Yeah, it’s time.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 7 March 2012

Category: Memoir

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Back when I was a poor single person, trying to support myself and take care of myself, I had a toothache. I asked my boyfriend who his dentist was and made an appointment. I’d been neglecting my dental care and paid for it. The tooth was beyond saving, so the dentist pulled it. (Seems to me, I ended up with a dry socket, too. Very painful.)

Since then, I’ve found my own dentist — a man who has gentled me from the depths of fear of dental work. I no longer fear going to the dentist. He’s my friend. He takes care of my teeth very well. He knows that a crown has to fit and fit well or my jaws will start aching and everything will go awry. I will have headaches, ear pain, and not sleep well at night.

Over the years, he’s “nagged” me about getting that tooth replaced, either with an implant or a bridge. He’s very good-natured about it. I wear a night guard, so I wasn’t worried about my teeth shifting or tipping over — a real concern for someone missing a tooth. Every time I’d see my dentist, he’d remind me about getting that bridge.

I’ve had other crowns and root canals done — my previous insurance paid for a good share of that work – but I never had the bridge done because I’d have to set up a flex account for the expenditure. It was the end of the year, and I was at the dentist’s when he noticed that the tooth above the missing tooth was starting to work its way down. That errant tooth also had a crack in it, so if I ever had the bridge done, I’d need to get a crown on that tooth as well, otherwise I’d break the molar on the bridge.

Whew! Like dominoes, the work was going to take a while and have to be done in phases. In addition to all that, I’d need a new night guard constructed for my new mouthscape. I have everything in place: a flex account for the down payment, and a line-up of appointments for all the work to be done. Every Thursday but one this month, I’ll be seeing my favorite dentist. I’ve told him that it’s time — his nagging has finally paid off.

The first phase has been completed. Doc ground down the tooth in front and the tooth in back, and shaped a temporary bridge. Even the temporary has been an adjustment. My tongue has been worrying that new fake tooth so much, I’m surprised I haven’t knocked it off its moorings. In fact, I had a dream last night that I’d popped the temporary off. It was my temporary nightguard.

Doc told me I’d have to do without my nightguard until the new bridge is in place. I’d forgotten to take my old night guard with me so he could shave it down and make room for the temporary bridge. I didn’t think much about it — although I worried some. I’ve forgotten my night guard over a weekend at the lake, and I’d feel it right away. My jaws would start clicking again, and I’d sleep like a baby — up every hour on the hour. Not good.

I tried sleeping without a night guard one night, and I knew I’d have to use something else. I tried a little Tylenol PM — that knocked me out, but I still ground my teeth that night. I’ve had headaches that reached down my neck to my shoulders — that’s how bad the grinding can get.

I always told the kids that I wore the night guard so I wouldn’t bite their dad at night. I laughingly told the doc that HighGuy was going to have to be careful if I didn’t have my night guard. HighGuy was in no danger, unless you count the killer headaches that would make me cranky all day. I decided that going without the night guard was like trying to sleep without a favorite blankie. So I gave in and bought an over-the-counter night guard.

It’s basically a one-size-fits-all piece of plastic that you melt in hot water long enough to get it to conform to your bite. Unfortunately, my dentist has told me I have a small mouth. The OTC night guard was designed to be used on the upper teeth, and I was accustomed to having the splint on the lower teeth, but I was willing to try anything. After trimming the plastic down in a couple of places, I was able to craft an adequate replacement.

Sleeping with it came slower — I’d take it out of my mouth in the middle of the night and find it on the headboard or in my hand. It’s not my favorite blankie, but it’ll work for the time I need it. Tomorrow I get the bridge put in, and then Doc will prepare the top tooth for a crown and perhaps take an impression for the new night guard. And by April I should have new chompers and a new night guard.

I’m really looking forward to that — being done, that is. I hope my dentist doesn’t miss me too badly.

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