My Dental Journey

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[1].

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[2]. I bit into an apple and suddenly one of my canine teeth[3] 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[4].

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[5], 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[6].

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[7]. 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.

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12 thoughts on “My Dental Journey

    1. Thanks very much. I’ve got seven appointments I can think of that I have left, though none of them are for a few months. We’ll see how it goes.

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  1. Babe! Anything tooth related gives me the creeps (pictures, stories, metal) not because I’m scared, I just don’t like thinking about it/the sensation, but you poor thing!

    Because my granddad ran a butchers, he was mates with many shopkeepers, one of whom ran a sweet shop, meaning that my Mum could have her pick as and when she chose. Dental care also wasn’t really enforced either, so she basically has a head full of metal now, but by the time I came along she was incensed to make sure I made it through toddlerdom without fillings. Because of how regular I am with check ups and upkeep, she decided to go in to see what could be done – especially since the introduction of white resin fillings – and all she heard was ‘kerching!’ every time the dentist spoke. Good luck with the rest of the appointments!

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    1. Oh, I can assure you that this whole process certainly hasn’t been cheap. Unlike medical insurance in America — which is already not all that great, but super useful — dental insurance is basically a maximum each year. So my insurance company pays a set amount a year per person (it’s not much…it covered half of one crown this year). Fortunately, I do get a discounted rate at my dentist for having insurance…but that doesn’t help much.

      That all said, I do love not having near constant mouth pain and not waking up to blood in my mouth some mornings. I have so many far worse stories I could have shared…but I didn’t want to freak people out too much.

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      1. Silver linings, I guess? There was a year where my friend and partner both had root canals done within about a month of each other (blegh) and while my partner’s was simple enough, jebus, my friend. He basically has no money. The NHS is a wondrous thing, but when it comes to things like fillings and crowns etc, it begins to cost – in order to prove that you can’t pay for it, or you require a discount, there’s this lovely wad of paperwork you have to work through, send back, and then wait for it all to process. It began with quite a large cavity, which became an emergency appointment, which then became a temporary filling awaiting a crown. Thing is, they didn’t tell him that, so another emergency appointment and a golf-ball sized abscess later, he had the choice of removal (£12) or a root canal (a lot more). Hands down, the rankest few months I had to witness, and I still hate them both for it.

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        1. Wait. A removal was 12 pounds? That’s $15.30 (roughly here). For context, the most recent removal I had done was $140 (roughly 110 pounds) and it’s one of the cheapest dental things I’ve had done this entire time.

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          1. That’s privatised health for you, mon homme. Actually it may have been even cheaper if discounts were included because of his financial and education status at the time, but yes, way cheaper to remove than fill. (In Scotland, without discounts, you’re required to pay up to 80% of the cost through the NHS).

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          2. The $140 cost was with discounts from the insurance company. I’m afraid to see what it’d be like without discounts. I think the insurance company I have pays between 20 and 50 percent of costs like those, depending on what the procedure is. One of the big problems of US healthcare/insurance is that those covered values differ strongly depending on your employer’s insurance offerings.

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  2. Oh man… dentistry is expensive here too, but it typically has pretty decent coverage when you get insurance benefits from work. Unfortunately, a lot of workplaces still don’t give medical benefits, especially to non-fulltime employees.

    Most insurance companies will allow you to keep coverage under your parents plan until you are 21, as long as you are enrolled in school. After 21 you’re on your own. I think I made it to the dentist twice between the ages of 21 and 28–Scott hadn’t been at all. Although his teeth weren’t nearly in the condition yours were, he needed $6000 worth of cavities removed and fixed, but they were dire. That was after a discount for having no insurance. I’m grateful his parents covered that, but it was crazy.

    Because most full time jobs used to provide benefits, I grew up seeing the dentist every 8 months, and brushing our teeth was really forced on us. Although, back then they used to say it was required a minimum 3 times a day. Now experts are saying you don’t need it that often. Regardless, I’ve been obsessed with keeping my teeth clean for years. I have the problem of overbrushing, and I’ve eaten away at my gums because of it. It’s really hard not to do that now, but I’m working on it.

    I’m sorry you had to go through that–I think it gives a bit of a shocking perspective to me of the realities of health care in the states. Even though we don’t have dental covered in Canada under our healthcare, it seems like it’s probably more accessible in general. I don’t recall even some of the poorer families I knew having issues like this.

    To end on a happier note though, the work they’ve done looks amazing. 😀

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    1. I would have loved if all of my services would have been just $6,000. I had a single appointment this year that was that and then some by itself. I do wish dental insurance was better in the US though…it’s stressful to have to spend so much money on my teeth.

      And thanks! I’m happy with how this has turned out so far.

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