A Tooth Story

by Octapoo

Thursday, February 13, 2020 at 06:39:00 UTC

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A note from the future: This was originally six different posts, but several of them were quite short, and so I don't want to post them individually. So here's the whole story from beginning to end.

Well, fuck... A year and a half ago a tooth started hurting, but due to not having any dental insurance and not having so much energy that I felt like dealing with the problem of trying to find dentists that can tell me what it would cost to fix it so that I can figure out who will fix it for a reasonable price, I've basically ignored it for a year and a half. ...and now part of that tooth has cracked off. So I guess I have no choice now but to look for a dentist now.

I still don't feel like dealing with it. It's not like I seriously predict that I'll find dentists who say anything other than "well, come in and we'll look at it and charge you $149 for an office visit just to tell you that you don't have enough money to pay us to fix it." ...and last time I just went to a dentist it cost $600 and they literally didn't even fix anything on that visit, but instead they just fucked around using a fancy camera to take photos of my teeth for some dumb fucking reason. I don't have $500 to blow on stupid shit.

I wish I could just pull it out myself so that I don't have to deal with other people's bullshit.

8 Hours Later

I made a list of 9 dentists, then went to my mother's house and called 5... One is closed until Monday, 3 others are open but didn't answer their phone for some reason, and the one that did answer wants $68 just to look at it and tell me what it will cost. At that point, between the fact that I'm tired and I just hate talking to people, I didn't care to continue, so I came home.

This might have to wait until I'm in pain and haven't eaten for a few days. At the moment I'm merely uncomfortable and was able to eat a few fudge rounds by chewing on the other side of my mouth, so it's not yet quite as bad as dealing with the lack of price transparency in our medical system.

4 Days Later

After calling a few more places, I found one that not only told me that their price for pulling a tooth is cheaper than everywhere else I've called, but they also offer free exams including an x-ray so that they can figure out what the options are. I have an appointment with them later today.

8 Hours Later

Well, on the one hand, I'm kind of impressed at what one can get for free. One big around-the-head x-ray, 14 small x-rays, an exam from someone who does gum health, an exam from a dentist, and a prescription for some antibiotics which, after typing the prescription into, I discovered was also free if I went to the right pharmacy. On the other hand, I knew that they weren't doing so much in hope of giving me a low quote on a tooth extraction.

The problematic tooth is apparently "still viable" and just needs a crown. IDK what a crown is but I've never heard it outside of the context of rich people getting work done on their teeth, so I assumed it was expensive, and indeed it is.

Perhaps more interestingly, one of my front teeth is apparently dead and infected at the base of the roots in the bone.

About 20 years ago this tooth was giving me trouble in that it and the tooth next to it seemed to be competing to be in the same place. Then one day part of it cracked off, which was a bit disturbing, but also relieved the pressure, and it was a nice straight break that honestly seemed to do nothing but put space between it and the tooth next to it that needed to be there. I don't recall if it was because that tooth eventually started bothering me, or if it was trouble with another tooth that prompted me to see a dentist, but somehow the cracked tooth ended up getting a filling which frustratingly restored its original shape and restored the pressure between it and the neighboring tooth.

It was this tooth which eventually prompted me to re-visit the dentist who charged me $600 to look at my teeth and take pictures, as he was the one who filled it. He prodded at the filling and could find no evidence it was loose or that there was anything wrong with the tooth. He just found a lot of other stuff he could fix instead. Since he was so expensive, I went to another dentist who came to the same conclusion: There was nothing wrong with that tooth, #10, but plenty wrong on the other side of my mouth, and so they drilled a bunch of other teeth and put fillings in them.

So today this dentist asks if I'm having any trouble with that tooth and I'm like "nope" because I couldn't immediately recall having ever given it any thought. However, having had time to think about it, I realize that for years I've suspected I have some kind of infection in that area, involving my mouth and my nose. I've even wondered if it's somehow linked to how my nose becomes congested when I sleep which then makes it difficult to breathe while I'm asleep, and I've bought fish antibiotics to take in order to test that theory, though given my incredibly poor attention span and complete lack of note-taking I'm not sure what to say about how that turned out other than that improvement apparently wasn't obvious.

That was at least 10 years ago that I had those two dentists look at it. So that tooth has probably been dead and infected for 10 years. Indeed, I wonder if an infection didn't start the whole thing, with swelling from the infection pushing the tooth into the tooth next to it, causing it to crack. So maybe I need to reconsider the idea that a chronic infection is why I can't sleep properly.

Anyway, apparently that tooth needs a root canal and then a crown. Unfortunately they didn't do much to break down the pricing, but the total was $4000. I told them that wasn't going to happen. So they came back with $1000 to ignore the front tooth and just fix the one causing trouble at the moment with a filling (which they said wouldn't last) rather than a crown. I told them that also wasn't going to happen. So they said they could pull it for $284, if they talked to the dentist and got permission to change what he'd recommended for it. I said that was more than they quoted on the phone, and so I'd have to call around and check more prices, and then I left.

Apparently the tooth is dead. They did a "cold test" on it, where they make it very cold to see if I can feel it, and I felt nothing on either of the two problem teeth. So that makes me wonder why it's sensitive to touch. Perhaps the sensitivity is just due to gum damage from when the tooth chipped and over time that will go away and I can start chewing with it again. Also this is apparently the second chip to come off of it, that or the dentist mistook recent damage for old damage, and so that might explain why, when it first had a problem 18 months ago, it was very sensitive for a while but eventually got to where I could chew on that side of my mouth again almost without worrying about it.

So, IDK, but I'm not sure there's actually much different now vs. a week ago, and I don't have the money to deal with it, so I think I'm just going to not deal with it and see what happens. Maybe it will get better and I can start chewing on that side of my mouth again. If not, then I guess I'll try again to find someone who will pull the tooth.

1 Day Later

I tried chewing on that side of my mouth today. I'm afraid to go crazy chewing over there, but at least while cautiously chewing, it kind of doesn't seem like there's a problem.

I'm wondering if the reason that the dentist thought he saw an old break was because it was an old fracture that just finally broke free. Maybe it was causing pain because when I hit it just right it would pinch my gums, but now it's gone and so the possibility of hitting it just right is also gone. Like, it always felt like something was out-of-place, like the filling was popping out and colliding with other teeth while out of place, though the filling never seemed to be loose when I checked it. That isn't what I'd expect pinched gums to feel like, but it's not like my brain has nerves in fillings so it obviously just took what it got and synthesized a hypothesis. So I guess it could have just been something my gums were sensing but which my brain figured had to be in the tooth and so that's how I felt it.

I'm worried that the filling might come out, but I've never seen evidence that the filling is loose, and if this is indeed an old break that just finally broke all of the way then that means that there's just as much holding the filling in place as there was for the last 18 months, and so it should be OK.

WRT the infection, I woke up several times last night out of breath, and while lying awake and thinking about it, I realized it does kind of feel like the congestion in my nose is entirely at the front of my face. IDK if that means anything though, because I don't know how accurately my brain can actually feel that. I don't know if there are even nerves in there that can sense where congestion is. So it could be just another synthesized hypothesis and thus may or may not be true.

1 Day Later

So apparently my memory is terrible. Somewhere between when the tooth broke and when I went to the dentist, I thought about what I might say to the dentist, and one of the things I thought about was mentioning my theory about there being some infection between my upper front teeth and my nose that was causing nasal congestion and affecting my sleep. I decided against mentioning it because at this point I kind of just expect doctors to think I'm crazy and not know anything anyway and so what's the point? However, despite having thought about it no more than a few days before, when the dentist asked if I'd had any problems with that tooth and showed me where the infection was on the x-ray, it didn't cross my mind. I didn't think about it then, and only remembered the theory after I got home, and it wasn't until two days later, just now, that I remembered I had thought about bringing this theory up to the dentist. So like there I was, with a dentist who was as ready as any doctor could be to hear about my crazy theory, and I didn't even remember that I had a crazy theory.


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