So I went to see the dentist yesterday. For the first time in 20 years.
A few reasons for not going for so long. Going to the dentist is just not fun. Let’s be perfectly candid. It just isn’t. It’s expensive. Working a range of contract or temp jobs or freelancing or part time jobs for not enough pay or periods of unemployment, makes paying for the dentist a financial challenge. I don’t imagine I’m the only person in this boat. And then there is the invariable procrastinating “yeah, yeah, I’ll get around to it.”
Being the typical dumb male, I figured that if there isn’t a problem, why bother going. My teeth weren’t giving me any trouble, they’re strong, they don’t hurt, no one complained that my breath smelled like rancid death. I brushed very regularly, used mouth wash, flossed somewhat intermittently, I have dental picks that I have a go at tartar build up with. They’re not that straight, they’re not that white, they won’t make me look like a model, but they’re functional.
Well until recently.
Many years ago, while still in my teens, I had two molars on the bottom, second from the back on each side, pretty much cratered, deep cones put in them and filled. Apparently I had cavities so severe it necessitated this drastic course of action. “You’ll need to have crowns put on them, and probably have to replace them every so often. Maybe even necessitate root canals to save them.”
Never had crowns put on them. See the aforementioned part about being an impoverished bum. See the aforementioned part about not digging the dentist. Kept chewing on them for 25 years. Eventually the one on the left side, had small pieces of the tooth itself crack off. Over years a few more pieces came off. The filling itself seemed rock solid though. At some point in the last half year the filling part broke off. Still no discomfort. Weird. But recently it did start to hurt. Infected hurt. Shit. All right moron, time to go to the dentist. I realized there was nothing that could be done to fix it, possibly by some amazingly expensive miracle that I couldn’t afford anyway. I resigned myself that my inevitable slide in to decay and entropy was smacking me in the face right here, and that I would have it yanked.
Went to the dentist. The process of X-rays has definitely deteriorated. It may be easier for them because it’s digital. But where as before it was a small plastic card with a flap you clamped between your teeth, it’s now an awkward contraption that is decidedly uncomfortable.
She looks at my teeth. Yeah, it should come out.
Now the other thing that I should mention is that when I last saw a dentist I was informed that I had 3 cavities. 20 years of doing nothing about them.
I fully expected to be informed that I now have 87 cavities.
Dentist informs me that I now have 4 cavities. All on the top side. “Want to have them filled right now.”
Take a deep breath. “Sure.”
My memories of fillings are honking big needles being shoved into my skull that were hellishly painful despite any preliminary novocaine, clamps around my teeth, rubber sheets, clamps to hold my mouth open, my tongue being pried aside, many interminable minutes of grinding on my teeth. It just sucked. Let’s not mince words.
So I was pleasantly surprised when the needle was tiny, I didn’t feel it at all, and the whole process was over in, 15 minutes, at most 20 minutes. All right. That aspect of dentistry has certainly improved.
Looking at the Xrays, it appears that the molar that needs to come out is tilted forward.
“Yes, because the molar beside it was removed.”
Huh?! I have absolutely no recollection of ever having had molars removed. Maybe the experience was so traumatic that I completely blocked it out, but I have no memory of it whatsoever. I suspect I would have been in my early teens if it had happened. I have fourteen bottom teeth. An equal amount on both sides. So if that one molar was removed, it stands to reason that the one other side was too. Okay. If I have no recollection of one being yanked out of my head, I certainly don’t remember two. I was under the impression my wisdom teeth had never come in. Maybe they did, and two front molars were removed to let them grow in? I have no idea. The other side though appears to have no forward lean, and there is little problem with that molar. That forward lean appears to have contributed greatly to the problems with it.
But to me the even bigger mystery is how when I was in my teens I had cavities so severe they required massive intervention. And yet, twenty years with 3 known cavities, and essentially neglecting them, 20 years of drinking tea and coffee with sugar, the occasional soda, stroop wafels, Caramilk bars, and all sorts of other bad for me and my teeth sugary crap, flossing way too intermittenly, falling asleep before remembering to brush my teeth, etc., etc., added only one extra cavity, and didn’t seem to do a whole lot to the other three. Bzzzzzz. Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz. Brrrrrr. Bzzzzzz. Dab. Dab. Dab. Dab. Done. Either drills now gouge massive holes in seconds, or those cavities were pretty minor surface ones. The cavities certainly hadn’t progressed to rotting teeth away to the core, etc.
So to say that I have a slightly cynical view of whatever dentist did a number on my teeth is an understatement. Whatever problems I am now having with that molar seem to have more to do with their intervention than any genetic or neglect induced causes.
Anyway, I have an appointment to have the problematic molar removed next week. Not looking forward to it, but I don’t think there is any alternative. I will probably just get a partial denture to span that gap. Maybe at some point if I win the lottery or marry a sugar mama or just plain get a decent job with dental benefits, I’ll look into getting knocked right out, one of those posts drilled into my skull and a fake tooth put on. But for now, it seems my neglectful dental habits haven’t been quite as ruinous as I had feared.