More than two years have passed since I last had a tooth extracted due to a complication of scleroderma that causes my immune system to attack the roots of my teeth. But, once again, another one had to go. This time, it was my lower front left tooth, known to dentists as #24.
I’ve had two implants so far. My dental team and I have been tracking another four teeth at risk. At my last cleaning, my hygienist noticed that 24 looked pink at the bottom, indicating the tooth was hollowing out and blood was seeping inside. An X-ray confirmed the extent of the resorption.
At that point, surprisingly, I was not experiencing any nerve pain, given the damage. A consult with my periodontist left timing of the inevitable procedure up to me. I also saw my dentist to discuss the situation, have a new panorama X-ray taken, and figure out where things stood. The other three teeth have not progressed as far, fortunately, so I’ll just continue to deal with them one at a time. But after about a month, I realized 24 was getting more sensitive. I heal faster in summer, so it was time to take care of it.
And so it was, last Wednesday, that I found myself, once again, slightly upside down in my periodontist’s exam chair, trying not to get anxious as I awaited the first shot of Novocaine. Fortunately, the topical anesthetic that preceded the shots worked expeditiously, and the Novocaine took hold quickly, too, so I was spared much discomfort. But I still hate those needles.
Since the tooth was up front, the procedure was somewhat easier than for the past two molars. Just one root instead of multiples, and no overstretching my mouth to get in the back, which is very uncomfortable. But as has been the case before, the ligaments that form a sock around the roots, making it easier to pull, were dried up, so the root was fused to my jaw and had to be drilled out.
The whole process took about an hour, half the time for previous molars. I did my best to stay in the moment, breathe, and listen to Vivaldi streaming on the music system. I recognized one of the pieces that I used to play on my violin in high school. It was a relief when my periodontist finished the last stitch and I could get out of that chair.
Residual pain, once the Novocaine wore off, was, thankfully, minimal and manageable with over-the-counter pain meds. Swelling subsided within 48 hours, thanks to a lot of icing that first day. I can eat without much trouble.
The one mistake I made was assuming the missing tooth, given that is was in my lower jaw, would not be noticeable. Alas, I look like Alfred E. Neuman, except on the bottom. So, I’m going to have a “flipper” made, which is a false tooth that is removed when you eat. Given that this whole procedure, from extraction to implant to crown, will cost about $9,000, with no insurance coverage (outrageous!), the additional $350 for the flipper seemed a drop in the bucket. I really don’t want to live with a gap in my teeth for nine months until I get the crown. I’m not letting scleroderma get the better of how I look and feel about my appearance. Some might call it vanity, but I call it self-esteem.
And there’s a silver lining. Once again, by charging payments on my travel credit card, which we always pay off at month’s end, I’ll at least get more points for whenever we can finally take another extended vacation safely, without fear of Covid complications. Hoping that’ll be at least by next April, when 24 is fully replaced.
Sooner would be better.