Tuesday, January 29, 2008
(I gave you some background yesterday. If you weren't here then, you should probably read that stuff first.)
After my many dental problems - as well as my decided lack of care concerning my teeth - I finally got smart in 2001. As is usual in my case, the intelligence came from an outside source.
I had another toothache. It led to another extraction; the 10th of my life to that point, as near as I can recall.
(You may think it somewhat odd that I can't say with certainty how many teeth I had pulled to that point. It would seem that a routine poking about of my tongue, in order to count my teeth, and then subtracting the number of remaining teeth from 32 [the usual adult allotment] would provide an immediate and accurate answer. The problem is that, in the procedure I'll tell you about shortly, I had a large number of teeth taken. I don't know that number, so I have no reliable way of knowing how many there were prior.)
This latest pain in my pearlies was the first I had had since moving to Watertown in late 1994. Since I hadn't paid a visit to a dentist in any of the seven intervening years, I now had to find one to yank this most recent offender.
I didn't care if he had the chairside manner of Torquemada, as well as roaches scrabbling across the spitsink, so long as he had a DDS following his name and could get the damn thing out of my mouth immediately. I opened the Yellow Pages to "Dentists" and looked for the one closest to home who could do the job. As it turned out, I was extremely lucky. I found a wonderful dentist simply by chance. His name was Domenic D'Amico. He told me to come by as soon as I was able and he would perform the needed pull.
I entered the office and only had to wait in the reception area for a few minutes. I was then escorted into a chair, given a bib, and told that the doctor would be by right away. And so he was.
He asked the usual questions - how long since you've been to a dentist, etc. - to which I gave the usual embarrassing answers. He never once gave me an exasperated sigh or a lecture or anything else that I would have found off-putting. He made some notes, then gave me a blessed shot of novacaine. As relief flooded my face - I believe my shoulders literally dropped about six inches from the tension release - he explained what he was going to do, and then went about the business of removing the painful tooth. It was over quickly and easily.
I thanked him, left the inner office, and paid the receptionist. I then met MY WIFE at a spot we had planned to meet that night, a wad of absorbent cotton in my cheek, telling her that her husband had one less body part than he had that morning.
Fast forward a couple of months. I decided (with much input from MY WIFE, who was - as now - a smart woman with way more common sense than me concerning health matters) to have an actual full dental check-up. I finally decided to get onto the right path and take care of those teeth I had left. I was hoping that I might forgo any further toothaches. I had easily had enough of them to last a lifetime.
Instead, the dentist I visited (who was NOT Dr. D'Amico; I went to this guy, instead, because I had a coupon for a first visit special) told me that all of my teeth had to come out.
He was of the opinion that they couldn't possibly be saved. I numbly listened as he outlined how they could all be plucked in one visit, and dentures fitted the same day. I nodded as he spoke, but in my heart of hearts I was not ready for this. I had expected a stern lecture again, but not a death sentence.
On the ride home, I tried to figure out some way to tell MY WIFE this news with a cheery sort of face. I didn't want her to feel any of this pain I had very much brought on myself. I pretty much talked myself into believing it would be for the best. I certainly wouldn't be troubled with toothaches any longer, that's for sure. My breath would be better. And all of my relatives had gotten along for years and years with phony grinders. I supposed that I'd be OK with it, too, after a while. I decided to put on a somewhat brave front.
I told MY WIFE the marvelous news. She would have none of it. She was immediately non-accepting of this guy's diagnosis. She firmly told me to get a second opinion. Aside from not believing that all of my teeth had to be removed, she had concerns - which I hadn't even considered - about my ability to perform my job (commercial voice work, mostly) with dentures.
I am forever in her debt for that wisdom.
We talked about it, and I figured that I'd go back to Dr. D'Amico. He had been such a nice fellow the last time when I had that tooth pulled; very non-judgmental, and gentle in his work. I made an appointment to discuss my dental options with him.
In the end, he was of the opinion that my lower teeth could be saved for a fair while through means of a root planing. This is a procedure wherein an oral surgeon goes below the gum line and removes as much junk as possible, literally scraping the unseen portion of the teeth clean. It would be a bit painful, but performed under novacaine and there would be pain meds provided afterwards. This last sold me on it completely, of course. Save my teeth and get high? Sign me up!
The uppers? Not such good news. No doubt - they did have to go. If I didn't have them out now, I had nothing but pain and sorrow ahead, and quickly, too. However, there were better options than plain old dentures. Dr. D'Amico felt that I was a good candidate for implants.
Some of you may not be familiar with just how dental implants work. I'll give you the quick explanation now. I'll try to get it as completely as possible, while allowing for the possibility that not too many of you will want a boring lecture about it.
Basically, small titanium rods are implanted into the bone of the jaw. A prosthesis is attached to these rods. When completed successfully, the implants are fairly much as strong as natural teeth. In my case, it was also a wonderful chance to have a better appearance cosmetically. I not only received strong permanent teeth; I also received a smile I would not be ashamed to use.
I had become very used to having rotten ugly teeth. So much so, that I had taken to grinning rather than smiling. Not that I never smiled, mind you, but if I had a chance to think about it, I kept my teeth covered. I knew they were hideous. Now, I would be able to just relax, and smile without giving thought to hiding anything. That alone has pretty much been worth the cost.
Speaking of cost, it was considerable. It took close to $8,000 and months of work to get what I have now. It was worth every penny and every minute.
Tomorrow, I'll give you the details concerning the work that was done. It will get grody, so be prepared. However, keep in mind the results and you'll be happy - just like me.
(Go To Part Three)