Fun with dentistry

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ve seen me write about my “extensive and unpleasant dental work.” So, here are the (really) gory details about it.

“And that’s why we get our kids braces…”

My family has a long history of dental problems. Both my mom and dad had dentures for as long as I could remember. I didn’t start going to the dentist until I was 16. The dentist gave me a few fillings, and he recommended to my mom that I get braces. At the time, she couldn’t afford them. So, I wound up with a movie star smile. Unfortunately, the movie star was Bugs Bunny.

My crooked teeth were doing more than adding to my already nerdy appearance. They were difficult to clean, so I wound up suffering bone loss around my upper front teeth. I had gum surgery in 1994, which helped improve my dental health and saved me from the same Poligrip fate as my parents. Still, it came to the point where I needed to do something about those teeth. They were starting to get loose and threatened to cause bone loss around the important eye teeth. So, I made the decision to have those front teeth removed and get a bridge.

Hurray for Valium!

I have no problem with needles. My dentist is great with making Novocain injections as painless as possible. Furthermore, I regularly donate blood and had three blood tests at a doctor’s office earlier that week. Still, I was nervous about the idea of having teeth forceably removed from my upper jaw. So, my dentist gave me a prescription for 10mg of Valium. (I didn’t want to be knocked out for the surgery. I just didn’t want to care.) I took it an hour before my appointment. My wife drove me to the appointment, of course. By the time the procedure started, the Valium was working its magic. My dentist had to give me a number of shots of Novocain. (I stopped counting — or caring — after the second or third.)

Feeling like a hockey player

The dentist first did an impression of my front teeth in their existing crooked configuration to be used for the temporary bridge. Then, he started trimming my eye teeth to be used as anchors for the new bridge. I’ve had crown work done before, so this was nothing new. Now, it was time for the extractions.

I usually keep my eyes closed during dental work because of the bright light shining in my face. Not that I would want to see what he was doing anyway. I felt the instrument clamp around the first of my incisors. The dentist wiggled it a little and shifted it around. With a firm pull, the tooth came right out. As crass as it may sound, the only thing I can compare this feeling to is having a difficult session on the toilet and having it finally come out. I didn’t feel any pain. I just mumbled, “Oh, there goes the first one.” Here too, I lost count of how many he had removed. When I murmured, “There goes my second,” he corrected, “No, that was your third.” After a brief moment, all four teeth were gone. The assistant put some gauze on my gums to stop the bleeding.  I wasn’t feeling any pain, but having that big gap in my front teeth made me feel like a hockey player.

While I was healing, I sat up and looked at the tray for the dental equipment. In one compartment were my four teeth with the roots covered with my blood. I wasn’t grossed out by them. I looked at them with a curious disinterest. Those were pieces of my body that now sat in a dentist’s office.

I was soon fitted with my temporary bridge. The bridge looks like my old buck teeth (because they were made from impression of my old buck teeth). But even this bridge looks better. The teeth are whiter, and they look better from the side. In about a month and a half, I will get my permanent bridge with my new straight teeth.

To transcend dental medication

Unfortunately, anesthesia only delays pain, not eliminate it. So, I was feeling sore when the Novocain finally wore off. My dentist prescribed Vicodin for the pain along with Amoxicillin as an antibiotic. I’ve heard various standup comics joke about the joys of getting hopped up with Vicodin, especially when consumed with alcohol. All Vicodin did for me is to make me sleep. Of course, I wouldn’t think of having alcohol with it, because Vicodin would then make me sleep without the option of waking up.  I stopped taking Vicodin as soon as the pain went away. I still have to take the Amoxicillin because infection is no fun either.

How I’m doing now

I’m getting back to my old routines with everything except eating. As you can guess, apples, salt water taffy, and even hot dogs are off the menu. I’m gaining a new appreciation for eggs, refried beans, and applesauce. So, I may trim off a few pounds to go with my new smile.

I find it exciting and motivating to get a new smile at age 50. It reminds me that I still have a lot of living to do, and I can improve myself and start working towards better health and wellness at any age.