Whenever the subject of teeth comes up, I think of the scene from “Moonstruck,” where Loretta tells Cosmo (her dad) that she’s engaged. He launches into reasons why it’s a bad match. He says, “I don’t like his lips! When he smiles, I can’t see his teeth. What is he hiding?” It makes me laugh every time. Then I think, Cosmo has a point. Teeth…. those useful, annoying, can’t live with ’em/can’t live without ’em, little buggers.
You might have guessed – correctly – that I’ve recently been to the dentist. For those of you who remember the last adventure, it wasn’t pretty. Having a chronic pain condition that completely short-circuits how you feel pain, makes pretty much any medical/dental procedure a nightmare for you and the people who have to perform it. It took five or six appointments to bond my teeth because the nerve pain was so intense. But my dentist and his amazing staff were really kind.
This time, I was booking my daughter’s pre-college checkups with everyone (eyes, teeth, dermatologist), and I realized it was my turn as well. So off we went. 😬
Layli, the kindest dental hygienist I’ve ever met, remembered what I’d been through and decided on a different approach. She had me use an anesthetic mouthwash before she started. It involved about two minutes of swishing and another two for it to kick in. But it numbed my mouth, for the most part. She patiently spot-numbed as she went, whenever I started to feel pain. It took a little longer. But because she did this, I didn’t need a deep cleaning – complete with injected anesthesia. That’s a big deal for me. And I’m so grateful! Good news delivered! High-fives!
Now for the bad news, LOL. After she examined my teeth, she said, “The dentist is going to confirm this, but one of your teeth is unstable. He’ll tell you what we have to do.”
This was me:
Then my dentist came in, checked my teeth and said, “One of your bottom, front teeth is unstable. It can stay like that for years. Eventually, however, it has to be extracted and replaced.” Wait, WHAT?!? Come ON! Apparently, it’s caused by bone loss. My meds, my age, my whatever. Does it matter? RSD and lupus, meds and treatments, fear of seeing the dentist and experiencing more pain… all of it contributed to the current state of affairs. My teeth are apparently hiding that they’re as jammed up as the rest of my body. Geez. You’d think one body part could be loyal. But noooooo. Here’s the kicker! I told them last year that I thought one of my teeth was shifting. They manually checked and did an x-ray at that time, but didn’t see it. I was right! I only wish that I wasn’t.
After asking him questions like, “Will I be walking around toothless?” (“not for a second,” said Dr. Nice Guy) and “Can it just crack out of my mouth if I bite a sandwich or something?” (Also no), I felt a bit better. But it’s still crap news.
Why even tell anyone this? (Aside from the fact that you’ll all eventually see me with my replaced, obviously not my own bottom tooth, LOL). Because this is a less terrifying cautionary tale. I often hear from fellow RSD folks who’ve been through terrible ordeals with their teeth. Painful, costly dental work. Losing every tooth. You name it. And, whether they’ve gone to every checkup or avoided them out of fear, it’s out of their control. The outcome is sometimes the same. With everything we have to contend with, our teeth don’t fair any better than the rest of our bodies. But regular exams and cleanings can make it slightly more manageable.
Please see a dentist. There have been tremendous breakthroughs in dental pain management, I can attest to that! And I have been the BIGGEST dentist-avoider because of my fear of pain. It hasn’t done me any favors. I used to reject anesthesia during fillings just to avoid the needles. I actually had a root canal and an extraction – both without anesthesia – during high school. Let’s just say that the extraction ended with two of us icing our faces. I swear that the punch was involuntary. 🤦🏻♀️
All anecdotes aside – what example am I setting for my daughter, if I’m unwilling to go for checkups? Ugh. I sound like a schoolhouse rock or one of those after school special “moral of the story” people, LOL.
But I care about each of you. I don’t want anyone to go through more pain than they have to live with already. Especially if it can – possibly- be avoided.
Brush. Floss. See your dentist. Save yourself time, aggravation and money.
Here’s to minty freshness and years of smiles. 😁
Peace and painlessness,