Dentistry: My New Braces

My New Braces
It's not just medical here at You&Me-America's Medical Magazine-it's dental too!
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It all started with a root canal. My tooth had abscessed (okay if you are squeamish, stop here) and since I come from a family with dentists dotted around the family tree, I knew I had to get that sucker fixed and keep that tooth. Always keep your teeth. It is kind of like a mantra in my family and it never changes.

So I went to the endodontist. Yeah, the root canal dentist. She took one look at the x-rays and said, humm. That particular tooth had had a root canal before. My mouth, by the way, probably has a price tag somewhere in the six figures by now. So we discussed the odds and the odds were that another root canal wouldn't work but on the other hand it might.

I rolled the dice and lost. A few months later I was back in the dental chair getting that tooth with its failed root canal pulled. Oh my gosh! A missing tooth. I was horror stuck not only because I had failed in my duty to keep my teeth but the big empty hole where the tooth had been showed. It showed. Right there on the side. This was completely unacceptable. No way am I going around like that.

Different dentist. Different specialty. This time I am sitting in the periodontist's chair. He does gums and extractions and implants. So I am going with a state of the art tooth implant. Only thing is you have to grow bone in the place where your old tooth root was and that takes time. Especially if you are over a certain age and have osteopenia (near osteoporosis). So he and I make a plan. In six months we would see if I had enough bone for him to drill into my jaw and implant a metal rod on which a brand new fake tooth would sit. Problem solved. Right-

Wrong. I went back to the general dentist and she fixed me up with a flipper. That is a plastic roof-of-your-mouth appliance that has one tooth attached that then sits in the gap that the old tooth left. Fine. Very pretty. No gap. Only there are two things I could not do while wearing it. Eat and talk. Since those are two of my favorite activities, I wore the thing twice and then lost it.

So here I am months later still with a gap and bone busily growing for the implant. Now my jaw starts popping. Crackle, snap, pop. I sound to me like Rice Krispies. No one else notices. Then I start biting my lip. Not all the time. Only when I eat - anything. Annoying. I try hard not to bite myself and it gets worse for the trying. Then I bite my cheek. Over and over.

Time to go see someone about this. I am not going to spend the rest of my life chomping on my own mouth. Ah, the orthodontist. She is a very attractive young woman with a bay of chairs all filled with 12 to 16 year olds getting their braces tightened, installed, removed, glued. They take me into the back room for privacy. Her account manger is friendly and explains the payment options and how it all works. She is sporting a complete set of upper and lower braces herself. I am inspired.

The dentist comes in and asks me to bite down and declares that I will need a full set of braces for 18 to 24 months. I inquire about those invisible plastic braces and generally plead with her to figure out how to fix my mouth without all that metal, but she is very sure of her diagnosis and treatment plan. Metal brackets and wires, 18 to 24 months.

I go home to think about it. If I am going to get braces, I will have to get them before I get the implant. There's more room with a gap in there to move the teeth around. I fret and worry about looking ridiculous with braces at my age. I stew about the cost. I waste a couple of months trying to make up my mind. I decide against braces.

Back to the periodontist's office. I have plenty of bone now and I am set to make the appointment for the implant. He can now see the problem with my jaw. The pre-implant x-ray shows a cyst in the jaw joint. Click. Click. Bite, bite. We discuss that awhile. He smiles. The man has a mouth full of braces. I cannot believe it. The topic shifts to braces and he tells me about his bite problems and on and on. Familiar. Humph. He went the braces route, maybe I should ….

Back in the chair for the nice young orthodontist. This time I am a regular braces patient so I am out in the bay with the blinking ceiling lights and music, in one of four or is it five chairs. “Open.” It doesn’t take long and it doesn't hurt, but when they finish I feel like a horse with a permanent bit in her mouth. The brackets feel like they are sticking out at least half an inch. They assure me it is 3 mm. I chomp and salivate and worry each tooth with my tongue. Not good.

That was Thursday. Monday I am back getting four brackets re-glued. I swear I didn’t eat anything sticky. No gum. I promise.

It has been a week and a half now. I think I might have to go back into therapy over this thing. I cannot eat because anything other than liquid sticks in the grille and is displayed when I open my mouth. I drink diet chocolate drinks at work. When I get home I gather a meal and stuff it in my mouth alone, in front of the TV. It takes five minutes to chew anything because my teeth no longer touch in the back. I manage to gulp dinner down and then spend 15 minutes with a mirror and all kinds of brushes doing clean up.  

This could get old. I will say that while there is pressure, there is no pain. What I miss is being able to really get in there and floss. Now I have to thread the floss in back of the wire for each tooth. I have a packet of green plastic floss threaders. I wonder if there is a mental health specialty to get adults through this ordeal- Maybe I'll just pull my hair out.

Note to family: my hair, not my teeth.

Just today I felt a little more comfortable. Either my teeth are moving or my face is.

I think I may live, then again, maybe not. Last night two more brackets disappeared. I think I swallowed them.

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