Teethless in Seattle

Stories

(See what I did there? I mean, technically I *am* ‘teethless’ since I’m missing 1,2 and now 9, but this post is only about one tooth, number 9 specifically. The pun only fits with the plural, though, so I had to improvise. God what I’ll do for a pun.)

A few months ago I fell and bonked my front left tooth and it hurt. That’s the most boring blog post (or tweet for that matter) I could possibly think of. It was such a non-thing that I didn’t even think to care about it when it happened. I cared, in that I couldn’t eat with that tooth for a  while because it hurt a bit, but other than that, one gets pretty used to things and moves forward with life in general. 

That tooth was never the same again. It always sat in the wrong space and because it moved (without sending me a new address), I’d bump in to it from time to time. “Oh! Shoot! I forgot you’re here now!” I’d apologize every time. It was almost always a glass that I mis-calculated as I went to drink and would bonk the new-position of that tooth. It would send me a zinger of a reminder that it’s moved and for godsake, get a plastic water bottle, not these fancy glass ones.

This correspondence went on for some time until one day the tooth got pissed. I’d hit it one too many times and it grew a little white nodule on the gum as a warning sign. And then, because warning signs aren’t really my forte, it cracked completely in half, just above the gum, when I bit in to a sandwich.

Now I was listening.

I went to the dentist, who took an Xray, and from where I sat, or even tens of feet away, could clearly see a fracture all the way through the tooth. “It’s still connected, though, that’s why it hurts.” At least it hadn’t quit on my completely. It was hanging on by the roots but it was only a matter of time. 

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I was referred to an oral surgeon. But, as I found out, he was going away to teach in Vietnam for three weeks. If I was going to get in, it had to be RIGHT NOW. 

And then stuff happened. 

Normally implants take a lot of time. There are a lot of steps in the process: 

  1. Exam
  2. Extraction and maybe a bone graft
  3. Bone graft if not done before
  4. Implant
  5. Gum graft (if needed)
  6. Post-op checkups
  7. Crown is placed

This process takes “6-9 months” usually. 

Here’s how my Thursday fell in to place. 

I got a call at 1pm that I could get the entire process done today if I could get to the dentist for impressions immediately and head to the surgeon after. It had to be Today, though. Otherwise I couldn’t get in for the post-op to see the Dr. and the whole thing fell apart. Was I busy today? 

I went to the dentist immediately and had two sets (two upper, two lower and bite) impressions taken. 

I proceeded with one set of impressions to the surgeon, who was staying late with an assistant, to take care of me. The office closed down for the day and these two gloved up and then performed all the things on me. We discussed what was about to happen and then I breathed in the Nitrous Oxide and started watching myself from the other side of the room.

Thank god for my mindfulness practice. I kept whispering to myself (from the corner of the room, naturally), to just breathe. My entire job was to breathe. I’ve experienced that only two other times, during C-sections when giving birth, that my only job was to keep breathing. I remember telling the surgeon during Lauren’s birth that I couldn’t breathe and he said, “Honey, if you can tell me that, you’re breathing.” The assistant coached me, seeing my Mala bracelets, to breathe as I do in Yoga. Breathe in, she said, hold, and breathe out. Let the medicine work. She might have flown off to the right of me after that and placed her wings on the coat rack before gloving up, but I couldn’t be sure because I was breathing and letting the medicine work.

The two went to work while I breathed. I’ll spare you the various explanations of the procedure and the details of the instruments used, but I can say with absolute certainty that I don’t care how old you are when you go in to something like this, you become a child in the chair looking for a Big Person to tell you it’s ok. And Dr. Kanter did exactly that. 

*I think now is a good time for me to explain that this is not a paid advertisement. Absolutely not, I paid for my service myself (thanks crap insurance) and am in no way under obligation whatsoever to tell you this story. In fact, I’m sure most people would prefer I shut up already for the love of all that is the Internet, but I’m ploughing forward with it anyway.

It took almost five hours from start to finish. They worked tirelessly through all of the implant process.  I had the exam, extraction, bone graft, implant, gum graft, and even a fake fill-in tooth created just for the weekend until my real “flipper” could be made in the lab. 

They did all of this after hours without charging overtime. On top of that, they were gracious and wonderful and kind the entire time. I tried to blurt out that I wanted to marry them both but I was pretty high and they had their hands in my mouth and I just drooled on myself instead, so thankfully I didn’t embarrass myself with any weird declarations.

I did blurt out that I could do the worm a record number of ten times in a row, but I think that went unnoticed.

Yesterday I went back for my follow up. What would’ve taken six to nine months is done and I’m just waiting for my body to heal (thank you non-smoking me because your ability to heal tissue is fantastic) and that’s progressing well. I’ll get my crown in a few months and this entire thing will become a thing of the past. 

What I don’t want to forget, and why I want to acknowledge this here publicly, is that there are people out there who remind you that the world is generally ok. There are OK people out there. Businesses aren’t all out to make a buck or get rich quickly or take advantage of the smaller folk. I think during this particular time in our country we need to acknowledge the businesses that still run because humans are running them. I want to take the time to recognize the kindness in our world, since so much of the focus is on the opposite. There are people willing to stay after, on their own time, because you’re in pain. There are people willing to give up their (and I’m not making this up) music group that meets AT THEIR HOUSE because you need help. There are people willing to put in an additional five hours because you couldn’t get to the dentist before your tooth yelled at you. There are people willing to take care of you when you forget to take care of yourself. 

I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes the adult in you wants to change the world and make large-scale changes to society and sometimes the child in you needs to be assured that this tooth thing won’t hurt too much and everything will be ok. 

I don’t know where you’re at today, but just so you know? Everything will be ok.

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