I first went to a dentist about my aching wisdom teeth around 1995/96. “They haven’t yet broken the surface,” he said. “Give them more time to come in, and it will be easier to pull them out.” And so I waited.
Now, if you’ve read my previous post about dental work you know: they weren’t going to come in. They were impacted. And all the extra time I gave them was time they spent putting more pressure on the teeth in front of them.
Also: I clench my teeth at night. Enough so that most of my dentists have outright asked me if I do, as they view the damage that I’ve done to my teeth over the years. Not one of them told me about night guards.
The combination of internal and external pressure has not been good to my teeth.
While I did finally have all four wisdom teeth removed (#1, 16, 17, and 32), some damage had already been done to the remaining molars. It probably would have been fine, if not aggravated by years of clenching. But #2 cracked, and it’s been filled over and over. The fillings fall out after a couple of years as the cracking gets worse. One dentist said, “This is crazy. Pull it.” The other dentist in his office said, “That’s crazy. We’d never pull a tooth we could save.” A third dentist said, “We could pull it, but the roots on this tooth are long, and it looks like it goes into your sinus canal. If we create a hole there, …” The words “graft” and “plate” were involved at this point and the terror blocked the rest of the sentence from my mind.
That conversation was three years ago. No more attempts were made to refill the tooth, and I’ve been “treating” it by brushing extra carefully and flossing a lot, knowing that I was only taking the weakest of stop-gap measures. I heard about and bought myself a drugstore-quality night guard, which helped with the pressure. Finally, I went to a new dentist on Monday. He said, “It can’t be saved. Get it taken out. There’s an oral surgeon on the sixth floor.” And so I went up to the sixth floor to make an appointment. Today, I am to have it removed, with the benefit of heavy sedation. I’m nervous, because the surgeon hasn’t actually seen the X-ray yet. I hope the long roots turn out to be a non-issue. I also hope that the new dentist is right about the pain in #30 (my only tooth with a root canal) being caused by pressure from #2, because it HURTS. The new dentist explained that, while the pain I describe is accurate to an incomplete root canal, and that he can see from the X-ray that the previous dentist didn’t get all the way down to the apex of the root, that type of pain should have manifested earlier. He and I both would like to avoid re-opening the tooth if possible.
I asked if I could have the X-ray back after the tooth is gone. This tooth and I, we go way back. I want to keep something to remember it by. And I will glare at it with great disdain. Grrrrr. (Clench, clench)