Friday, March 27, 2015

I can’t handle the tooth

Just when you thought my Tooth Drama stories were over, BAM! The Sequel! Well, not a sequel exactly, more like the next chapter. Or act. Or season. I’m making fun of it to cheer myself up, but it’s not really working.

Yesterday I had my six-month check-up with the periodontist, and the short version of the story is that things have deteriorated and I need more, and more invasive, procedures. Kaching!—they're not cheap, either.

An area toward the back had some of the deepest pockets last year, and they’re starting to form again. So, the periodontist says the best option is to open up my gum to examine the actual roots to find out what’s going on. Apparently, the roots can have cracks or grooves where the bacteria that causes periodontal disease can “hide”, so when they do their remedial work, all they’re doing is scraping away what’s there, but the bacteria has a place to live to fight another day.

I also have an abscess on one of my front teeth. I was surprised by that, because there was no pain, and I thought they were painful. However, the periodontist said that in this case it wouldn’t be. That particular tooth is a problem: It’s dropped probably three millimetres due to loss of support when the periodontal disease was in full flight, and it’s possible I may yet lose it (though the periodontist did say “I don’t think the pulp is dead…”).

But the most demoralising part of all this for me is that I probably inadvertently contributed to the problems. I’ve said many times before that I struggle with flossing, but I’ve also found the little interdental brushes difficult, too, because they sometimes get stuck (one broke off and was stuck between my teeth, which freaked me out even more than when floss gets stuck).

So, a few months ago we got an “Ultra Water Flosser”. You can read for yourself the claims made for the product at the link, but the periodontist said all they do is remove debris and don’t remove plaque because the bacteria is “sticky” and difficult to remove except with manual tools, not high-pressure water. Given the fact that my condition has deteriorated even though I’ve used the waterflosser nearly every day, it would appear he’s right, at least for me, anyway.

I was using it because I’d struggled so much with flossing and even those little brushes. Apparently, I would’ve been better off struggling. The little brushes are best—better than flossing, though the periodontist said I should floss between the tighter teeth (I have this flossing thingee, where the floss is in a little stirrup-shaped thing that clicks onto a handle; it’s the first thing I’ve ever used that let me successfully floss). The periodontist also said ideally the tiny brushes should be dipped in an antiseptic mouthwash to kill the bacteria as I go. I’d always used toothpaste, but he pointed out that it’s designed to clean, and isn’t effective at killing the bacteria.

So, over the next few weeks I have three appointments (the final one a post-op check and deep cleaning like I had six months ago). Then—well, we’ll see. I have no idea where all this is headed, but it looks to be very different than where I thought, or was hoping, it would go nearly a year ago.

This morning I used my little brushes and flossing thingee. It went okay. I’m sure I’ll get better at it in the months ahead, so maybe the next re-check will be better.

This story has a few more chapters to go, it seems.

The image above is a reproduction from the 20th US edition of Gray's Anatomy, and is in the public domain. It is available from Wikimedia Commons.

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