Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Options (or, dental drama)

After discovering that gigantic filling had fallen out of my tooth, I didn't sleep well at all. When I woke up Mon morning I felt as if I'd been run over by that renegade trailer with my house on it. I almost felt hung over, even though I hadn't had any alcohol the day or night before.

So Mon morning I located an nearby dentist and scheduled a visit/consultation for 1:30 so I could find out my options. I should probably mention that I have an acute fear of dentistry. I mean, I realize that nobody likes going to the dentist, but I really, really have a fear of it.

About 15 years ago I was at the dentist for an extremely overdue check-up. I hadn't been to the dentist since I was a teenager, and a lot had changed since them. The dentist put on a paper face mask, latex gloves, and protective eye goggles. The dentist hadn't even begun working yet but I was already clenching the arms of the chair as I watched her 'suit up'. When she leaned forward to begin, I asked "I understand the gloves and face mask, but why do you wear those goggles? Is it to prevent this?" at which time I poked my 1st 2 fingers into the goggles!
I'm not kidding! My extreme nervousness obviously got the better of me. And when I realized what I'd just done, I started laughing and laughing and laughing. The dentist began laughing. The hygienist and clerical staff all peeked into the room to see what was so funny.

Then the dentist stopped laughing and wanted to get to work, but I could not stop laughing. I apologized for my earlier behavior and for the laughing, but could not stop laughing. I tried to think of sad things like malnourished children in 3rd world countries, but even that didn't work. The laughter just kept coming out. Fits of laughter. Gut-wrenching laughter. I-can't-breathe-anymore laughter.

So when my new dentist 'suited up' on Mon it was my earnest desire not to do anything that would bring on the giggles.

After an x-ray and quick examination, my new dentist advised me that, indeed, the entire huge filling had come out of the tooth, and that there was some decay in what remained of the tooth.
Then came my 2 options: a root canal followed by tooth build-up and a crown, or extraction.

Naturally I asked for the pros and cons of the 2 options and their respective costs.

The root canal option will basically restore the tooth. It will require at least 3 visits to remove the root, remove the decay in the 'shell' of the tooth, build up the tooth, fit it for the crown, and then install the crown. (I remembered this from the root canal and crown I had 10 years ago.) The cost for all of this is approximately $2,300. - $2,500.

Extracting the tooth (what's left of it) can be done in a single visit. The dentist said they normally don't recommend this because one is left with a space between teeth that will allow the teeth to shift over time, and is unsightly. However, in my case it is the far back tooth so the vacancy won't be seen by anyone, and if there's any movement over time, it will only be the 1 adjacent tooth, not 2 teeth, so extraction was given to me as an option. The cost of the extraction and related anesthesia is approximately $300. - $500.

Fortunately my new dentist did not expect an answer right then and there, and encouraged me to think about it and call her back with any questions. So I thought about it and talked it over with Spouse.

My initial thought was that the extraction might make me look like some gap-toothed hillbilly. My secondary thought was that I was not excited at all about the prospect of clenching my hands on the arms of the dental chair for 3 more dental visits. There's also the huge cost differential. I have dental insurance, but it only pays for a percentage of some of the costs.

So Tues morning I called back to schedule an appointment for the extraction, next Tues. I was heartened to learn that the procedure is rather quick. Basically they numb you up and pull it out. Obviously there is a recovery period as the gum heals, but it is over and done with in a single visit. No one will be able to see that the tooth is gone, and the dentist said I will easily learn to compensate for it when I chew.

In the meantime I was advised not to chew any food on that side of my mouth. The dentist said the tooth is so thin that it might break if I chewed food with it, so I have to chew everything on the other side of my mouth for an entire week. Its only been 2 days and I already feel like I'm only tasting 1/2 of what I eat. But fortunately I am not in any pain or discomfort, so I guess I will put up with only tasting 1/2 of what I eat for several days.

Its also resulting in me eating less, so I may lose a few pounds this week, which wouldn't be a bad thing. Hmm... dental work as a weight loss measure!

Crush du Jour: Jeremy Bloom


You said...

OMG! You poor thing! But an extraction?! YIKES!

mistress maddie said...

The comment about you poking the dentist in the googgles is funny as hell!I can feel your pain.I went through this two years ago.I had the tooth rebuilt.I don't mind the dentist,it's the doctors I fear!!

David Dust said...

As I've mentioned before, I hate anything medical/dental - and I would have done the exact same thing. Get that sucker pulled and get outta there!

BTW - Who in the HELL is Jeremy Bloom? Gorgeous.

CJ said...

I try to relax and breathe through my nose. SOmetimes I think I will start choking or gagging but it hasn't happened.
Most dental insurance sucks. I think most dentist just jack the price up. If had taken the time to find a dentist and said you wanted to pay cash for an extraction I bet it could have been done for $150. I've spent a fortune and still don't have a Tom Cruise smile.
I all goes well for you!

Java said...

I would definitely go with the extraction! Root canals make me nervous. It's an invitation for systemic infection. (I've had people, including dentists, deny this.)
Hope you make it 'til Tuesday. That's a long time to be careful. I just had some peanut brittle. Probably not something you should eat this week. :)

tornwordo said...

Spouse had one extracted about 10 years ago and he still plays with the space with his tongue.

Jeff said...

That's funny - your laughing fit. A similar thing hapenned to me many, many years ago while attending a Christmas Eve church service with my then girlfriend (yikes!) and her mother. There were a bunch of old biddies singing some carole way off key, and I started laughing uncontrollably, and was soon joined by the gf and her mother! It was expecially uncomfortable after the music stopped and the laughing didn't :-)

Good luck with the tooth!

EMikeGarcia said...


There are no words to express how much I feel for you right now.

I think I have a sympathy toothache.

RAD said...

poor will be ok..I promise....