This weekend I’ve had a very good reminder of how important it is for those of us lucky enough to have regular, low-barrier access to dental care to support services like Interfaith Health Clinic and Remote Area Medical (RAM), both of which offer free and/or low cost dental care to our uninsured neighbors and friends. I am very lucky and do have dental insurance thru my job, so generally, I am able to see a dentist when I need to. But that hasn’t been the case for the past few days… This has reminded me in a small way how scary and frustrating it must be for folks who live without access to dental care not just for a few days, but every day of the year.
At some point on Friday afternoon, a filling in one of my molars must have come out. I didn’t feel it come out and there was no pain….no pain that is, until Friday evening, when I realized there was now a big hole in one of my teeth, and I stuck my finger back there to survey the damage.
(Here’s the part where any of you who are “tooth squeamish, as Jon is, may want to change the channel.)
As soon as my pinkie touched this molar, about one third of the top and side of it simply fell off into my mouth. Having never before broken a tooth or experienced really bad tooth problems beyond the occasional cavity over the years that has required attention, this crumbling tooth scenario wasn’t something I expected. I couldn’t see what was left of my tooth myself, even with a mirror, but when I showed it to J, she sort of screamed. Apparently it looks as bad as it feels.
And it’s pretty much been all downhill from there…
My own dentist is older, and she only works part time now. It turns out that she doesn’t even have an emergency or after hours number available – something I never realized before because I had never tried her after hours until I dialed her up first thing Saturday morning, hoping she would see me.
When it became clear that my regular dentist would not be an option for my weekend tooth repair, I started asking friends for suggestions, plus using the yellow pages to try to find SOME dentist who would see me this weekend.
I called more than 10 dentists on Saturday, including Dentacare at the mall, and nobody could see me until after the weekend. Finally I gave up.
I asked Jon to go to Walgreens and get me some “temporary tooth repair” stuff I read about online after Googling “crumbling molar,” as well as some wax – the kind E wears on his braces, but was out of. He was able to find both items, so I set about following the directions on the tooth repair kit to try to fashion a makeshift repair ’til a dentist could see me.
No luck whatsoever. The stuff wouldn’t stick and as I poked at it gently trying to get it to do so, more of my tooth broke off. At that point I decided my best bet was to be as perfectly still as possible – no chewing or speaking – until Monday when I would try to get this dealt with.
So that’s what I’ve done.
It’s now early Monday morning and I am in pretty major misery. I think the tooth may be getting infected. I will be calling my dentist at 8am sharp, and if she can’t work me in immediately, I will start re-calling every other dentist on my list and simply begging. Only my begging will be hard to understand because this tooth being all swollen and jagged makes it hard for me to speak clearly.
“Schwapleeshe can I schkwomw to your offischwe and schwowe you my boschkwen tooph?!”
That’s what I will likely sound like to the person on the other end of the phone. However, I’m guessing dentists get many calls like this, and their office staff can translate pretty well.
Wish me luck.
Please consider joining me in making a gift this week to Remote Area Medical, which provides free dental care to those without other access.
Here’s some more info on this wonderful volunteer organization.
UPDATE: Well, the tooth is a goner. It’s fractured into the root and just not salvageable. I saw my dentist first thing this morning, and post x-ray, it took her all of about 15 minutes to deliver the bad news, write me a prescription for antibiotics, and get me scheduled with the oral surgeon who will be relieving me of my poor, done-for molar on my lunch hour tomorrow. And then I assume we will discuss what options exist to replace said molar ASAP so that I can continue to eat, and also so my other teeth don’t all decide to kick off their shoes and spread out all over the place.
I’ve never really had much dental work done, aside from having my wisdom teeth out when E was a baby (shudder), and I’m trying not to be too freaked out about having a tooth extracted from way back in my jawbone. I mean, how bad can it be, right? It’s just one banged up tooth. I am optimistically planning to be back at work later that afternoon.
(That’s probably kind of dumb of me, isn’t it?)
People do this every day. Surely it can’t be too big of a deal. Not like having wisdom teeth out…right?
(I will admit to wishing I could be knocked out cold for the tooth removal instead of just being numbed up, but I guess that’s not an option…)