The Tooth Fairy's Evil Twin

Or How Al Got a Denture Plate


Tuesday evening, July 24, 2007, I was feeling just the same as I would have felt before a plane flight. Since I have a complete aversion to flying, that was not a good thing. I couldn't work, I couldn't read, I couldn't even watch an old movie. (I put several of them in, only to pull them back out, unable to deal with the stories.)

The mental picture of having 9 teeth pulled all at one setting was eating at me (no pun intended). I had just had one tooth pulled one week ago, and it didn't go too well. (The tooth was one that had been crowned, and it was previously hollowed out by cavities; it snapped right off. My dentist then had to drill away the bone around the root and wiggle it free. My gums were reminding me that I was still in some pain from that experience.) What if one or more of the 9 turned out to be the same?

I was more nervous than I had been on the night before my gall bladder surgery.

I needed something light to take my mind off of what was coming up, and I finally was able to sit through The Truman Show movie.

When the movie was over, it was time for bed. Now I had to find some way to get to sleep. As it turned out, I killed two birds with one stone.

Several months ago, when I last found myself in a tight spot at the dentist's, I was having some drilling done without anesthetic, and the pain level was right at the threshold of being just tolerable. All at once it crossed the threshold, but he was nearly done. So, I tried something I had gotten from Advanced Sports Pain Management with Dr. Jack Singer

I have not had a lot of success with hypnosis myself. Dotti has used hypnosis to stop smoking, and to give her an assist on her Weight loss journey. I have been amazed by the results she gets from this tool. I had to quit smoking the hard way, by just trudging through, and not giving up. Weight loss was the same. But enduring pain is something that is a tough nut to crack, and I had tried going through a session of Dr. Singer's program, mainly for dealing with chronic back pain.

So, there I was in the chair with pain stabbing my tooth, and all at once I was in “my serenity place,” a little safe mental haven that I had created during the CD session, and it was really an act of desperation to try to get there; and I did! I was still aware of the drilling, and that there was some pain going on somewhere, but it was almost like it was happening to someone else. The buffer surrounding me kept the pain at bay, and the drilling was finished with no further stress added to me. I was exceedingly happy that I had tried that CD out before, even though I had not done it specifically for that reason.

Clearly, I needed something to set my mind at rest if I were going to get any sleep that night. So, I decided to listen to the 2nd session once more, the one with the serenity place. I wanted that fresh in my mind as I was facing up to the ordeal I was going to go through on Wednesday morning. That way, if the need arose, I could do another escape, and be okay.

I set the session up and started it, and I had intended to do my own relaxation techniques afterwards. That way, I would be ready to deal with pain tomorrow, and be relaxed enough to get some sleep tonight. I had forgotten that there was a relaxation session at the front end of the hypnosis session, and by the end of that, I was so relaxed, I felt loose as an old rag. The tightness in my chest was gone. The stressful feelings had left, and I was at peace. I really needed that.

I then went through the process of creating my serenity place, complete with ocean sounds, a roaring fire in the fireplace and a couch where my arm was around Dotti who was leaning against me with her head on my shoulder: perfect! And I fell right to sleep after that, and I slept through the night.

I woke up at 5:20 a.m., 10 minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off. I got up and shut off the alarm—no reason Dotti should have to listen to that—and jumped in the shower. I ate breakfast, and had a cup of coffee. I woke Dotti up at the last possible moment, so she could have all the sleep possible before we left.

We were on the way about 20 minutes before 7:00, so we would have plenty of time to get there before my appointment on the hour. I was having my “pre-flight butterflies” having a party in my stomach, and was mentally bumping up against the unknown. My last extraction had really hammered me, what would 9 of them do? How long would it take? How tough would it be?

The drive started out at almost the same time as I used to leave each morning to drive to west Portland/Hillsboro, and was on the same route at first. I knew things jammed up as we would approach the freeway, and so I took a turn to avoid that, and drove the back road to the dentist's office.
We arrived with the morning sun still fairly low, and casting long shadows. There was one vehicle in the lot already, and another arrived shortly after we did. Normal business hours run from 8:00 a.m. but they wanted some time to spend on me without interruptions apparently, because my appointment was to begin at 7 a.m. and they had allocated 2 hours for me.

Naturally, my mind was trying to figure out how much pain could be put into 2 hours, and it decided that quite a bit could be easily accommodated. “Stop that!” I told myself. I got out of the car, and Dotti and I swapped places. (She was going to Wall Mart to fill some time, since I was going to be a while.) I kissed her for the last time with my real upper teeth in place, and she wished me luck. I turned to the door and found that it was unlocked, and they were ready for me.

The lady behind the front desk was very nice, and she smiled and asked me how I was doing. “I've been better,” I replied honestly, and attempted a smile. I doubt that I was very successful. The Dental assistant who would be with the dentist during the procedure was smiling brightly and her cheerful disposition was very welcome. She was friendly, and talkative, and that made me feel better, because that reminded me of Dotti and how is during stressful situations. “I'm all ready for you,” she said. No chance to sit in the waiting room and collect myself, which was just as well. I am not sure how many pieces I would fall into if I sat down.

We walked back into the working area, and I was reminded of the first time I walked into that room. It was around 1995 or 96, and Dotti and I had stopped in to see what it was like. Someone had set up an Internet Café in the building, and there were computers all around the room, and while it was a nice friendly atmosphere, the business went broke. Our dentist moved in shortly after that, and the rest is history.

Only a few days previous, I had visited here again, and I commented on the fact that she was directing me today to the same chair where the extraction last week took place. “We wanted to make you feel comfortable,” she laughed. “I wouldn't go that far,” I replied with a smile.

My smile faded pretty quickly when I got an eyeful of all the instruments they had laid out to be used on me. I was struck once more with the enormity of what we were about to do.

When I sat down, I immediately did some deep breathing, and attempted to relax. Right after that, I commented to her that I was feeling very nervous this time. She replied, “Well, then it's a good thing that were testing this,”, and she slid a blood pressure band over my left arm.

“Perfect!” she said. “That is great for being nervous.”

“That is good to hear; I will take anything positive at this moment,” I said.

My dentist arrived almost immediately beside my chair after that. They were clearly all geared up to get underway.

We go back a ways, him and I. He was just getting started when Dotti and I became his patients. He has matured into a very professional looking dentist who has always tried to make our visits as pleasant as he can. I feel very comfortable working with him. I didn't remind him that the last game of racquetball we played together I had won, and he didn't mention that the two before that he had won. We had other things on our minds at the moment.

We discussed how long it would take: best case and worst case scenarios. That left me a window of between 15 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, depending on how hard my teeth stood up and fought to hold their position. As it turned out, my teeth were really good fighters, but they were also sturdy enough to where none of them broke off. The time factor ended up being towards the longer estimate, but that was because I had good roots, and enough bone to hold them.

I took off my glasses, and put them in my pocket, and donned the offered sunglasses. That bright light shining down into my mouth had enough scatter to make the shades welcome.

Shots were applied and my upper lip fattened up like I had taken a really good “punch in the kisser.” I snuck off to the restroom while we were waiting for the anesthetic to kick in completely. On the way in, the receptionist passed me in the hall and smiled. “Nice shades!” she said.

“Yep, I'm cool,” I said with a chuckle.

In the restroom I saw myself in the mirror and my lip looked very funny. Once more I was reminded that things were about to get crazy. I hurried back to my chair to await the coming storm.

I settled into my seat, and I tried listening to my iPod. I cued up a Sarah Brightman song, and set it playing. I could tell very shortly that it wasn't going to work. I was far too stressed out to enjoy music. I am the kind guy who likes to know what is going on at each step of the way, and I realized that I couldn't do that and listen to music at the same time. The iPod went back into its holder on my belt, and I settled in to working myself back into a relaxed state.

I heard the dental office staff in the background talking about the new Ikea store in Portland that was having its grand opening later that day. The overhead speaker had a local radio station playing and there were stories of people waiting in line. The guy at the head of the line had been there since Sunday. The ladies were laughing at the crazy people who would wait in line like that, but I said, “I feel for the poor employees. They probably feel like the guys in Alamo.” That got a chuckle, but I was too nervous to get any further into the discussion.

When the dentist came back, he said he had some additional shots to take at me—put in me rather. This time it was going in behind the teeth. All at once I felt a very sharp burning sensation. This was far more intense than anything that he had applied to the front side. I gave some indication of surprise, and he said, “It burns more on these shots, because the swabbed anesthetic doesn't work as well on this part of the mouth.”

Before he did the next one, I replied, “It wasn't the pain so much as the surprise.” The pain of shots, and even of some drilling I have gotten pretty good at tolerating without too much grief. But getting hit with something I wasn't expecting caused a reaction.

I was ready for the rest of them, and he put in about 5 more, as he walked all the way around behind my remaining 9 teeth. Each one of the shots felt pretty much the same, but my mind was set against reacting to them, and I was fine. The dentist asked, “I walked them around, did it help them to burn less?” I replied that it didn't really, but I was ready for them this time and so it wasn't so bad. The surprise is what got me on the first one.

Frankly, I wasn't worried about shots. That is the easy part. Pulling teeth is was what was holding attention. Would any snap off? How much bone damage would be done? Would there be sutures? Would my heart run away on me, or would it settle down? My heart was beating quite fast at this point, and I needed to reach a more quiescent state.

Although I was physically already lying in a supine position, I took the opportunity here, when there was a short break in the action, to mentally lean back and say, “I will now go to my serenity place.”

Piece by piece the scene came to me: the sound of the ocean waves; the seagull's call; the dim room, flickering in the light of roaring fireplace; and the part that really did the trick...Dotti leaning her head on my shoulder as my arm settled in around her. All at once my heart slowed way down, and my hands felt steady as a rock. I felt calm and I was ready to proceed. Worry just evaporated and it was time to take each event, a step at a time. My hands were no longer clinched together, but were lying lightly upon my legs. What a change!

The dentist proceeded upon his task. He began by working between the teeth, to “loosen them up.” Along the way a few of my teeth were still sensitive, and he applied more anesthetic several times as we went along. One by one the teeth broke free, and came out intact. He worked around them all at first, and returned over and over again, getting them all looser with each pass. The teeth on my right side were very numb, with one exception: the next to last tooth on the rear. So, he worked those teeth out first, and gave me some more anesthetic for the stubborn one, leaving it for later.
Next the left side needed to be tackled, but more anesthetic was needed there, but not as much. Things were running together now for me. I had tracked the teeth as they came out at first, but I lost count at around 5 or 6. Soon, he said, “Only one more.” Now we were down to something I could get my wits around. I had had “one extraction” before, and I could face that without trepidation. It felt like we were almost home!

The last tooth had a long root, and all of the other teeth were gone, so there was nothing to push against. So, it took a bit of work, but it finally shook loose and slid out. All of the extractions were over. But there was more pain ahead of me than I had expected.

The denture was made already, from a cast they took last week. But of course it didn't match up completely yet. The denture went in, and the dentist inspected it, and then went off and ground it down some. He came back and tried it again. In between these actions, the assistant put gauze in my mouth and had me bite down to slow the bleeding. None of this was terribly unpleasant, but I could tell that my body was about to release the control it had been shouldering throughout the extraction process. I was ready for it to be over.

Finally the dentist was satisfied with the fit, and he pushed it into place, and they wedged some gauze in between the denture and my lower teeth and had me bite down. Here is where things became unpleasant. Even with the tremendous amount of anesthetic in place, biting down hurt, a lot. I wasn't expecting that at all. Normally, after an extraction, the anesthetic holds the pain at bay for a few hours. Instead, I was in great discomfort.

Dotti had arrived back in the office, took care of the bill, and had everything ready to go before I made my exit from the working room. I knew that I had to hold the pressure on the upper denture for an hour, and it was not a pleasant prospect for me. I stopped off at the restroom one more time to see what my new teeth looked like, but there was so much blood smeared over them, and the gauze was visible, so I really couldn't get much of a picture in my mind of what it would look like later. My upper lip still appeared to have been punched, and so I would have to wait to make up my mind on what it would look like.

Dotti drove home, via the drug store for my pain meds. When I got home, I took the maximum dose possible, because I still had half an hour to hold the gauze in place, and I was in a lot of pain. I spent the next 30 minutes pacing the floor, which is what I found is most effective when I have unbearable pain to deal with.

Once I could finally get rid of the gauze and release the pressure on my dentures, things began to slowly improve. For two hours I was able to play Snood, my old friend from my previous dental problems. It is a mindless attention holding exercise that I can usually stay with even when I am hurting. (When I first got home, I even hurt too much for that, but now things were a little less uncomfortable.)

At the two hour point after getting home, I took some ibuprofen, and I started to feel a little better. By noon I was starting to get a little hungry. But my lip was still dead, and eating was going to be a trick. I managed to get some pudding down, and a little Jello, but it was a real trick, and I couldn't bite down at all without sharp pain.

As the day wore on, I got to where I could do some more mentally demanding things, like play chess. I wasn't up to playing well, but I could enjoy what I was doing a bit. Time passed. I was able to drink some V-8 juice and some Lightful drinks that Dotti has in the fridge. But by the end of the day, I still could not even chew Jello enough to mix it with saliva before swallowing. Fortunately, I had an appointment with the dentist on Thursday for a follow up. I was hopeful that he could perhaps do something to fix things well enough to where I could eat something. (His office is closed from Friday through Sunday, and so I was looking at a long stretch before I would be able to see him again.)

My poor eating was taking a toll on my digestive tract, and I was afraid that I would be up and down all night dealing with that, but things settle down after I went to bed. I did have to get up several times to take pain meds, but I got a good night's sleep overall.

I got up at 5:30 and weighed 199.0 pounds. (Even with the 2-pound jump up, the Ibuprofen was worth it!) At 10:30 it was time to visit the dentist again. I still could not bite down without severe pain. So, I was hoping for some relief. The dentist pulled the denture plate out and looked at my gums. I had two very pronounced canker sores that had been rubbed into my gums by the denture plate. Ouch! He ground away at the denture plate at the points where the sores were making contact, and reinserted it. Ouch! He had to do this several times before he had it right, and my tolerance for pain was just about exhausted. The day before had drained my reserves, and this was pushing the limit.

Next the dental assistant put some goop on the denture and shoved it in my mouth. Ouch! “Will this never end?” the C3PO quote resounded in my head. She had me bite down on the denture to hold it in place while the goop set up. It didn't hurt after that, and that was all I was focusing on. Once it set up, she took it away, and I was left with a very bad taste in my mouth. I got up and spotted a box of tissues, and snagged one to clear out the remaining goop. She returned just in time to show me where the appropriate trash receptacle was. The denture went back in, and this time it didn't hurt. I could even bite down and it didn't hurt. Well, maybe things were looking up.

Still that goop didn't taste right, and I was beginning to feel nauseated. We said our goodbyes and left the office, with Dotti driving once more. We had to swing by and pick up a prescription, and then head for home. There was a delay on the prescription, and Dotti offered to drive me home while we waited, because I was starting to feel really bad. When I got home I thought I was going to push whatever little bit that was in my stomach back out, but at the last minute I was just able to avoid that.

I checked the bite on my dentures, and I noticed that not a single tooth of the denture lined up with one of my lower teeth. The goop had pushed the denture so far forward that it was completely out of place. I had been completely focused on the pain factor and hadn't noticed that the dentures would be unusable in this configuration.

I got on the phone and the dentist said I could put the temporary lining back out, and if his grinding had not made the denture wearable, then I could bring it back in. I wasn't sure if I could handle another ride without losing my stomach, so I thought I would test the denture without the goop lining. I pulled it out and put the denture in. The pain was only in the front now, in one particular location. I decided to try going in and having the dentist grind on that spot on the denture and see if it fixed it.

My stomach was still woozy, and so when she returned home, I asked Dotti to drive carefully to the dentist.

She did a great job and when I arrived the dentist ground that area down, and the denture went in pretty well. I could bite down all the way with little pain. So, we headed home to try things out.

At home, I actually ate a meal, where I mashed up a banana, and chewed it a bit before swallowing, and then ate some instant potatoes, cottage cheese, spinach, and apple juice. The teeth felt funny, but I could use them.

By about 4 p.m., I was ready for a break from the pain my dentures were giving me, and I had read that it was good to leave your dentures out for at least 8 hours a day. So, I pulled them out, brushed them up really nice, and put them in the plastic bath to soak. I looked at my gums, and they were not pretty, but the extractions were healing up as well as could be expected. However, the canker sores were looking nasty. That couldnít be good for the home team.

In the evening I ate some ice cream, and had some V-8 juice. The cold felt good on my gums. I was hoping that the break would make my teeth go in easier the next day.

Unfortunately, when I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, I couldnít get my teeth in. The canker sores were screaming in pain whenever I tried, even though I had painted them up with copious amounts of Ambusol before trying. The dentist office was closed as they were enjoying their regular 3-day weekend, and I was up a creek without a paddle. Now what?

I reasoned that this was a bit like what happens to your feet when you take a long hike in new shoes, or ill-fitting shoes. Your feet get covered in blisters. How do you normally approach that problem? I normally start by making sure that I donít take another long hike on the day after, even in comfortably fitting shoes. I donít wear any shoes except when I have to, and I put Band-Aids over the blisters to protect them from further injury. Now, how does that apply to the problem at hand?

First off, I only have the one “pair of shoes,” so I canít put on a more comfortable “pair.” I am stuck with the offending dentures, and do not have another, more comfortable denture, to wear as I am healing. I have no way of putting a Band-Aid over the sores, and even if I could numb the area, wearing ill fitting dentures would certainly cause the sores to grow larger, and perhaps get them infected. What to do?

I decided to leave my dentures out for the day, and see what happened after a little rest for my gums. Friday I ate soft food only, with no chewing, and let things heal a bit.

Saturday morning, I woke up about 3:15 a.m. and coated my gums up very heavily with Ambusol and took a shot at sliding my dentures into my mouth. OUCH! It wasnít going to happen. I was in agony as soon as I tried to get them in place. It was beginning to look like I was going to have to wait until Monday before I could get my teeth back in. I have to say that I never expected to have this particular type of problem when I got dentures. I had envisioned something like a glove, and I got something closer to a cast iron boot. The soft liner might have helped, if it had been applied correctly. Perhaps that would happen on Monday?

In the meantime, I have discovered the joys of Slimfast! It is cold, liquid, and loaded with vitamins, etc. so I should not lack in the area of nutrion too badly before Monday.


Second Installment


I was looking forward to Mondayís visit to the Dentist, hopeful that finally the denture could be adjusted right, so that I could wear my denture plate without pain. On the other hand, I had looked at my gums and there were two promenent canker sores present, and one looked very angry at about 1 centimeter across and white in color.

I drove in to the dentist, and it was the first day I had felt good about driving. In fact, when I arrived in the parking lot, I told Dotti, “This is the first time in days that I havenít had any pain. But he is about take care of that.” I hate it when I am right like that.

In the dentistís chair, I pulled out my dentures, from my pocket, where they had been nestled in their protective plastic bag, and I handed the offending plastic torture device over. There were numerous runs to the grinder, and then painful insertions into my mouth to test the results. (Previously, the nasty canker sore was probed and cleaned out, and that wasnít even in the neighborhood of painless, even after the application of the topical numbing solution being applied.)

After my work the front of the denture went in well, but on the right rear the dentist said there was nothing more to be taken off even though I was having sharp pain at that location still. Wonderful. He said that area was just going to “have to toughen up.” I was wondering what I was going to do for food in the meantime, since there was no way I could chew with that pain stabbing me.

I have to say that this is not what I expected. I was told that there was an adjustment period, and adjustments would have to be made to the dentures. I had no idea that agony and just living with pain until the gums toughened up was part of that process. I didnít realize that a week after having my teeth pulled I still could not chew with my teeth because of the pain.

Once the pain is gone (is that being overly optimistic making that assumption?), I have the stuff to deal with that I had read about before: learning to chew without popping the denture plate off by hitting one side harder than the other, and other things. I had more than one dentist tell me that they can do upper plates pretty well, but they have trouble with the lowers. Well, if this doing “pretty well,” then I hate to think what sort of nightmares people getting a lower plate must be suffering with. I have some concerns with the way the uppers line up with my lower teeth, and the way my front teeth hit the roof of the denture plate before my rear teeth hit, but before I can worry about that at all, I have to get past the pain.

So, Monday, I walked out of the dentistís office with my teeth in but I couldnít drive because of the pain. We went to the store and made a couple of stops, and I left my teeth in for three hours. I felt that was enough for one day. It was the highlight of my day pulling those things out, like climbing down after a session on the rack.

Tuesday, I was up for another “toughening up session.” I still couldnít chew, but I put the teeth in. Ouch! The gums ached all the way around and that spot on the right was pinching or poking in still. I was reminded of an exchange with the Dentist I had on Monday.

“I am looking forward to the point where I can put my dentures in without pain.”

“That will be a couple of weeks yet.”

What? I was never told that I couldnít even put my dentures in without pain for weeks after getting them. With all the advances that have been made in modern dentistry, I find it absolutely incredible that this is the best that they can do.

Dotti had been wanting to tour the “Street of Dreams” for years, and so we headed out to take a look. I put in my teeth before we left, and with a lot of grimacing, finally was ready to go. The pain was low enough to where I could drive, but chewing was out of the question still. Four hours later, after an enjoyable time touring 6 very nice multi-million dollar homes, and seeing how the other side lives, and after a stop at the new Ikea store, which had opened on the same day that I had my teeth pulled, I once again removed my denture plate, and it was the highlight of my day. That is pretty sad isnít it?


Third Installment


Wednesday, the one week anniverasy of the start of this whole thing, I just didnít work up the courage to go another bout with the denture. I “took a day off.” It was the first day where I didnít have to take any extra medication for pain in my mouth and that was a plus.

Thursday morning I woke up 20 minutes before 5 a.m. and I was feeling pretty low about my teeth and the pain they were causing. I went to the message board and read the supportive messages there in the Menís Forum and it got me going. I was feeling so upbeat that I went right in and tried to put in my denture plate right away. When the stabbing pain kicked in, I could see that it was not going to work. So, a couple of hours later, when the dentistís office opened, I made the trip in to see the dentist. He did some serious grinding, and all at once the big pain I was having on the left side just went away, and I slid the dentures in all the way with very little pain. (It wasnít pain-free, but it was light-years better.)

During the time he was working on my dentures, my dentist told me that he is working with another patient who is about a week ahead of me in the recovery process, and she had a steak the day before, and she ate it with no pain. YES! Now that is what I am looking forward to.

So, I walked out of the dentistís office with a real smile for the first time in a while, and went with Dotti to take care of a few items that were waiting for us. When we got home I stuck a Triscuit cracker in my mouth. Now, you probably donít realize it, but that was like going from a wheel chair to doing a high jump in one step. Or at least it would have been if I could have actually chewed it. The big thing was that I even thought about doing that. Also, it tasted so good after all this time, that I was able to patiently soften it up enough to finally chew it. A couple of minutes later I had another, and then I thought that was probably enough. I moved on to some very soft items to eat. One had just a bit of cut up peaches in it. The peaches were too tough to handle easily, but I worked through them over time.

The big change was that the pain I was feeling was from the lower gum area that used to surround the teeth. That is what I would have expected from the start. So, now it feels like I am finally able to start down the road to recovery, and “become one” with my dentures. But there is a long way to go before then.

I did something else that day for the first time; I took my dentures out and then put them back in on the same day. The pain level had dropped enough to tolerate doing that more than once. In the evening, I even gave a shot at a couple more Triscuits. I think I have finally glimpsed just a bit of light, way up at the end of the tunnel, and there doesnít seem to be a train attached to it.

I am very grateful to all those who have given me so much support in the Menís Forum, but it has really helped keep my attitude positive. Thank you!

Friday I kept it light, only putting the teeth in for one meal because my gums were sore from the workout on Thursday. Still, I was feeling quite optimistic that things will work out in the long run.



DAD

I have thought of Dad often as I have gone through this process. He had his teeth out around age 20, and he got dentures right away. He did it so naturally that I seldom even thought about his wearing them. He did a little trick with them on occasion where he popped the uppers loose and then bounced them against the lowers in a comical way. He had a great sense of humor and loved to make people laugh.

Here he is with my 19 year old Mom, on their wedding day in July of 1950, one year and one month before I was born. He was 23 at that time.

His smile shows that his teeth were very nice at that time, and that contrasted sharply with what his real teeth had been like I am told. This was a major improvement for him in the areas of both pain and appearance.

At night, when he went to bed, was the only time I ever saw him with his teeth out, and even then I didnít see it usually, because taking them out was the last thing he normally did before crawling into bed. He didnít chew gum, and I donít think he ate apples whole. But I never ever thought of him being handicapped in the area of eating. He sat down to the same meals I did, and enjoyed them with as much gusto as I did.

And I am going to get past this with the dentures. I will do whatever it takes. I am frustrated that it has to be this way. I get the feeling that dentists sort of mentally wash their hands of you once you get dentures (the money tree is drying up?), at least in the area of controlling your pain. It is incredible to what lengths they will go to make sure you donít feel anything at all when doing a simple filling—something I have often had done without even using Novocain—and yet they just sort of send you out with the wolves, in the area of dentures, and let you fend for yourself. But life often is tough, and I am going to get through this. Dad did it with style and gave me a great example. It was so good I didnít even realize it was there until now.



FOURTH INSTALLMENT Ė August 11, 2007


While the pain level had dropped after my denture adjustment on Thursday (August 2nd), and it was a little easier getting the teeth in, there was still enough pain in the process to keep me from doing it often, or leaving the teeth in for very long. I dentally limped through the weekend, still unable to eat with the teeth, and suffering enough to deter me from even wearing them for too long.

On Sunday, August 5, we went to the Clark County Fair and I had my teeth in for a few hours. We had a good time, and as long as I didnít try to eat, things were tolerable with the dentures.

Monday, I really should have gone in for an adjustment, but we had the Dottiís Newsletter to get out, and it was sitting on my desk in rough form when I woke up. (Dotti was up late finishing it.) So, I spent the next several hours, without my teeth in, getting the newsletter formatted and proofread before sending it out.

Tuesday, once again I put off going in for the adjustment, and just went without my teeth most of the day. We decided to make a run to the hardware store to pick up a couple of things for a project we were going to work on. On the way, Dotti asked me to take my teeth out, because we had been having a very nice day and once the teeth went in, I suddenly became far less agreeable, as I struggled with the pain. So, I did, keeping my mouth shut as much as possible while we were in the store, to hide the vacancy.

Finally on Wednesday, August 8th, I went in to the dentist. I had an appointment at 2:15 p.m., but the office was really full. A family had arrived before we did, with its several children, and I waited a bit to see the dentist.

But it worked out better than usual really, because all of his dental chairs were filled, he had me into the room where he worked on the dentures. We talked as he ground the offending areas of the plate down. In went the teeth, a bad spot was noted, and out went the teeth and he ground that part down. He swapped out the bits on the grinder, for courser and finer work. We handed the teeth back and forth many times, and at the end of it, I could put them in with no pain. I was popping them out and putting them back with little effort, and that was a huge change for the better.

I told Dotti that I thought I was finally ready for some eggbeaters and hash browns for dinner. Something soft, but something real. (I had been having my evening meal run through the blender, one item at a time; I was eating food the texture of baby food, and I was ready for something more.)

When I got home, I found out that, while the teeth didnít hurt to wear, it hurt a great deal to bite down. I assumed that it was just the gums needing to toughen up, but I was wrong.

My biggest source of pain was in the vacated socket of the tooth that I had pulled on July 18, one week before I got the dentures. That tooth had been a problem for a long time before, and it was hurting so bad that I couldnít wait the extra week to have it pulled with the other 9, even though we had house guests. And, looking back, I am glad I didnít. The tooth snapped off during the extraction, and the dentist had to drill the bone away from the sides in order to get a hold of the rest of the tooth well enough to extract the root. I would not have liked going through that along with all the rest I had to endure on the day I got the dentures.

Thursday night, I was feeling some irritation in that socket, and I found that my fingernail bumped into a bit of boneóa chip left over from the grinding and extractionóthat apparently was migrating out of the socket, and that area of my gum was very sensitive. It was stopping me from biting down without a lot of pain.

Friday, August 10, I picked at the bone fragment and about noon I got it out. Holy cow! The chip was 1 mm across and 6 mm long (that is nearly a quarter of an inch, as the photo shows), with a 1 mm sharp spur on the end that worked like a nasty thorn. It is no wonder that I couldnít chew with that thing stabbing me with every least bit of pressure on the gum. If I were going to design a pain producing device to implant into my gum, I couldnít have done a better job than this.

Once it was out it was like magic! The piece had been lodged in there since July 18th, and 23 days later when I got it out, everything changed. I put the teeth in around 2 p.m. and they stayed in until bedtime at 10 p.m. I ate dinner and actually chewed some things. I ate Triscuit crackers without softening them up first. It wasnít pain-free, but for the first time I could actually do it. I am still not ready for any heavy chomping, but I can see that day arriving very soon!


FIFTH INSTALLMENT Ė August 18, 2007


This week I pulled 3 more bone chips out of my mouth, and I keep hoping that I will outgrow that activity, because it is getting old. In the photo, on the left, is the one that was giving me so much trouble that I removed last week. To the right of that is shown 2 of the 3 new ones from this week.

The first one I pulled out this week (not shown) was about the size of the middle chip in the photo. I ended up throwing that one out, because it was smaller than the first one. But when another one showed up, I saved it, and then when number 4 came along, I save it too. It is becoming quite a collection.

It still hurts to put the teeth in at first, but nothing like it did before. When I chew anything that is hard at all I have a lot of pain and I have to back off. For example, on Saturday, I had lasagna and that was great, no problem chewing that. But I also had French bread, and the crust was very painful to eat. I got through one small piece and then I had to just eat the middle out of the second piece and leave the crust. As long as I chew slowly and am careful to chew evenly, I can eat hash brown potatoes. When I am very careful and I eat very slowly, I can eat a banana, bit by bit. On Tuesday, I ate a turkey sandwich. I felt like I should be in tears by the end of it, because I was in some real pain, but I finished it. Wednesday I had my first hamburger. Well, actually it was half of one, that I split with Dotti. Dotti cut it up in bite sized pieces, and so I didnít have to bite mouthfuls off, but I did have to chew the burger. It was okay. The fries were soft and I ate them okay as well.

Friday I made my first trip to a restaurant: Sweet Tomatoes, naturally. I did not even try to eat my normal salad. It would have killed me. I instead grabbed soft food, like macaroni and cheese, chili, cottage cheese, Jell-o, pudding and coffee. For dessert the ice cream was delicious. I have to say that I am enjoying ice cream more these days, because my upper teeth donít hurt a bit in the cold.

When chewing, I am still having a lot of pain at the upper edge of my dentures. If I donít get an even bite, the denture rocks in my mouth and stabs my gum painfully.

I needed to get my dentist to do an adjustment on Thursday afternoon, and was going to hurry back to town to catch him, but alas, in addition to his normal 3 days off for the weekend, he also took Thursday afternoon off. I now have to wait for Monday.

I feel like I am getting closer to my goal of being able to put my dentures into my mouth without pain and leave them in there all day long, and be able to eat normal food without pain. I am not there yet, but there doesnít seem like it is on another planet any moreómerely on the other side of this one.


SIXTH INSTALLMENT Ė August 25, 2007


The good news is that I didn't find any more bone chips this week, and things continue to improve. The bad news is that things are not improving as quickly as I would have hoped or expected.

I will wear my teeth for a day and then have to take a rest day, because I continue to work up sores from the dentures. I get them ďadjustedĒ but it only uncovers another issue each time. I am chewing more substantial things and sometimes can come down with a lot of force to bite through something, but I have to be extremely careful not bite unevenly, with more force on one side of my mouth than on the other, or the denture will rock and stab into my gum with a lot of pain.

Even when I donít have pain from chewing, my gums always ache afterwards. The only time I have no pain is when the teeth are out. So, the journey to ďbecoming oneĒ with my dentures is only just begun it appears. I am seriously considering looking for another dental provider at this time. As time goes by, my confidence level continues to drop, and I am going to get this to work, no matter what. If all of this is just normal, I sure don't feel like I got the whole story before the process was begun.

Maybe Nirvana is just around the corner, and I just canít see it yet. I hope so. In the meantime, I will try to keep smiling!



Smiling Al

SEVENTH INSTALLMENT Ė September 1, 2007


This week there was little change in my situation. I can wear my teeth with discomfort and do some light chewing. Dotti has been looking up some Denture specialists on the Internet and I hope to get in soon for a second opinion. In the meantime, I am spending a lot time with the dentures out. I get some wearing time each day, but the only time I am fully comfortable is when they are not in.

I did wear them all day during the Larch Mountain Hike, and it wasnít too distracting. There are spots on my gums that continue to be sore and so the fit is far from perfect. I continue to be optimistic about the future, because I will reach the point where I am wearing the dentures all day long. Giving up is not an option.


EIGHTH INSTALLMENT Ė September 22, 2007


On Monday, September 17th, our new dentist put a coating of some bad smelling goop on the top of my upper denture, and carefully placed it into my mouth, telling me to bite down gently, just enough to hold it in place. (During the placement he was careful to make sure that my lip was clear of the denture and that the goop was evenly placed. It was a very professional job, and clashed sharply with the carnival show that I had gone through the last time at the other place.)

Flashback to July 26thÖ

There, it was the day after my extraction, and I was in a great deal of pain. The denture was very poorly fit, and was cutting into my gums in several places. The dentist didn't even do the placement of the soft liner, but left it to his assistant without even supervising her. She admitted during the procedure that she had "never worked with this stuff before." (At the time, I thought she meant they were trying a new type of material for the liner but later I was not so sure.)

During the process the goop was left all over inside my mouth and at the back of my throat, and the strong smell clashed with the nauseating pain I was experiencing. I felt like I was about to throw up. She walked away with the denture in hand and left me with no way to clean up the material that she had left in my mouth. I spotted a tissue box and got up and grabbed a tissue to spit the stuff out into and then threw that into the bio-disposal slot at their working counter.

When she was finished, there was a 3/8 inch layer of goop between my gums and the teeth. It was a great cushion, but completely misaligned the teeth, so they were unusable. I called up the office when I got home and the dentist had me remove the soft liner myself because the dentist's routine 3-day weekend was about to begin. So, I was faced with a weekend without teeth.

Later I asked the old dentist if I would get another soft liner in, and he said "not yet." He implied that because I had reacted badly on the day they put in the last one that a liner was out of the question. So, I was forced to suffer pain as he tried ineffectually over and over again to grind the dentures down. Return to the much happier presentÖ

I sat there for several minutes reading a book by John Muir on my iPod while the goop set up. When the dentist came back, he told me to leave the dentures in for 4 to 6 hours so the stuff could fully set. I bit down on the denture and it didn't hurt at all. I smiled at the dentist and said, "I do believe that my life just got better."

And my life did get better! When I got home from the dentist's office I poured a bowl of crunchy WW cereal and dashed on some milk and set to crunching away with my teeth. It worked! It didn't even hurt to chew. I was euphoric, and Dotti was mad enough to chew nails and spit tacks at our old dentist. (I got to that point on the next day, when the euphoria of being able to eat again wore off a bit.) In the evening I didn't push it too hard, but everything was served normallyÖno grinding or blending of the food items before being served.

The next time I put the teeth to a new test was Tuesday night. I had popcorn! This was the first popcorn I had eaten since July 1st, and the first time since I got my teeth pulled on July 25th that I would have even considered it. Much of the month of July my teeth were hurting off and on, and it has been nice not dealing with that pain any longer, but my eating style had been radically cramped by the failure of my dentures to work without major pain. Suddenly, I could eat popcorn with no pain!

Then, on Wednesday, Dotti and I walked to Red Robin for dinner, and I was halfway through my bowl of chili with crispy strips of tortilla across it, when Dotti said, "It is nice to see you eating without too much pain." It suddenly hit me that for the very first time since when I had my teeth pulled in July, I was eating a meal and not even thinking about my teeth. I was chewing normally, no pain, and enjoying what I was eating. It was a whole new world of enjoyment! This is where I had expected to be a long time ago. Finally I am on the way to a full recovery!

Friday evening I tackled a new challenge: tostadas. Those hard crunching tortillas would put my dentures to the test I feared, but I had to know how they would respond. I plowed through my tostadas just like I would have before getting my upper denture.

The only things that I would not try to eat right now are things that I know I will never be able eat again with my dentures in: gum, sticky caramel candy, and so on. Over time I will have to have other soft liners put in, and at the 6th month point the final hard liner will go in. But for now, I feel really good about how things are going with my ability to eat.

I still haven't quite gotten to the point where I get up in the morning, and put the teeth in first thing, and then leave them in all day yet. It is more comfortable with them out still, but I am working on it, and I will get there one day I am sure. In the meantime, I can eat again!

 

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Let's see: Mastication Miracle—Or How Al Got His Teeth Back