Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Tooth Tales: The marathon

These “Tooth Tales” haven’t gone away, they’ve just become smaller and part of a larger narrative, one that’s about accomplishing long-held goals, and also maintaining a personal commitment. So many of the best-accomplished things are exactly like that.

The last specifically “Tooth Tales” post in this series was back in December 2020 when my crowned tooth was removed, something that seemed to take forever to heal.

After that—on my birthday—I saw the dental hygienist. I was impressed immediately with how nice and friendly she is, and how collegial: She talked about the things that needed to be done in terms of a partnership—without actually calling it that, of course. In the first visit, she took her measurements and admonished coached me to use those damn little brushes between my teeth, taking the time to both “train” me and to overcome my main hesitation, namely, that it freaks me out when the brushes get stuck between my teeth. The second visit was more of the same, except that she happily noted the progress I’d made in addressing the pockets around my teeth. That’s because I actually used those damn little brushes between my teeth; she’s quite persuasive. Clearly.

There was a new problem that popped up, though: My top and bottom front teeth were colliding, and that caused some damage, some pain, and a lot of annoyance. Today I saw the dentist about that.

The problem is that my top front tooth and bottom front tooth would sometimes collide when I chewed, which hurt, and one time it chipped my upper tooth. A few nights when I was in that space between being awake and asleep, my jaw suddenly snapped shut and my teeth collided. I felt miserable.

The problem exists because my upper tooth dropped when it lost bone support from my periodontal disease (I think I first talked about that six years ago). Meanwhile, the bottom front tooth has thrust upward, something that happens sometimes, apparently. That caused a misalignment that allowed the two to get into a sort of dental fist fight.

I did a few things to try and help myself until I could get it sorted. First, and most obviously, I chewed very carefully. I also tried wearing a sports mouthguard when I slept because it’s cheap and I wasn’t sure it would work. The one night I wore it my teeth didn’t collide in my sleep, but it propped my mouth open and my tongue dried out that night, and that meant I couldn’t taste much the next day. So, I next tried something very simple: When trying to fall asleep, I concentrated on relaxing my jaw muscles, then relaxing them some more, then some more. My jaw hasn’t snapped shut at night since; maybe it wouldn’t have, anyway, but I don't care because it just didn’t.

Today I saw my dentist and he ground down the bottom tooth just a little bit so they can all close properly now—they’re not trying to occupy the same place. This may be permanent, or it may need to be done again if my teeth are still moving. No way to know either way right now, but the important thing is that I immediately felt better because my mouth could close properly. It was downright miraculous.

The next step is that when I see the hygienist in a couple months, in addition to checking my gums and doing an ordinary cleaning, she’ll do some bleaching to try to remove some of the staining. Then I’ll go back to the dentist and have him repair my chipped front tooth (it’s better to do it this way so that the composite they use colour-matches the tooth; fixing the chip first might mean it might not match after my teeth are bleached).

All of this is related to my original goal: A prettier smile. However, now it’s just about getting the best reasonable result. I know it won’t be what I originally wanted, but I’m trying to get to “good enough” (as I am with so much these days…), and, especially, so that when I enter my Golden Years my teeth won’t look like they arrived and settled in many years earlier.

Nigel started all this. He made the appointment that started me down this road some seven years ago. He only wanted to help me achieve what I wanted, and he would’ve supported me as I came to terms with the goalposts lowering. But all that’s also part of what makes me want to see this through: He was in my corner even when I wasn’t. But I also want to make things better with my oral health because that, ultimately, will make everything else better, too, including whatever still is possible—even if that’s considerably less than what I thought would happen when I started out on this journey.

Today, and the other days I haven’t blogged about, brought me closer to a new stasis, something that’s healthier and more sustainable than what I had before. I may never get the prettier smile I wanted at the start of this journey, but I’ll still end up with something that could last me through my twilight years, and that, I think, is good enough.

Thanks, Nigel.


Roger Owen Green said...

stasis - interesting word choice, that. it means inactivity OR equilibrium.

Arthur Schenck said...

Exactly. Glad you picked up on that—not surprised, of course, but glad.