Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Tale of the Tooth.

So, I've mentioned a couple of times that one of my goals for this year was to get us all to the dentist, and happily, that happened in April! I was really nervous about going because I hadn't been in awhile for a variety of reasons--we didn't have the money, we didn't have the insurance, and then I was just embarrassed that it had been so long. By that point, I *dreaded* going to the dentist. This whole process would have been slightly easier had I been able to choose our dentist, since we happen to have several friends who are dentists. But unfortunately, our dental insurance is through Justin's work, and is tied to one specific office--we can only go there.

Anyway, I actually went in before my appointment in April because one tooth was hurting and I was having trouble sleeping. The dentist did x-rays, poked around, and ultimately told me that the tooth looked fine, and he thought I had a sinus infection or just that my allergies were really bad, which apparently can sometimes cause tooth pain. My allergies felt better in the next few days, and so did my tooth. Awesome.

In April, I saw a different dentist in the practice for a cleaning. By then, the tooth was hurting a little bit again, I told the dentist, and he did a cold test- he started in the back, touching each tooth with something ice cold, working his way to the left incisor. OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. Nothing. Apparently, the "nothing" tooth was dead, and needed a root canal. Several weeks after the cleaning appointment, I took a sip of water, and suddenly had half of a tooth in my mouth. Not, the dead tooth, another tooth. After talking about options, they (and I) decided to pull the tooth, and I dealt with a fun extraction over Mother's Day weekend.

A week or so after Mother's Day was also when I had the root canal scheduled. The dentist drilled a bit, and I could pretty quickly tell by the noises that he was making that it wasn't going well. He eventually stopped, and told me that he was having trouble accessing the canal, and that he was going to send me to a specialist,  someone who had more experience with calcified canals.

A few weeks later, I was back in the dental chair, this time with a specialist. He drilled. He took x-rays. He drilled some more. Took some more x-rays. We repeated this process for about two and a half hours before he said, "I've never seen anything like this. Your tooth is completely calcified. It looks like a 95 year old woman's tooth. I've drilled all the way up and I can't find a canal anywhere, I can't do a root canal on you."
He told me that once they put a permanent filling in, the tooth might be okay just to be left alone for awhile, but that if it started to hurt again, it would have to be pulled. Awesome. He also told me that he was 99% certain that the tooth was so calcified because I had been hit in the mouth in softball or basketball and just didn't realize that it actually caused some damage. He said it was clearly a case of trauma. So,  while people on the street might think I'm toothless because I suck at brushing and use me as a cautionary tale for their kids...NOPE.

Maybe two weeks later, I suddenly had severe pain...yep....right where the failed root canal tooth was. I took ibuprofen. I rinsed my sinuses. I took vicodin. I tried garlic, and every other home remedy known to man, and none of them worked. I didn't sleep (because of the pain) for 48 hours before my appointment back at the dentist.

By this point, I knew what was coming and I didn't even care. They were going to pull one of my front teeth. Oh, and as a bonus, it was infected, meaning a hefty dose of penicillin for me, and decreased birth control pill effectiveness as a bonus! Ha. Anyway, the only question from there was whether they were going to do a bridge, implant, or something else. They said I wasn't a good category for a bridge, and recommended an implant, but implants aren't covered by our insurance, and require a $4,000 payment up front...not something I was prepared to fork over that morning. The dentist said that it didn't really matter, even if I did decide to do an implant, I'd have to wear a flipper (a retainer with a tooth attached) for awhile and possibly have a bone graft before the implant. So, he made a flipper, and said that we could decide more later.

Only, when I say "he made a flipper", what I really mean was "he made a mold for a flipper", and then as I later found out, "the guy who works at the lab they sent them to was on vacation". So, I was toothless from Friday morning until Wednesday the following week. It was awesome. I felt like a pirate.

Which I could occasionally laugh about, because honestly, there are worse things in the world (this same weekend, my sister-in-law broke her foot, and can't walk at all for three months!) but most of the time I just felt really self-conscious, and spent my time like this:
Had this not been Lizzy's last week of school, I seriously would have kept her home yesterday so that I didn't have to do the toothless drop-off. Everyone said, "Oh, it's not that bad!" They lied. It was bad. Even Justin told me, "I didn't realize how big that tooth was until it was gone!" He also tried to find me a pirate costume to take a picture in. But then on the flip side, he also did an awesome job taking care of the girls while I was drugged up all weekend.

So anyway, today I finally got to go in for the flipper retainer. This dental office has lost my complete file, and I've also showed up with appointment card in hand only for them to have no idea why I'm there. So I kept having panic attacks that I would get there and they wouldn't have the flipper for me.

I arrive. I wait. And wait. And wait some more. Finally, I get called back and the hygenist happily says, "So, what are you here for today?"

"For my flipper!" I respond happily.

Her eyes get wide. She says, "I'll be right back," and walks out of the room. I see her grab another hygienist and say, "HELP ME. There is no flipper here for her."

I know where this is going. Crap. CRAP. CRAP. CRAP. I text swear words to Justin.

They shuffle around for a little while, and then eventually find the flipper. The hygenist pops it in, and says she needs to make an adjustment. She does, and then pops the flipper back in my mouth...AND IT WILL NOT STAY IN. It was *amazing*.

I text more swear words to Justin. And tell him that I want to cry. I was so irritated.

The dentist comes in and tells me that they are going to put something called re-line on the retainer so that I can leave with it today, but that this re-line stuff is temporary, and that eventually I will have to come back and have it sent to the lab, where they will make the re-line stuff permanent. If I want, I can order a second flipper out of pocket while this one is gone, and just to have a backup. For $600. Otherwise, I'll just be toothless again while it's at the lab. Oh, and I might be able to eat with the flipper in place, but I also might not.

I was on the verge of tears, and also really irritated. I HAVE WAITED SIX DAYS, I WANT A TOOTH, DARNIT!!! By the way, I just realized that I'm mixing tenses like crazy here, which really irritates me, but if I try to go back to fix it, this post will never get published. So, I'm sorry. Anyway, I about sobbed right there in the dentist's chair. I just kept saying, "I DON'T. UNDERSTAND. WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED!"

Eventually, the dentist explained it to me. From my perspective, the hygienist messed up. But what really happened was that they took a mold of my mouth before they pulled the tooth. That helped them to shape the replacement tooth correctly, but what it didn't do was show my gumline once the tooth was pulled. They estimate, but in my case it wasn't a great estimation, and there was a gap between the fake tooth and the gum. The hygienist had made an adjustment--she sanded off a part of the retainer that was covering my back molars. It couldn't have stayed, but with the gap at the gumline, it was also the only thing holding the retainer in place. Basically, it was a mess, but at least I look human again.
(This pic is flipped, so it's the tooth just to the right of my two front teeth here, 
and it actually matches the other side and color quite well.)

They were able to fix it temporarily, and I can (sort of) talk (with a lisp). I tried eating with it in, and that was ridiculous. Hopefully, it will get better as I get more used to having the darn flipper. If not, we are never eating out again. I go back in six weeks, once my gum has fully healed, and they'll do another mold and/or re-line of my mouth, and send it off for a new flipper. They have assured me that next time, it will be a same-day or overnight scenario.

So, I look normal again, which is a great start. But this is still a really long road ahead of me, whether I go the dental implant road or not. I'm bracing myself.

(See what I did there?!)


  1. I mean...I don't even know what to say. You and your medical mysteries/marvels. Cray. Glad you've got a tooth now, and I hope that in the next few days, it feels more normal so you can actually speak and eat with it. Which, you know, would be helpful. :)

  2. You poor thing! My sister had this happen and has just decided never to smile or laugh again (weirdo) because she doesn't have a flipper or anything. She had about four teeth pulled :-0. I think your flipper looks great!

  3. I cannot even fathom. But, I'm glad that everything is moving in the right-ish direction. Oh my, you've got more crazy health mysteries than anyone should have in a lifetime!

  4. Oh no! That is NO fun. I hope it all gets straightened out for you soon!

  5. I work in a dental office, and I would definitely go with an implant at your age. In the long run, you will probably end up paying more for emergency exams and fixing a bridge or flipper when it breaks than you will for the implant. Even if you lose it that's out of pocket costs for you again, and you have your whole life to deal with it!

  6. Hi Meredith,

    I've been reading your blog for ages but I don't think I have ever commented ;-)

    I do feel the need to comment on this one though since I feel for you so badly!!!!!!!!

    About 6 months ago (while on a trip in Germany) I had to get a tooth pulled. That wasn't what I was hoping to do while over there and not having my trusted dentist there. It couldn't wait though since I was in lots of pain so I found somebody and he got the tooth out. Since I hated the idea of having a gap in my mouth (I have a horrible history with teeth, and a dentist that ruined my front tooth) I needed a flipper as well.

    It took about 3 weeks until I was used to having it in my mouth. Just hearing me speak while having it in my mouth sounded ridiculous. I was assuming everybody would hear it and make fun of me. The thought of not putting it in though and somebody seeing the gap was way worse though.

    Right now I'm still wearing it since I chose to get an implant but it is so freaking expensive and I've gotten so used to this flipper that we'll wait a little bit.

    You had said that you aren't sure yet what route you will go with your front tooth but I'd like to give some input if that's ok.

    When I was 10 I fell on my face, almost knocked out my upper front tooth. Because of the trauma the tooth died (and turned grey) 5 years later. I stopped smiling with my mouth open :/

    Right before getting married I decided that I want to have beautiful smiling pictures of me on our wedding day so I went to the dentist. He was going to put a crown on it BUT then he totally messed up and had to pull my front tooth. I was crying so bad, it was such a horrible thing. That was in Germany and I was supposed to immigrate to the US 3 weeks later to marry my husband (he is American). So getting an implant wasn't an option since that would take way more time then I had until the wedding. So he chose to put a bridge on it. First of all he had to file down 2 very healthy teeth :-( The bridge was on 2 weeks later and at least I looked fine in the pictures.


    This has been 10 years ago now and I am NOW having lots of trouble with the bridge. Due to the missing bone of the tooth my gums are slowly but surely decreasing above the bridge where the front tooth is missing. It won't be much longer and there will be a gap between my bridge and my gums :-( If I would have known that that would happen 10 years ago I think I would have chosen the implant after all :-( Now they have to get the bridge off, put in fake gums and then either put a new bridge on it or 2 crowns (on the teeth they had to file down for the bridge) and an implant for the missing one. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous.

    I'm sorry this is so long and I'm sharing all this but I just wish somebody would have told me 10 years ago that I would have these things happen to me eventually when getting a bridge.

    I hope you get your new flipper soon!!!!!!

  7. getting teeth pulled is the baddest thing that can ever happen!! heart cries out loudly with pain, hence having a good dentist around is so important!!

    Dentist Mumbai

  8. That issue worsened because your previous dentist made a mistake with the diagnosis. If he had managed to point out that there was a decay in your tooth, maybe he could've done something about it earlier and avoided the matter you had to deal with then. In any case, I'm glad that your tooth has been replaced. Your new smile looks beautiful, Meredith. Thanks for sharing that! All the best to you!

    Eunice Greer @ Downtown Dental

  9. Fascinating stuff indeed!! Thanks for this wonderful article! You know I just finished reading a similar blog post of a dentist Hermosa Beach. My sister also had a dental implant surgery. Now she looks very pretty!


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