Sunday, October 9, 2011

Crossing my first bridge toward better chewing.

My last few appointments have been a scheduling nightmare. Every appointment I make basically has to be approved by like 20-30 people's schedules, between my dentist's schedule and her faculty of other doctors depending upon what procedure we are doing, then my schedule and that of my co-workers so we can not be short-staffed, and then if I make it through all of that first wave of hurdles, I have a list of like 20 possible people who help give me rides to the dental school about 26 miles away. Every appointment is tied to the next and if there are any complications it messes up several future appointments as well. In this case, a slight modification needed for my bridge needed more time from the lab, which in turn pushed back tentative date for my final extractions and first implants 20 days. It has been hard to be patient sometimes when I have suffered through all of this for so many years, and harder still when I actually have a ton of money saved that covers my next several appointments. I am however, trying my best to remain sane and focused and trust in the journey and my dentist and not get discouraged. Everything happens for a reason, right? Everything is all still going "according to the plan." Slow and steady wins the "face," as I often joke.

Here is a picture of my first bridge after the porcelain was added before trying it on.
It's weird how discolored it looks in comparison to the white plastic container it is it while technically still matching my teeth. I know that my teeth certainly aren't the brightest and artificially-whitest in the world, but it doesn't seem like this would possibly match when compared to something that's actually white.

So we tried on my new Snap-On teeth and went through the same ritual as before every time any big change is made to the crown of a tooth to check its occlusion, or basically how well these 3 teeth get along with the 3 that live in the apartments below them, but also how their party compares to the chewing party across the courtyard with the only teeth that really make contact well, #s 13 and #20. We went several rounds with articulating paper, "tap-tap-tapping" and "grinding all around" and rechecking for marks and slight modifications to the bridge to achieve the correct fit and try to get contact on all 6 upper and lower teeth without effecting the contact on my left side also, alternating tests with shim tape as well until it would no longer slide through my teeth. After more X-rays that were some of the most challenging ever due to location and angle and my missing teeth, and searching for an elusive bit of glue to remove, my bridge was finally after like 6 appointments seated and finished and ready to scrutinize!

This would be the first time I have seen myself with my first premolar (tooth #5) in years--I frankly don't even know when I lost both my maxillary premolars--and the most teeth I have seen on that side of my mouth in general, let alone that were actually healthy, in who knows how long. For the past several months I have been doing virtually all my chewing with my two premolars on my left side, and I was really curious how this would effect my ability to eat. The color seemed perfect, something Rakhee prides herself on, informing me once that there are actually some color blind students too. I have been comparing prices of dental procedures in my mind lately to different things. It began when I realized that for me to fly to visit a friend was roughly the same cost as my root canal on my front tooth, and it was strange to think about in terms of how we prescribe value to things. Is a weekend with one of your closest friends more important or meaningful than a root canal? I guess depending on the circumstances, it is hard to say. This bridge cost me about as much as my bike is worth, which is my most valuable and arguably most important possession that I have traveled over 4,000 miles with through 4 states in the past 15 months. In many ways, my bike feels like my new best friend I can always trust in any circumstances to get me through. It has very rarely ever failed. When compared to my bike, it is weird to wonder if 3 teeth are capable of "adding up," but nonetheless despite hating them for years, I am still grateful to now have them. It is just something I think about. The more I learn about my teeth, the more questions I have, the more I think about them, the more I make analogies and metaphors, and the more I remember from my past and my relationship to them and how they have always effected me as well.
I went home that night, and tried my hardest to imagine what I might look like when this journey is all over next year. I took a bunch of pictures trying to smile, trying to cover up the teeth that were still missing and pretend my mouth was complete. I must admit it still looks incredibly strange to me, but it is most certainly a huge improvement. This is what I think is the best and most "natural" I took in that series, and the most recent picture of all of my progress and what my teeth and smile looks like as of today. I will write about my new adventures in chewing very soon!

And below is my updated Dentrix diagram of my mouth, with all the work that has been completed in blue. Not too much red left! I will have to post some side by side comparisons of things so far once I get some of the new pictures Rakhee took at my last appointment with those mouth spreading contraptions in my mouth. Get ready!

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