(My temporarily partially-paralyzed face)
So between less-than-perfect BYU health insurance and my complete lack of insurance from Timm's previous job, I estimate it had been at least 6 years since I last saw a dentist. Maybe even as many as 8. I do not practice perfect dental hygiene, but I brush and floss. I didn't even think much about it until I lost a filling a few months ago, before our new health coverage took effect. I made sure to floss it religiously since it kind of hurt and there was a gaping hole for food to accumulate in, but it was still about 4 months before I saw the dentist. Naively, I thought this would be the only problem. Maybe because I hadn't sat in a dentist's chair for many years, but I assumed since I had no pain in my mouth and my teeth looked good and white that there were no problems. In fact, the thought of other dental woes didn't even cross my mind until the dentist came in and started piercing my gums with a very sharp instrument, muttering notes to his hygienist for practically every tooth. It sounded something like "Number 13, possible RC, number 14 likely RC & other alphabetical dental codes that I didn't understand and don't remember..." Suddenly I thought- He really has a lot to talk about. Really, every tooth? You can't just skip one? I don't really know what you're saying, but I think you might be a little overly critical. And no, that does not feel like a "little pressure." It feels like you are poking tender gum tissue with the very sharp instrument that you indeed, are poking me with. I saw it. It's very pointy.
They couldn't even clean my teeth. I had to have the entire appointment devoted to a consultation. My results were not good. Turns out 'RC' stands for 'Root Canal' which in hindsight, makes perfect sense.He showed me a lot of fancy high-tech pictures of my teeth and pointed out all the dark, black shaded areas that were decay. He pointed out the roots of my teeth and how those ominous darkly shaded parts were dangerously close to those roots. He spoke of various degrees of severity in decay, from 1-4, all of which I had several times over. He showed me a visible hole in one of my teeth, aside from the one that had lost a filling. He pointed out under the wire cemented to my teeth where the floss failed to reach. Finally he gave me a detailed treatment plan that spanned many pages, included many stages over a period of time, and involved way more money than I could ever hope to afford to my evidently grossly neglected dental care. I was on the verge of tears, and I think the shock of it was the only thing that kept those tears from spilling over.
I took my veritable landfill of a mouth and left feeling chastised, embarrassed, poor, and discouraged. Who has teeth like this? Meth heads, illegal immigrants, homeless people, and people living in abject poverty, that's who. (Or so I decided in my traumatized state. No offense to these societal subsets- it's just that I'm not one of them. Or am I? I suppose with my teeth already in the state they're in, I could finally take up meth and ignore at least one of those nasty side effects.)
I returned for a cleaning, then later a cavity fill times two, which led to a visit to the endodontist to preform 2 root canals. (The first of several, apparently.) That used the entirety of my annual allowance from my insurance, with $350 left over. We got my teeth their first credit card to cover the balance, and now I am supposed to get crowns for those two teeth which will cost me $1900. Which I am not doing. I know, it sounds crazy. It probably is crazy. But the manager at the dentist office said I could probably get by with only the 'core buildup', whatever that is, until next January when my insurance rolls over. Yeah, a year from now. The core buildup will only cost a few hundred dollars, on my teeth's fancy shmancy new credit card, of course. Then we can move on to the many more teeth that need attention, and hopefully arrest their deterioration and prevent root canals for the rest of the lot.
In summary, after six entire visits, I will have 2 of my teeth mostly repaired. We have a long way to go.
A highlight however, was having 8 full hours of numbness for half of my face, stretching to include part of my eye. These pictures were taken a few hours in, when a bit of it had worn off. I gave Timm no small amount of pleasure as I talked, and best of all tried to smile or laugh. He would laugh almost to the point of tears every time, insisting that I take my hand away from my mouth in self-consciousness. A couple of times through the day I would proclaim, "Timm! I think it's wearing off!", then flash him that winning half-smile. He would patronizingly reply, "Almost..." before laughing again. It made him especially giddy if I would mumble, "I have a few disorders" out of the corner of my semi-functioning mouth.
In other good news, I have now been avoiding chewing on the left side of my mouth for going on 5 months, and with any luck I will continue to do so for another year until I can afford the crowns! It is a skill I am proud to cultivate.