There's Only So Much You Can Do

I don't consider myself someone who has fear around dentistry or doctors. I'm the nerd who actually likes putting money in my old cars (if it's planned) because I believe firmly in the value of maintenance. It's a huge reason why nutrition and supplementation make sense to me. Why not just prevent what you can from deteriorating rather than try to clean up the mess of disease after the fact? (I recognize all health stuff isn't preventable so please don't feel any shame coming from me if you have a difficult health situation). 

That being said, I've had a lot of painful dental work done in the last 6 months. I've been framing it through the lens of gratitude because I know so many people can't afford dental work. And even now, that holds true in the sense that sometimes people just go without troublesome teeth. That is not what's happening with me. HOWEVER, the gratitude frame officially broke today. And the pain, fear, frustration and even dread all came pouring out today while the tears trickled out of those giant sunglasses under the big lights of the dentists office. 

Much to my horror, the tears came and came. I could tell it was the kind of cry that needed to happen and that ideally would include lots of sniffling. I did not allow myself that luxury in the chair, mainly because I was not done facing the fear that created the tears in the first place. So in the midst of my fear and pain, I had to bolster myself for more. Here's what happened:

2 years ago, after not having dental insurance for 7 years, I went to a dentist for a consult on a painful tooth. Without doing anything, he charged me $150 and told me I should have the tooth pulled (at 33 years old, mind you) and get a bridge that would cost upwards of $1k. I said thanks and left for a second opinion. I signed up for insurance and went to the place that went with it. They charged me $25 and put a GIANT metal filling on it. That was that.

So I thought. The tooth started hurting again. About 15 minutes every night while I lay in bed not eating or drinking, the throbbing would pulse and eventually leave. Tim had started a new job, which meant work-issued dental at another office. So off I went. Turns out, the initial cavity had gone below the surface of the gums (which was why the filling failed) and they wanted to put a crown on it. And possibly a root canal in the future (they can just drill through a crown for a root canal so the order of crown first is okay). Unfortunately, the tooth had deteriorated to the point that there wasn't enough tooth left to put a crown on.

So off to surgery I went (this was in February). The procedure, called crown lengthening, exposes more of the tooth by removing bone underneath. Couple of stitches and a 2 week liquid diet. Bada Bing Bada Boom. Ready for a crown. Of course, my insurance was used up at that point. And the surgery was scary (totally awake with just Novocaine) and the recovery was problematic because the things they left in my mouth to "recover" were incredibly irritating to my tongue and I was covered in painful sores and couldn't speak. 

2 weeks ago, I went in for the crown prep. This tooth is so sensitive they had to numb me repeatedly. And my jaw was sore for days. But the old filling was removed and I got a pretty white temporary. Today was going to by my "crowning" moment. Take off the temporary, apply the $1k beautiful crown I paid for and FINALLY put this baby to rest. 

Only that didn't happen.

First, when the hygienist went to pop off the temporary, I wasn't numbed at all and he had pliers trying to pull it off. That's when the sobbing started. I thought it would just pop off. It did not. The pain radiated down and down, well after he stopped touching me. It was so painful and I was filled to the brim with fear. I literally wanted to just leave. But they hadn't put my pretty crown on and so they numbed me all up with tears rolling down my cheeks. Then he popped off the temporary. Only half my tooth came out with it. Yes, the tooth that was carefully excavated months ago decided to break, removing all the margins we had worked so hard to create, rendering my beautiful crown sitting on the counter completely useless. There wasn't enough tooth to attach the crown to. 

So guess what? I need another surgery. This time, the big one. The one no one wants to do because it's freaking expensive. And it's the only thing you can do besides just not having a tooth. I'm getting an implant. That means they will pull the tooth and the root, fill the root with titanium, leaving an ugly hole in my mouth (in the front, mind you) for 3 months while my bone tries to make friends with the titanium. Then they screw a crown into the titanium and there's your "tooth." I'm only 35 and it's in the front. This is the only way I feel comfortable going from here even though the time with nothing there makes me feel embarrassed. But an implant has a very low failure rate over a lifetime so if this tooth decides to cooperate once and for all, this will be it forever. 

Of course, all the pain, all the expense, all the time and effort feels as if it was for naught. I know in my heart that's not true. The crown lengthening? Yes, that effort literally fell out of my mouth this morning. But as a maintenance person, I know that I did everything I could to save this tooth (except go to the dentist for 7 years - the one time I delay maintenance!) and that will help me justify this large expense for my family. It's hard for me to spend money on myself, even medically necessary money. Somehow it's easier for me to spend money on myself when it's a massage or clothes. How weird is that? Maybe it's because it's so much cheaper. No matter, I'd rather do something else with thousands of dollars. Thankfully, my dentist felt so awful today (though this was no one's fault) that he refunded me the money for the crown so it can apply to the implant. And he is going to recommend the surgeon for the crown lengthening do the same (he'll be performing the implant as well). Who knows? Maybe it won't cost a fortune with all the credit I have coming. Seriously, who racks up credit at the dentist?  

All of that to say, the divorce proceedings between me and this tooth are coming up shortly. And I can say with confidence, that our relationship is irretrievably broken.