Monday, December 04, 2023

Tooth telling

Today was part two of my most recent adventures in dentistry, but it’s now just a part of routine maintenance, descended from, but not part of, the old Tooth Tales series of posts I did. That series began in April of 2014, and ended, undramatically and pretty much unceremoniously, in May 2021, when I began routine maintenance—like most people have.

Last week’s appointment, despite my error-born confusion over when, precisely, it was, went well in most respects. My x-rays looked good, and the dentist saw no issues. They hygienist then did the “industrial tooth-scraping”, as I call it with mocking exaggeration, and in the process found a quite deep pocket had formed at the base on one tooth that hadn’t had a pocket before. Uh oh.

Such a thing could be caused by a fracture in the root, however, I’d felt no pain, and such a thing is painful. Maybe it was a tooth’s version of a hairline crack? Or, maybe nothing sinister at all? Further investigation was necessary.

This morning, I went back to my dentist who first took x-rays of the roots of that particular tooth—more detailed and specific than the general lot he took last week. And here, a side note: I’m still always surprised at how fast modern dental x-ray technology is, going from a beep to to an image on the computer in seconds. I remember when they used film, which required a much longer exposure and then the film had to be developed, and it wasn’t digital. My dentist mentioned that he had to learn that as part of his dental training, though he’s never actually had to do it that way. He said he also liked how modern x-ray technology exposed the patient to dramatically less radiation. I share his enthusiasm for that fact.

Fortunately, it turned out that there’s no sign of a crack or other defect in the tooth (apart from fillings, which are fine). He did tests that determined that the tooth itself is sound, and the specific x-rays of the tooth’s roots showed no damage, which was reinforced by the fact I’d never had any pain whatsoever. The most likely explanation is that it’s just another result of my ongoing gum disease (it can’t be cured, and for me, anyway, it can only be managed). So, the best thing for now is to watch it, and, fortunately, my next hygienist appointment is in only six months.

Due to my own fault/lack of care, the dental disease has been a bit worse than it otherwise should be. That’s because sometime after two cleanings ago, I stopped using the little little interdental brushes to help keep calculus at the gumline under control, and so, it was able to make more hospitable places for bacteria to move in to set up house, destroying bone tissue and forming pockets. I have no defence for my lack of attention to using those little brushes, what I knew only too well is my best defence against the calculus and bacteria, and so, the best way to the deal with the ongoing problem. However, there’s a reason this happened, and that’s directly related the Weltschmerz I’ve been dealing with off and on over the past couple years—fix one, perhaps fix the other?

At any rate, so far I’ve been good about using those little interdental brushes again—though I only resumed using them less than a week ago, so… yay me, I guess. The scare with the tooth/pocket may help persuade me to be even more determined to persevere with those little brushes, and to be as regular in using them as I used to be before the Bad Times of 2021 began.

There was one last thing about this already unusually complicated dental maintenance story: Thanks to a Facebook “Memory”, I found out that I first saw the dentist three years ago yesterday. When I told the dentist that, he said, “happy anniversary—where’s the cake?” It’s a bonus when a healthcare professional has a similar sense of humour to me.

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