my dental sleuth and seriously bad genes
Yesterday after teaching I needed to head to Tel Aviv for my dental appointment. I had time to stop and get my hair cut and then grab a quick lunch. Then I proceeded to the dentist to watch an amazing amount of moolah (money) start to flow down the spit bowl. There was good news (I got two fillings done on the right side of my mouth, one one the top and one on the bottom) and bad news. The first bad news came before I’d had any procedures done. The dentist had been looking at the x-rays he’d taken the visit before of the tooth that had the root canal done about 5 years ago and that is in the process of having a new permanent crown put on (he put the temporary on last visit). He wanted to take more x-rays. Yep, seems that, despite my not feeling any sort of pain or anything with that tooth, one of the three roots of the tooth is infected. This can happen when those medicated rods they shove up into the root cavity don’t quite do the trick in preventing infection after the initial procedure. Dr. Eisenberg is sending me to see a root canal specialist to figure out what to do to fix the problem. I’ve got to call him to set up an appointment ASAP on Sunday and my x-rays have already been emailed to the specialist by the good doc.
The second bit of bad news came with the discussion of the upper tooth and it is much worse news. It has a filling in the back already and, of course, the one in the front that has been disintegrating –except it hasn’t been. There is nothing wrong with the filling itself as far as filling integrity, nor with the other fillings that are having problems.
Last visit he had sent a sample of my teeth from the healthy areas that had to be drilled on to the lab for an analysis. He’d noted that my front teeth (all the non-molars) are extremely thin (in terms of the width front to back)–much thinner than most people’s teeth. On all of those teeth where I have fillings, around the fillings there is discoloration and what makes it look like the filling itself has been disintegrating. That isn’t what is happening. What is happening is that after a filling is put in on a front-facing surface, the tooth area around the filling starts to slowly (well slowly in a rapid way) disintegrate.* Last visit he’d asked me extensive questions about my diet from childhood on up. It turns out that the fact that I drink copious amounts of diet soda (I mean, I remember doing an experiment when I was elementary school age where my brother and I put a penny in a glass of cola and watched the penny start to disintegrate over a period of months) is not what causes this and doesn’t have any effect. Nor does the coffee, tea, or anything else I regularly consume. I eat way less sugar and sweets than the average person. Nope, my diet nor my brushing habits (3-4 times a day), nor how frequently I have my teeth cleaned (4 times a year), nor the previous dentist are to blame and in a few years –I’ll be replacing all these new fillings when they start looking like I’m the bride of Frankenstein again.
It is the fricking make up of my teeth (can I sue my genetic donors?) probably exacerbated by a calcium deficiency in baby and toddler-hood due to my allergy to milk products. He pulled out my records from when I first visited him way back when my braces were coming off –oh yeah, all the fillings I had then (all of them much less than 10 years old) looked exactly like the replaced ones I have now that look like shit. He and I had put it down to the fact that the teeth had been held captive in those bands for so many years — it is not uncommon for fillings to do this when you have braces on for a number of years. Then he’d pulled out the records I’d brought with me from my NY dentist.
Damn, I started thinking about my teeth history. When I first moved to New York I had a huge number of my fillings replaced by Madonna’s dentist (I didn’t know he was Madonna’s dentist when I first went to him on a recommendation) because so many seemed to be starting to fall apart –he blamed the dentist who had done them. THAT dentist had been a guy who took me in on an emergency basis and did a whole bunch in one visit because I’d come home on break after my first year in grad school and my Ema had been horrified to see a couple of my front fillings looking like crud from a cosmetic point of view, had lectured me that I wasn’t taking care of myself and getting good dental treatment (nu, I had been seeing the university dentists for students people), and called for that ASAP appointment.
Back when I was a kid, my baby teeth didn’t fall out like normal baby teeth — they fractured. The first getting-loose baby molar fractured into four jagged, painful and bleeding chunks (that didn’t fall out) after I bit into a potato chip on the one and only time we went to see the parades on Mardi Gras day — meaning we didn’t see them as my Ema had to rush me to the Children’s Hospital emergency room (the only thing open). It was the first but not the last of fractured baby teeth.
It seems that my teeth are not only eggshell thin with an eggshell thin protective layer and are lacking in several things that there just ain’t no cure for baby, but he also suspects (and I’m going to be tested for) that I have a chemical imbalance in the calcium to phosphorus ratio in my bloodstream, meaning that not only does my body not convert calcium in a normal way but that it causes plaque to bond to my teeth like a fricking magnet. The plaque buildup on my teeth yesterday was enough that he would normally suggest I go in for a teeth cleaning –except that I had my teeth cleaned like less than 6 weeks ago.
Oh yeah, that upper tooth he did the filling on is going to need to be crowned (hopefully without a root canal but we don’t know yet) eventually. The one bad the previous dentist did was to put a filling into the back along with a filling in the front and not doing a crown at the time — the tooth is too thin to sustain both and leaves it vulnerable to needing a root canal in the future if not already. He replaced the filling in the front for cosmetic reasons because crowning it can wait until the more serious issues are dealt with. In two weeks, I go back and have the three fillings on the left side of my mouth replaced.
*Here’s why the area around a filling goes rogue on my teeth. Think about when you drill a hole in the ground or a piece of wood etc. You drill the hole, yes, but not just the hole– little tiny fractures extend out from the drilled area during the process into the surrounding area of dirt/wood etc and it is the same for teeth — all teeth. Most people, though, have a protective enamel layer that is deep enough that those tiny fractures do not compromise the integrity of the tooth. Mine, unfortunately, do not.