Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Tale of the Tooth

I hope you all had a fantastic Independence Day! We sure did! We packed our bags and loaded up the golf cart. . .

and headed off on our annual trip to Copper Harbor. We love to celebrate the 4th with friends in that quaint little town on Lake Superior.

We use our golf cart in the parade and for tooling around town to visit all the shops. I'll share more about our 4th in another post, but one of the things I did in Copper Harbor this year was to take "good old #8" on its farewell tour.

What's "good old #8?"

My right front tooth!

Yep, #8 was scheduled for an extraction on July 7th, so I made sure to enjoy the final brat and the final hamburger I could sink it into. Why would it need to be pulled in this modern age of dentistry? Well, it was beyond repair. Let me explain.

The tale of the tooth begins back in the 70's when I was in high school. About a month after I got braces put on my teeth, I contracted a bad case of the stomach flu. I had a bad habit back then of not ingesting enough fluids when I had the flu. So, as I was walking across our family room headed back to the couch where I was spending the evening, I fainted. Out cold. Landed flat on my face - resulting in a beautiful fat lip and a broken metal band around tooth #8. Two other bands were out of place a bit, but not broken. A trip to the orthodontist was obviously necessary. My right front tooth was very loose, but he gently removed the band and put a new one in place - hoping the tooth would tighten back up in the socket. I had cracked the root in several places. He said the braces saved me from losing the tooth when I planted my face on the family room floor, but he also told me with certainty that the tooth would die one day. How long would it last? He didn't know.  

Years and years passed by, and nothing happened. It seemed like I had successfully dodged a bullet. Then - when I was around 40 - almost overnight - #8 decided to send me a signal by getting noticeably darker than its neighbors. An infection and root canal came next. Several more years passed before #8 decided to develop another infection. The chosen remedy at that time was to clip the root - making the root significantly shorter than it had been. We were just buying time. A dental implant was definitely in my future. That was approximately 10 years ago.

When I was brushing my teeth one day last month, I noticed that a teeny tiny pocket of infection had developed above good old #8. My local dentist took some x-rays. What looked teeny tiny was actually quite large. The good news was: Dead Tooth = No Pain! I now had 2 choices in how to deal with #8. (1) Make an appointment with a specialist in Marquette who could maybe - just maybe - buy me some more time with #8. (2) Make an appointment with a specialist in Marquette to do an extraction, a bone graft (because the bone had receded quite a bit), and a permanent dental implant. In other words, kiss good old #8 goodbye and walk around with a lovely gap for a while! Not a pleasant thought. (No Yooper jokes, please!)

I asked my dentist, "What would you do if it was your tooth?" He said, "The dental implant - without a doubt." The implant was the most expensive of the 2 options, but even IF a specialist could buy me more time with #8, he estimated it would be no more than 3 years. Of course, a bridge would be much cheaper, but who wants to grind away perfectly good teeth to hook the bridge to and hassle with cleaning that every time you eat something? I should add that dental insurance doesn't cover the cost of a dental implant - just the extraction. Cosmetic, they say. I went home and talked it over with Mr. Cut Off. He immediately pointed out that I wouldn't even be questioning which plan of action to take if I was talking about his tooth. My answer would be the dental implant. No discussion. It would have to be done. He was right, of course. That's exactly what I would say. So, I had the consultation in Marquette in June, and we scheduled the surgery for last Friday, July 7th.

We left home early enough to stop on our way for a late breakfast in L'Anse - one last meal - since I knew I'd be on liquids and soft foods for a while. If you're wondering why we had to go all the way to Marquette (about 2-3/4 hours away), it's because he's the only one in the U.P. who does dental implants. That's one drawback to living in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I'm not a nervous patient, so I opted for a local instead of being put out. (Mr. Cut Off thought I was crazy.) The doctor assured me I would "hate" him for the 2 shots he was about to give me. I won't lie. The shots were bad, but I tend to compare everything to migraine headache pain which can sometimes last for days. Realizing the discomfort is only temporary helps. So, I didn't hate the doctor. He was very fast and very good - explaining what he was doing as he went along. He extracted the tooth, cleaned up the infection, inserted the bone graft material which had been mixed with a small amount of my blood, placed a membrane to hold it all in place, stitched me up, gave me some prescriptions and instructions, and sent me on my way.

About 15 minutes later, the numbness started to wear off - and BAM! It hit me! Severe migraine headache and throbbing neck pain. Waaay worse than the mouth pain I was experiencing - and that was no picnic. As a migraine sufferer, I expected to get a headache, but I was hoping I wouldn't. Not fun. Mr. Cut Off had to stop to buy me some water and a pillow. I took some OTC medication and tried stretching out in the back seat for a while. That didn't last long. Moved back to the front seat and reclined with the pillow and sunglasses. That worked better. Long. Ride. Home. Survived it, though!

It's now the 7th day post-op. I'm still swollen (even my nose), but it has improved in the last 2 days. I wish I could say I look like this.

but I look more like this.

She's like my identical twin! Ha!

After the swelling goes down, I'll look more like this:

Hey, gotta laugh at yourself, right?

Now, I just have to heal. I need to be especially careful these first few weeks to eat very soft foods - nothing hot - nothing carbonated. I'm already getting used to room temperature cream soups and cold coffee! The bone needs to get nice and solid before they insert the screw into it in the middle of January. Then, we'll wait maybe another 12 weeks, and the permanent tooth will be placed on the screw. Long process, but it will be permanent. I have an Essix retainer to wear in public until I get that permanent tooth. It looks like one of those clear teeth whitening trays - only with a tooth attached where mine is missing. Not exactly gorgeous - and I won't be able to eat when I'm wearing it - but we'll see what I think of it when I start using it. I have a feeling we won't be going out to eat very often. On the bright side, it should be a lot more difficult for me to accidentally bite my lip for the next 9 months! So, I'm housebound until the swelling goes down. Don't want to scare the public needlessly.

We've had a cold rain for the last 2 days, but the weather has been pretty great - a nice, cool summer.

I took a walk down the driveway the other day. Our thimbleberries are coming along, and it will soon be picking time.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cut Off put his lower back out on Wednesday, so he's housebound, too. That pain will usually keep him down for a week or so. Please pray for a speedy recovery for him.

All is well in the Keweenaw.

10 comments:

  1. Julie, so sorry to hear about your tooth. Praying that it heals nicely. Your writing about it was entertaining, but I also cringed along with you, reading about your experience. Those pictures!! Scary! So glad you kept your sense of humor and can laugh about it. Sorry about those beastly migraines. Can't the Dr. do anything about them? I went to a headache specialist/neurologist and he put me on Propranolol, which prevents migraines most of the time. There is a lot of interesting information about the various types of migraines. One type is believed to be caused by allergies. Prayers also for Mr. Cutoff's back. Take care and have a happy summer. Bev (Proverbs 3: 5,6.)

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    1. I've tried other beta blockers - as well as other prescription medications - no miracle cure yet. I do have some allergy triggers - among other things. Thanks for your prayers for Mr. Cut Off.

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  2. Heal!! Heal!! I've had to have 3 root canals & 2 implants (so far) in my 65 years, so I really sympathize with you. Take out meals sounds like a plan for 6 months!

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    1. My mom has 5 implants, so I knew what I was in for with this process. Swelling is getting better!

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  3. Love your sense of humor about this. You're right, you have to be able to laugh at yourself! Prayers for both of you!

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    1. Life would be so dull without laughter! Thanks for the prayers!

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  4. Implants are amazing! So much better than having a bridge or a missing tooth. It's too bad the cost is prohibitive for many. I have one implant and need another but, due to cost, I have to spread the procedures out. Hope you and Mr. feel better soon.

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    1. Yes, I'll be happy when the process is complete!

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  5. Did you Keep the tooth? My understanding is the Keweenaw Tooth Fairy is quite generous.

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    1. The Tooth Fairy hasn't coughed up a dime yet!

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