I have lousy teeth.
It's one of those things I mentioned to my husband when we discussed getting married because I knew my dental bills tend to be expensive. Of course, in those day, I had no idea the other kinds of medical bills I'd run up not that much later.
I've always had bad teeth. My mom talks about noticing black spots on my teeth around age 2 that she assumed were food and tried poking at with a toothpick to dislodge. Turned out my baby molars didn't have enamel on the tops, and that was the start of many, many, many trips to the dentist.
Thanks to a sadistic pediatric dentist (who I'm happy to say eventually -- long after I left his practice -- lost his license), I also have a lot of anxiety about going to the dentist. You see, my first dentist didn't believe in Novocaine, or any kind of pain relief. Finally, ten years after I started seeing him and many, many fillings drilled without any pain relief, the baby molars that had been cemented in somehow started to abscess when the permanent molars wanted to come in and the baby molars weren't getting loose and falling out. I still remember my mom's face when I came out of the office and way down the hall to where he required parent to wait (far enough away that parents couldn't hear the kids scream) and showed her the three molars he had pulled, each with full root attached.
I immediately started seeing her dentist, who was wonderful and kind and gentle, but the experiences I'd had from age 2 to age 12 have always made me tense up at the prospect of seeing the dentist and having anything beyond a regular cleaning done. I remain leery of confessing to tooth pain that might trigger the need for more drilling.
I was less than thrilled when I was told last year that a couple of my very old fillings in my back molars were starting to deteriorate and my dentist recommended replacing them with crowns without waiting for the old dental work to break, which would be worse for my teeth and for me.
I put it off a year, but last month I went to the dentist to replace the first of the two fillings. I had a typical decent experience, and left with a temporary crown in place. I called a week later to report that the tooth was really bothering me quite a bit, but agreed to wait to see the dentist until my appointment for the real crown.
She said that because they found cracks in the tooth when they took photos to prove to my insurance company that the work was medically necessary (!), there was a 10 percent likelihood that I'd need a root canal. But when they took a new x-ray of the tooth, she noticed that my sinus cavity was inflamed and suggested that maybe I just had a sinus infection despite the pain being limited to the left side.
Since I have chronic sinusitis, I wasn't entirely convinced, but it was true that I found it painful when I pushed on my cheekbones, which is what my internist uses to determine whether or not I'm infected so I called and reported what the dentist said and she prescribed antibiotics for me.
Meanwhile, the dentist referred me to an endodontist for evaluation.
He went through a lengthy rigmarole of testing for various types of sensitivity and had some cool x-ray software and equipment I hadn't seen before that he used to show me why he thought I definitely needed a root canal, something I've gone out of my way to avoid in the past even when I probably shouldn't have. (He evaluated that tooth too and said I probably should but that it wasn't as urgent as the tooth I was referred to him for.)
Every time I think about procrastinating on the root canal, I get reminder twinges from the tooth in question so I'm guessing I'll be going forward with it.
On the upside, he's the guy who did my dentist's root canal a few years ago when she needed one, so I figure that's a fairly good referral.
Anyway, I have this to look forward to later this month. It's going to be a quite a week when it happens; we go see the pediatric urologist with Ellie that Monday, I have my root canal on Tuesday, and Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I'm hoping I'll be up to chewing turkey by then! :-)
Sorry -- I'm sure there's little more boring than hearing me talk about my fears of dentistry and my need for a root canal. Feel free to blame this post, too, on NaBloPoMo! ;-) But please come back tomorrow (Nov. 10) for the next edition of Patients For A Moment (PFAM) -- I promise you that there are some amazingly good contributions worth your time to read!!