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Getting Better but it’s in Small Steps

L

littlefox

Junior member
Joined
Jun 14, 2018
Messages
4
Location
Louisiana, United States
I’ve always found solace in writing, which I suppose is why my first post will be an introduction post to my “journal” about my path to oral health. But first, a little about me for those following along. I’m 25, nearly 26, have lived in the Deep South of the United States my whole life, and I go by the name Sage for the time being. I’ve had plenty of health ailments my whole life that haven’t worried me half as much as my teeth. In fact, at age 10 I had a tumor removed from my ear that could have ended up killing me, yet that was a walk in the park compared to confronting my poor oral health!

When I was a kid. I had the healthiest, albeit not the prettiest, teeth. My mom spent so much money on buying water with fluoride to keep my teeth as strong as possible. Although I never flossed (bar the times food would get caught in between my teeth), I brushed them regularly and at a cleaning at age 13, I still had zero cavities. The dentist was stunned! She told me most kids were riddled with cavities from eating candy and drinking soda - my vice was sunflower seeds, she even noted a tooth that had a bit of film from the seed stuck to it. :p So my teeth are healthy! Clearly they can withstand anything, right? And thus began my horrible descent.

I can’t remember when I stopped brushing my teeth, but I remember scraping what felt like “hard plaque” as I called it (now I know it’s calculus) off my very back molar (either #2 or #15, I honestly can’t remember at this point) at age 15 and the sinking feeling I got as I realized I had scratched away half of my tooth. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t tell a single person what had happened and figured this was my punishment for not caring about myself. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety my whole life, so speaking about it was impossible.

After my cleaning at age 13, my mom never took me back to the dentist. Once I was older, I brought up concerns about my wisdom teeth. I had on and off pain from teeth #1 and #16, but she would tell me to tough it out. Notably when I was 20, she gave me leftover hydrocodone from my cousin instead of doing anything to truly help me. She had extreme anxiety regarding the dentist due to a doctor “with huge fingers” traumatizing her as a kid, and it rubbed off on me. I was terrified of anything beyond a general cleaning and I knew what needed to be done was far beyond that.

So I learned to deal with it, more or less. Eventually my other back upper molar also broke, then they both finally broke completely at the gums. I was so relieved when I finally spit out that last bit of tooth. They could no longer hurt me. I had teeth #18, 30, and 31 have pockets crack at the gum line. I learned to chew on the left side of my mouth because it was my stronger side. My right side had what I was convinced was eroded enamel that was decaying away and would eventually crack and fall out like my molars had. But it couldn’t be all bad, right? My teeth looked nothing like some of the kids I knew with what looked like an inch thick of plaque on all of their teeth. Although my teeth themselves aren’t aesthetically pleasing (peg laterals, a wide gap between my front two teeth which are huge, sharp canines), at least not ALL of them are rotting out.

Then last month, I was smoking (marijuana - I smoke cigarettes off and on but mean it when I say I’m not an addict in the slightest) and had the worst panic attack I’ve ever experienced. I could feel my teeth rotting from the inside out and falling out of my mouth. I was shaking and crying and couldn’t stop staring at them because if I did, they would be gone. I was convinced that if I fell asleep, I’d either die or wake up to all my teeth having fallen out. I ended up at my husband’s summer job at three in the morning because I couldn’t function by myself. They allowed him to go home early and only when he was holding me could I finally sleep. He promised to do anything and everything to get this taken care of.

After over a decade, I finally went to the dentist. We went to a large office the first time and I didn’t like it. They insisted we didn’t have insurance (we did - we had to jump through hoops to make sure we had it) and the dentist bluntly told me that he would have to take out my wisdom teeth (turns out I only had my uppers - never knew that!) and extract the molars. It took several times asking for him to explain that he was referring to my broken molars that I assumed were a non-issue at this point. He didn’t outwardly judge me for smoking weed but I could tell he didn’t have experience handling patients who do. Then I was told I would get a comprehensive exam and x-rays after my extractions and a general cleaning. After the extractions!! That didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to know exactly what was in store for me, which I was convinced was the worst. My best case scenario was scaling and planing, several root canals and crowns, and probably a partial. My worst case, which I thought it would be, would be full dentures. They also said I couldn’t get in for a comprehensive exam until July 25. My basic exam was on June 1!!! So we found another office right by one of my jobs.

The receptionist was warm and sweet. She handled my insurance like a pro and was very open about any problems that arose. My dentist sat me in a room, a regular office, before we took any X-rays and we talked about what I wanted to gain from the visit. She told me we would take lots of X-rays and photos, she would measure my gum depths (which was my main concern - I was convinced I had advanced periodontal disease), and they would come up with a full treatment plan for me so I would be at ease with knowing what’s ahead of me. She never assumed I would be back for any treatment, but promised to arm me with knowledge. i was so at ease.

The nerves didn’t hit bad until the hygienist measured my pocket depths. I had done enough research to know she was reading out how many millimeters my pockets were. I was expecting to hear lots of fives and sixes but was hoping for nothing worse. I was prepared to hear I would need gum flap surgery but held out hope I wouldn’t. Shockingly, I heard the number five only three times, and for my very back molars. I was even told my front teeth were healthy! When asked how long it had been since I had been to the dentist, everyone in the room was shocked. The hygienist didn’t even believe me at first. She recommended getting scaling and planing done, but that was it! No lasers, no gum flap, just a deep clean!

My dentist came back in and showed me my X-rays and explained what all of it meant. She showed me the build-up on my teeth and told me that what I thought was decay was actually just tartar. Aside from my three cracked molars, I only had one tiny cavity. Just one! I was told I definitely have periodontal disease but am only in the early stages. She was very frank about tooth #31 and the rough condition it’s in. She told me she can save it now by sending me to the endodontist for two root canals (for teeth 30 and 31) but in six months, she can’t promise me it’ll still be salvageable. She gave me options for how I want to proceed - I could dip my toes in by getting a crown on #18, or I could get the deep clean first, or I could jump right in with the root canals. She also agreed with the other dentist about the extractions. Cost is forcing me to get the extractions and deep cleaning first (scheduled for June 25 and July 5 respectively) but my husband was just approved for $900 through Care Credit, so I’ve decided to jump in and am going to try to schedule my root canals for August, the earliest we’ll be able to afford them.

My husband has been the best throughout this. I’ve dropped 15 pounds due to anxiety about eating and causing further damage, and he does everything he can to keep soft foods and protein shakes around so I can consume something when the mood strikes. He’s set up all my appointments because he knows I’m too anxious to do it myself. He reassures me when I find myself staring at my teeth. He’s also tolerated my grumpiness regarding my decision to stop smoking weed until all my major work is completed and I know my pockets are shrinking. I couldn’t have asked for a better person by my side. It’s unfortunate that he understands because his oral health is much worse (he was having teeth pulled as a kid and says he only has 20 teeth left) but he’s not nearly as fearful as I am. I wish I was as strong as him.

Whew, this was long! It’s basically 11 days until my extractions, aka the first major dental procedure I’ve ever had. Even though my anxiety keeps me paralyzed sometimes, I know it’s time. I’m taking much better care of myself in every other way - I stopped eating meat, I wash my face twice a day, I’ve traveled extensively this past year and even went to Australia, I’ve met my idols and actually have to put off treatment due to two other nonrefundable trips to see one of them again. It’s time I take control of my dental health, no matter how terrifying.
 
L

littlefox

Junior member
Joined
Jun 14, 2018
Messages
4
Location
Louisiana, United States
Getting Better but it’s in Small Steps

Surprise!! My molars I’m getting root canals on started killing me so now I’m getting a pulpectomy on both of them. I’m waiting for my anesthesia to kick in and am positively quaking. It feels like this anxiety is going to kill me.
 
Dg6300

Dg6300

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 27, 2017
Messages
637
Location
US
You’re going to make it.

Everything is going to okay.

Just hold on. Hang in there.
 
L

littlefox

Junior member
Joined
Jun 14, 2018
Messages
4
Location
Louisiana, United States
You’re going to make it.

Everything is going to okay.

Just hold on. Hang in there.
Thank you so much for that :)

The anesthesia wasn't bad, except for the fact that it took FIVE SHOTS to get me even remotely numb. I could still feel some pain in my second molar while it was being worked on, but was able to power through it with frequent breaks. What I wasn't ready for was when my back molar's nerve was injected. Apparently I was shaking so bad that I almost punched the assistant. :o

My dentist was so patient and talked me through the entire procedure though. She told me everything she was doing and even joked that she was gendering my back molar as male because "he's a pain in my ass and he's pissed off." Apparently it was ready to go though so I'm glad I went ahead and got the work done. She also told me that this was one of the toughest procedures to go through so if I can survive this without Valium, I can get through anything. I'll probably still want something before my extractions on Monday though. That's what I'm the most anxious about. I keep imagining her pulling too hard on the two being taken out on the side my pulpomecties were on and damaging them beyond repair. I'm trying so hard to be brave and not get any more teeth out than the four scheduled that I already knew were done for.

On a good note though, my local grocery store is running a special on ice cream and I stocked up so I'll have all I want after I get my four teeth taken out. :) My husband also scheduled my two root canals for a month from today. I'll probably have to borrow money from my brother to get them done but it'll be worth it, I think.

Another good thing is how quickly I'm getting all this done. I think if I had time to dwell on all the procedures and all the pain, I'd work myself up too much and never get it done. But at this rate, I'll be finishing everything except cosmetic work (and further periodontal cleanings) within two months.

I still feel a bit of pressure in my two teeth, but nothing like the agonizing pain I was dealing with before. I was crying in front of customers at work because of the pain. I've taken half of a painkiller but I'm trying to mostly stick to ibuprofen, which has worked so far. The fewer I take now, the more I'll have for later procedures that may leave me more sore.

One down, five to go.
 
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