We could all use a reason to smile right now, and I have a good one. I finally have a full set of teeth.
Back at the end of last July, I once again had to have a tooth extracted due to root resorption from scleroderma. It’s been a long nine months without my lower front tooth, #24, waiting first for the bone graft to heal, then for the implant to heal, then for the crown to be made, and finally, on Monday, to complete the whole process and get my new tooth.
Except I actually lost another tooth along the way. When I saw my dentist last month to take the impressions for the crown for #24, I told him that my periodontist had said #23, right next to it, was already 50 percent resorbed and quite fragile. Would I be able to have a second implant next to the first? I asked.
He paused, then shook his head. Not enough room, not enough bone in my jaw to make it work.
My heart sank. Now what?
Fortunately, he had a good solution. Have #23 extracted soon, then he would order a “cantilevered” crown—essentially, a false tooth for #23 attached to the crown for #24. I’d need a temporary version for the three months it would take for my gums to fully heal from the extraction and bone graft, then a permanent crown by summer.
Not that I wanted the discomfort and expense of another extraction and bone graft so soon, but better now than later. So I went ahead and had #23 removed by my periodontist a couple of weeks ago. It went as well as could be hoped, my gums healed in a week, and I got my temporary crown on Monday afternoon.
I have to say, it’s very, very nice to be able to smile without a big gap in my lower front teeth. My tongue misses having that gap to play with (back to second-grade-missing-teeth time), and the crown takes some getting used to. But given that mask mandates are gradually easing here in Massachusetts, it is great to have a full set of teeth, once again. And I am very grateful that we have the means to afford it.
Not so for many. It really is high time for dental insurance policies to cover more than just cleanings and fillings. Healthy teeth and gums are not cosmetic luxuries. They’re essential for eating well and communicating, and play a huge role in how we’re perceived by others and feel about ourselves. Scleroderma can cause significant dental damage. Some recent research is delving into this issue, which points to a correlation between digital ulcers and so-called Multiple External Root Resorption (MERR), but it needs more attention and a search for mitigating options for those of us who must deal with this rare but particularly disfiguring and debilitating aspect of the disease.