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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Here's To Setting Off Airport Scanners

Well today marked the first of a three-stage adventure into the world of high-tech dentistry for yours truly. While I may have written about this before, here's a brief recap:

About seven or eight years ago I finally got my act together and realized that I needed to overcome my fear of the dentist and get back into better dental health. Now my teeth weren't all that bad, but, I was still really too afraid to do the things I needed to do, like get regular cleanings. Anyway, I got back into the swing of things by going to a dentist in the neighborhood that someone in my extended family had recommended. All was well and good until I cracked a top left molar and the decision was made to pull the tooth. It was torture...sheer, utter, unmitigated torture. I swear this dude was injecting me with colored water, because I felt everything. After about thirty minutes, two different injections of novacaine, and a pint of blood, the tooth finally came out. Needless to say, I wasn't too keen on going back to this guy. Fast forward about a year, and I needed to go to the dentist again for another cracked tooth, but I didn't want to go back to the tooth-pulling dude. What was I to do? Well, I simply found a few dentists in the phone book and came upon one, Dr J.C. Charnitski, who seemed promsing. I called his office and they saw me immeidately. Dr Charnitski has a wonderful staff and he was really, really understanding of my fears and previous bad experiences. In short, for the first time ever, I really felt more or less comfortable at the densist. After about a dozen appointments (including a root canal on the other tooth that cracked), my teeth were in great shape. Fast forward to today, and Dr Charnitski has worked with me to get better at my oral hygiene and I now think I have great teeth.

So why the problem?

Well, about two months ago I bit on something really hard and I could feel it impact my rear tooth (the one that had the root canal all those years ago). After the initial impact, the tooth slowly got worse and worse, and by the weekend I was in real agony. I called Dr Charnitski and he saw me first thing Monday morning. By then it was feeling better, but the verdict wasn't a good one: whatever I had eaten had somehow cracked the root of my previously canaled molar, and I needed to see a specialist. His concern was that even if the pain went away, I would still have a persisent infection. I wasn't thrilled about having to see anyone other than my regular dentist, but I trust the guy, so I'm off to see Dr Frantz, a Periodontist.

The invitial visit to Dr Frantz confrmed the worst, namely that the root of the molar was cracked and was most likely infected. My choices were basically bridge work (which woudln't last and would involve messing up three teeth...but my insurance would cover it) OR a dental implant for the bad tooth. I chose the implant, although the thought of having a titanium screw in my head wasn't exactly music to my ears, just as the price-tag, $2800 out of pocket wasn't music to my wallet. Anyway, I agreed that this was the best long-term solution. The dental implant will last forever (unlike the bridge-work). So the wheels were put in motion, and the whole process would take almost half a year:

Step 1 - Remove the old tooth and add in material to build up my upper jaw. Allow it to heal.
Step 2 - Insert the titanium screw and post. Allow it to heal.
Step 3 - After my bone grew around the screw, put a new snythetic tooth over it.

Dr Frantz would do steps 1 & 2, and Dr Charnitski would do the third.

Today I got through step 1. First, I was very impressed with Dr Frantz; he seemed very concerned about my comfort and kept my abreast of what he was doing at all times. The actual extaction was much tougher than he expected, as there really was a bad infection in the root of the broken tooth. After about 40 minutes, the tooth was out, the bone build-up material was in, and my gum was sewed up shut.

So now I sit, mouth un-numb (finally) in only a moderate amount of discomfort. I think the Hagen-Daz icecream helped with that part. Now it's back to Dr Frantz next Thursay to get the stitches pulled out and to schedule Step 2. Lovely...a screw in my head.

The things I do for good oral health!

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