin?  I would love to read them.  Please share!

Love and Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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Healing: Turning Why into What on the Road to Wellness

Almost always, after a personal trauma or crisis, the big question is, “Why did this happen to me?” … Why now… why me?  I experienced a double whammy of this after I fell on March 2nd.

Falling down a flight of stairs and being injured like I was seemed so unfair; I had just begun to feel like I was getting my act together after Hurricane Sandy and now this… why?  I realized though I already knew why.  It’s pretty simple.  It happened because I was careless and there are no mulligans in situations like this one.  What I really wanted to know was how to turn back time and get to do it again but hold the handrail this time.  Not gonna happen, Cynthia.

The better question is “What can I learn from this?”  Another is “how do I become better for having had this experience?”

One of the best ways I have discovered since Hurricane Sandy to stop feeling sorry for myself is to start counting blessings.  What are my blessings?  1. I am alive.  Several people have shared stories with me of people who had an accident similar to mine but didn’t fare nearly as well. 2.  I am grateful for what is working well: my brain, internal organs and spine are fine.  I can walk and breathe.  3.  I am thankful for the support that I have:  My parents have been helping me in so many different ways since this happened: food, shelter, care, making phone calls, talking me for me, scheduling and driving me to doctor appointments.  My friends and relatives have been texting me to check in because they know my jaw is wired shut and I can’t talk.  My dog Chauncy has only really left my side to eat (and to tussle with my folks’ bichon Lucy)  since I have been home from the hospital. 4.  I found a good doctor who has begun putting my mouth back together.  5. Percocet (I normally avoid pharmaceuticals but this situation has proven exceptional.)   6.  The bruises are fading.  7.  The swelling is going down.  I am fortunate in that I can go on and on.

Since I have begun this shift from self-pity to gratitude, I have noticed that I feel better.  I have a road ahead of me to recover from this accident but starting out on the right foot seems to make a really big difference.  If whatever, you focus on tends to expand then I choose to focus on being positive and believing in my body’s innate ability to heal.

Another opportunity I have here is to learn how to help my body heal itself.  Did you know that sea veggies and foods containing pectin are effective at helping the body rid itself of radiation?  Apples do extra duty in my case because they are also rich in malic acid, a natural pain reliever.  I know I will learn even more about how proper nutrition will aid my recovery.

Lastly, I don’t have the chance for a do-over or un-fall but I can recognize that I need to be more mindful and be present in each moment.  Before this happened, I remember feeling like I never quite had enough time to do everything I needed or wanted to do.  When Hurricane Sandy hit, I realized that present moment is all we have.  This fall has reminded me of that in a way I can never forget.

Love and Blessings to all,

Cynthia

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Take a Little Time to be Grateful for Your Smile

I had originally planned a completely different blog post for this week but circumstances have taken me in a very different direction…

I was out Saturday to dinner with some new and wonderful friends.  We bid each other good night and I turned and bounded down the stairs at Penn Station.  I still don’t know exactly what happened.  I do know I should have been holding the handrail but instead I went down the middle of the staircase at too fast a pace.  Maybe the stairs were wet from the bit of snow that fell but somehow I lost my balance and couldn’t regain it.  I hurtled down to the bottom and fell face first on the cement floor.

Fortunately for me, I managed to do this in front of a few paramedics, who out for the evening as well and on their way to catch their own train.  I tried to pull myself up as the worst pain I have ever felt in my life shot through my face.  Immediately, strong hands held me down and a voice said, “Don’t move.  Stay down hun.”  A white t-shirt was put in front of my face to staunch the blood that seemed to be everywhere.

They asked me a series of questions: What is your name?  How old are you?  … I was conscious the whole time and answered their questions.  I saw one tooth shoot out of my mouth on impact.  I ran my tongue over the others.  My nice straight teeth were suddenly like a jack o’ lantern’s.  I started to cry.  A hand stroked my hair and a woman said “it will be okay”.  Someone else bagged up my tooth and shoved it in my coat pocket.  An ambulance came a while later and I was rushed to a teaching hospital where for 2 days I was probed, pricked, tested, mri-ed and scanned in front of large groups of gaping interns.  Thankfully, I got out of there late Monday.

The current consensus is that my upper jaw is fractured but intact.  So, it may heal on its’ own.  My nose is also fractured but that may heal on its’ own as well.  My teeth met the floor through my lips.  They are currently stitched up inside and out.  I managed to joke this morning that it looked like I had a scorpion in my mouth with the end of its tail sticking out.

Oh but my teeth…  The Resident at the hospital refused to try to put my tooth back in after he heard it was on the floor at Penn Station.  I have several that are chipped, in the wrong position and there a few more that may not be saved.

I know it sounds a little vain to be focused on my teeth at a time like this.  After all, I was lucky indeed that I did not have any spinal damage or crack my head open.  Thankfully, my internal organs are fine.  I am also really fortunate to have support from wonderful family and friends.  To be honest though, I have cried every day over my teeth.

Me Chauncy and Coco

My smile wasn’t perfect.  I had an overbite (now an under bite); it was a little gummy on the left side.  The thing is though, it was mine.  Now, it will never be the same.  Months from now, I will have a new one and that is a really weird concept to have to wrap your head around.

This is what I have learned so far from this experience:  1. Smile at yourself and everyone else every chance you get and be grateful that you can.  2. hold on to the fucking handrail when you are using the stairs!  I wish I had.  A moment of carelessness has changed me forever.

Love and Blessings to all,

Cynthia

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