Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Amazing how when you talk to people about tooth extraction, you discover how many people are missing teeth. It is a humbling experience...kind of puts having only one bad tooth in perspective! I did a lot of reading about implants, researched my insurance, etc. Then I discussed implants with my niece (who has one) and sister-in-law (who has had 2). It seems to have been the right procedure for both of them and they are happy with the outcome. I also talked to Bob and my sister, who have both had the procedure my dentist originally recommended (apicectomy), which the transplant dentist pooh-poohed. Finally, I did a lot of thinking about my options. My tooth feels pretty much fine right now. The antibiotics are done, the infections seems to be cleared up at least temporarily, I have been rinsing with salt water and with a special mouthwash. I decided it is not an emergency, and that I would like to hang on to my own tooth if I can.

So right now I am planning to ask my dentist to refer me for a second opinion - this time not to someone who is slanted toward implants (as the other specialist seemed to be - the practice is huge, lots of partners and staff, glitzy modern office, flat screen televisions in the waiting room hawking Procera implants), but instead to someone who specializes in root canals. (I am going to ask him specifically about the oral surgeon who did Bob's apicectomy.) It isn't that I feel the specialist I saw is incompetent - in fact, if I get an extraction and implant, I think it is probably a good place to go, he is board certified, very well credentialed, etc. But I believe I was referred there not because it is what I need, but because they are participating providers in my insurance. (Which after my research I discovered covers 50 percent - so that means the total cost really is something like 7 grand.) Bob's apicectomy worked fine, but he had to have it for a different reason than I will - but my sister's case was identical to mine, and hers also worked fine. So I am not ready to throw in the towel on that approach. I am going to take the risk - and if it doesn't work out - then I will consider the extraction / implant path.

I called the specialist's office yesterday morning and canceled the extraction. I called my dentist to discuss my thinking with him - and he is on vacation until 1/5 (I will follow up next week). Really hoping my poor tooth hangs in there until then (so far, so good). So that is just taking control of my situation, instead of allowing myself to be pushed into something just because a specialist manipulates me.

This part is more about alternative thinking. I have two root canal / crown teeth at this point. I have never had any other major problems (aside from crooked teeth and fillings in most molars), I even have all four wisdom teeth. My first tooth to act up and need a crown was in 2000, when I was writing my dissertation. It wasn't infected, just sensitive, and my dentist, who I have gone to for 20 years and have a lot of confidence in, and who is on the same page as me (in that he doesn't recommend unnecessary procedures) told me at that time that he felt I would never be happy with crowns, so I should delay as long as possible and just baby it, unless it acted up so badly that I couldn't tolerate it.

He told me the reason I was having a problem was because I bite down hard (not grind) on my teeth when I am sleeping. I know this happens primarily when I am stressed. The problems is due to aging, and having a large filling in the molar that acts as a wedge, which causes fissures in the root and nerve sensitivity. So I did nothing about it until 2003, when I experienced another stressful episode. I believe I was doing the biting down thing again and the pain got to the point where I couldn't tolerate it. I got a crown on that tooth. About the same time, another molar started to be sensitive (this is the one that is bothering me now). I did nothing about the second tooth aside from having the dentist check it, and it mostly went away. In 2005, my beloved dog Rudy got ill, I did the chomping thing again, and the original crowned tooth flared to the point where it needed a root canal, which I had done (no choice, nerve pain was horrible). After that, I decided I would not have any more crowns done until they also needed a root canal. I also had the dentist make me a mouth guard, so that I didn't chomp myself into more crowns and root canals when I experience stress.

The mouth guard worked pretty well, but in September 2007 I had a root canal and crown done on the tooth which is now a problem, because it flared into that intolerable nerve pain. I eventually (January 2008) had to have my first crown replaced, because he had to drill through it to do the root canal, and the crown didn't hold up too well. (Now that tooth is perfect.) But the second root canal / crown tooth that is bothering me now has never been right. I know a piece of nerve must have been left in there. It was a nightmare procedure all around. First, I had a reaction in my optical nerve from the Novocaine - it crossed over and my eye fluttered and heart raced. It was awful having a root canal under those conditions. Then, the assistant gave him the wrong compound to make the impression, and it didn't harden properly - the dentist wound up having a fight with her right in front of me, which was awful. Then, he couldn't find the last root and it took forever - he even had to give me break during the procedure. (This is what happened to my sister too, I guess it is not uncommon for roots to be twisted and hard to find on molars.) Finally, my bite was screwed up and he had to file the crown down many times.

Now that I've had more work done the bite guard really doesn't fit right and I am not crazy about wearing it anyway - what with pre-menopause etc. I have enough trouble sleeping without the added irritation of a mouth full of plastic. So what happened? No electricity, a clogged chimney and pending grading deadline - I was (no doubt) chomping away in my sleep (combined with the aftermath of Lyme disease and many rounds of immunity weakening antibiotics) and that tooth which has never been right flares into an infection.

So in thinking about it, I decided that bite guards, sleeping pills, even crowns / root canals and certainly extractions / implants are "the ambulance at the bottom of the hill" rather than the "fence at the top of the hill." I need to figure out a way to manage stress that actually conquers it. It is part of good health anyway, even if I wasn't ruining my teeth.

The punch line: I have several books on skilled relaxation and I have tried a few approaches that kind of work (tapping being one) but in 2009 I am going to pursue it more formally - I am going to try to locate a practitioner to teach me meditation or some other skilled relaxation practice such as yoga or tai chi. (I do use prayer as a pathway, but I don't believe it gets me into that state of mind required for true SR.) Yoga or Tai Chi will require me to overcome my aversion to athletics (another story), so meditation is probably more my speed. I have told a few others - I won't say they were hostile to the idea, but let's just say they were skeptical, to SR and all things holistic. The medical model's reliance on things like Paxil and mouth guards and surgery is hard to break away from, I guess. And naturally all have great respect for the approaches advocated by conventional doctors.

Friday, December 26, 2008

As an end to a perfect month...I came down with a wicked cold on Christmas Eve. I think it has been over three years since I have had a cold. But considering my current state of mind and overall burned-out-ness, it should not be a surprise.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am done with grades!! I made the deadline. YAY.

Tooth feels OK. I may cancel the extraction / implant. We'll see, but at the moment I'm feeling that I am not ready to give up on it yet.

Lots of snow here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hmmm...the link button in the menu is back.

I am having a Murphy's Law kind of week. Why does this kind of stuff always happen right when the semester ends and grades are due?

2) Friday 12/5 - Wednesday 12/10. I hinted at this in my last post. Hot water heater starts putting out soot. Plumber says it is not the hot water heater or furnace. Instead, the chimney is clogged, and it is very dangerous. (Luckily we have natural gas rather than oil.) Chimney cleaner says blockage is complete, and he is unable to access it. Ceiling in kitchen had to be ripped down to access pipe. No heat, HW for several days during repair. Turns out brick, surrounded by leaves and other crap was completely blocking chimney. Cost: $882; not suffocating = priceless.

3) Tuesday 12/9 - Monday 12/15 (and ongoing). I hinted at this in my last post, too. Molar #18, which had root canal / crown ~18 months ago, develops sudden infection. Referred to oral surgeon who recommends extraction / implant. Cost: $2500 - $3500; not being candidate for Erskine Caldwell novel = priceless.

4) Thursday 12/11 - Monday 12/15 (and ongoing for nephew, friends, neighbors). Ice storm hammers Northeast. No power for 51 hours during cold snap. Saturday night was brutal! I didn't think my old cat Edna would survive it. (Still have no cable, but that's barely worth mentioning). Cost: $300 give or take, for kerosene heater, batteries, candles, lost food, ice, lamp oil, driving around in search of kerosene; not having pipes freeze or (take 2) suffocating = priceless.

This is 1, based on date, but it is so minor in the scheme of things at this point that I am putting it last:

1) Wednesday 12/3 - Tuesday 12/9. Desktop monitor blows. Cost: $150; being able to grade student work = wish I didn't have to. (Sorry, it has a price.)

To think I was a little upset about the expense of the chimney! Silly me. The second night, the power outage was getting me down - and then the power came back and all was well. So now it is the tooth problem. I am feeling blue over it, both because I need the procedure, and because I hate the thought of losing a tooth. I know once the implant is all done (a long time from now!) and I am 3K lighter, it will almost seem like my own tooth.

I know it could be a lot worse, this is not major stuff at all, but the 12/22 grading deadline seems ridiculous to me right now, and during the power outage that was weighing heavily on my mind. So rather than give myself an ulcer, I emailed the students to let them know my litany of woes, and to warn them that I will try to be finished, but I might not make the deadline.

That made me feel a little better. Then I went and took a nap. I'll start fresh tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I got an email solicitation from this student

At first I thought it was spam, then I thought it was kind of clever, and finally, I was irritated by his nerve. (Then I deleted it.) I don't know his financial situation, but if his parents can afford to pay, as the article states, why is he emailing me? It is presumptuous! I have a lot more worthy charities on my list. Plus, I am an adjunct - my position is practically volunteer work. Hey, I completely sympathize with the unfairness of a mid-year tuition increase. I am upset about the economy, and I am more disgusted over Governor Paterson's inept management of the State budget than many people seem to be. When I read the article, I became even more irritated at this obnoxious guy than I was when I received the email. I have a news flash for him: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The faculty are terrible but you still have the audacity to ask them for a handout? Why would someone with that attitude think he was worthy of my support? Now that you've had your 15 minutes of fame: Get lost.

The menu with the ability to link within the text seems to have vanished from blogger. Not sure what is up - but that is the reason for the title with the link, it is the only way I could do it.

In other news, we got a Christmas tree from the boy scouts on Sunday. It is a beautiful scotch pine. And I discovered yesterday that I need oral surgery! Blah. Right now, I am waiting for a guy to come and clean our chimney. I wish he would come, so I could go back to focusing on grading. (And let the dogs out of the bedroom.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

I am reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I am nearly finished (I would have been done last night but decided not to stay up until 2 am reading, the way I had for the past several nights). A beautiful book, also devastating. I should have waited until after grades were done (12/22) to pick it up, since I have no self-control when I like a book, but oh well!

Classes for the Fall semester were done last week. All in all, it was a good semester, but I am not sorry to see it come to an end.