One night in late November of 2015, just after Thanksgiving, I couldn’t get to sleep. My mouth, my jaw, and my head as a whole were all in severe pain. You know how if you go to the hospital because of pain the doctors/nurses/other staff will ask you to rank your pain on a scale of one to ten? A score of one is a barely noticeable pain, while a score of ten causes you to be unable to move. I’d rank this specific pain about a 21.
I’ve had my share of dental problems in my life. I chipped a tooth for the first time in 8th grade during academic challenge practice. I bit into an apple and suddenly one of my canine teeth had a bit flake off. It didn’t hurt and it hadn’t happened before, so I really didn’t think too much of it. Those little chips continued to happen numerous times over the course of high school. Mostly they occurred from eating, though I did chip a tooth twice in wrestling matches, so at least I got to be a walking trope occasionally.
My first trip to the dentist came sometime around when I was five. I couldn’t tell you much about it other than my first trip to the dentist came on the same day as my first trip to the eye doctor. That was also my last visit to the dentist until I was 21, when received a root canal on a tooth that had split. Hooray for the American healthcare system and parents not having insurance during my childhood.
Though there was a definitely lack of being taken to the dentist in my childhood, to say I had poor dental hygiene would be an understatement. Though we had toothbrushes at my dad’s house, I could count on one hand the number of times a year I actually saw my dad/stepmom/a step sibling brush their teeth in a given month. On the bright side, at least we had toothpaste. Brushing my teeth was a requirement at my mom’s, though there were quite a few times we used straight baking soda, table salt, or diluted hydrogen peroxide rather than actual toothpaste.
In my twenties, I was better about brushing my teeth than I was as a kid, though that’s an extremely low bar to pass…and I didn’t pass it by much. A typical week when I lived on my own featured me brushing my teeth once or twice. Total. For the whole week. After moving in with my wife, that number went up to (generally) once per day, though there were some days that didn’t happen still due to being tired, being lazy, or just not caring.
That brings us to November of 2015. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this occurred over Thanksgiving weekend, so it’s not like many places — dentists or otherwise — were open. So I hopped myself up on Aleve and Orajel, then went on about my weekend until we could get me a dentist appointment early the next week.
The dentist’s news wasn’t good. My wisdom teeth were what was causing my current pain and they definitely needed to come out. But the decay in my mouth was severe. In addition to needing numerous fillings, root canals, teeth pulled, and either bridges or implants. Said simply, my mouth was in bad shape. Below is a picture of what it looked like in December 2015 following wisdom tooth removal, pulling three other teeth, and a cleaning. Warning: it’s ugly.
Over the course of the next 18 months, I had a lot of dental work done. I had two more teeth pulled from the point where the picture above was taken. There was at least one (though I think two) gum resection surgeries. I had four implant posts put in. There were numerous fillings, temporary crowns, permanent crowns, and root canals done. In early May of this year, one of the first completion steps finally happened. I had five permanent crowns and an implant put in as part of a three-hour appointment. Needless to say, the difference from where I was at in December 2015 is noticeable.
Granted, I still don’t know how to look at a camera, especially when taking a selfie. And despite the numerous appointments over a year and a half, I’m not done yet. I’ve still got one more implant post that needs put in, as well as four more implants that need to go into my mouth. But it’s progress. For the first time since I was 13 or 14, I can smile without chipped teeth showing out of my mouth. Seems like a good thing to me.