Monday, August 23, 2010

Get yourself a cup of tea....

...because this is a long one that honestly truly does NOT contain the words 'budgie smugglers' or 'ranga' and I need you to stay with me, stay refreshed and most importantly, stay awake to give me some sympathy at the very end. Okay? Okay.

In 2005 my workload - and the way I was reacting to it - resulted in quite a few health problems, one of which was that four bottom teeth and my two front teeth had been worn away to the dentine (the painful, soft bit underneath the enamel) thanks to my unconscious new habit of jaw clenching and grinding during my sleep. It meant that I could barely drink a tepid glass of water or suck air in through my teeth without clutching my head in pain from a permanent brainfreeze but without the fun of eating the icecream beforehand.

My dentist, Doctor T, advised me that he'd need to install six new crowns to make up for the damage caused. At the time I wasn't too sure what crowns were - false teeth, or merely caps? They're sort of somewhere in between: like a false tooth that's permanently affixed to your original tooth which has been drilled away to a tiny peg by the dentist.

After the usual check up and x-rays, my first visit involved him grinding away my two back teeth on the left side. Three injections were needed to numb my face enough for Dr T to get his maxi-drill into my cake-cave and start planing the teeth away to tiny stubs. Whilst I could not feel any pain, I could hear the drill, feel the wet spray flying out of my mouth and smell the unforgettable odour of my own slightly burnt teeth shards. It's not a smell I'll forget in a hurry and not one that even those 'clean laundry', 'dirt' and 'coffee bean' perfumers will be rushing to put in their stores.

All this gave me ample time to count the numbers of holes in each ceiling tile - 29 x 29. A weird number it seemed to me, but then again it was preferable to counting Dr T's nostril hairs or getting glimpses of the broken tombstones in my mouth via the reflection in his safety glasses.

His sulky assistant prepared some sort of silly putty to put in my mouth in order to make a mould for the temporary teeth I'd need until my real crowns were ready in about a fortnight's time. He had to press the glue and the interim crowns in as though he was packing down his sleeping bag into one of those sausage sized covers: I was convinced that his hand was going to burst through the back of my head and beyond the back of the headrest.

I was finally allowed to see the teeth, but all they looked like was two half-melted minties. Good enough for a part of my body that'll only get seen if I'm screaming in terror or giggling myself stupid. This very same process happened again for my other two back teeth.

I was expecting the same process for my two front teeth. However, having two temporary crowns stuck on top of the two tiny pegs that were all that remained of my original front teeth made it look as though I'd stuck two chunks of teacher's chalk under my top lip for a dare. I was going to have to talk, smile and be seen in public with teeth that couldn't have been more fake than if they'd been chewed out of wet tissue and spat into my mouth with a pea shooter.

It was a long fortnight, and one that involved very little smiling or uncontrollable laughter (or terror, for that matter). It was with relief - and that's an unusual sentence to write in an article about multiple visits to a dentist - that I fronted up to get my 'real' crowns for my two front teeth; the 'king' teeth that are the main stars of the mouth and smile show. The fake ones were taken off with a few disconcerting "Oh dear, this is difficult" and "Goodness me, the glue's good, isn't it?" by Dr T as he resorted to kneeling on my shoulders and pulling my head so far out of the chair it smacked into the overhead light.

Somehow they were off, and my two new choppers were ceremoniously brought in on a surgical tray. Under the light of the dental chair they looked pretty OK to me. On went the cement and in the mouth. Done. I thanked him, and toddled off back home.

It was only then that I realised that I hadn't even seen what they actually looked like in my mouth. I wandered into bathroom and gawped at the mirror in ever-increasing horror. They were grey. My other teeth were white or at least off white. Perhaps it was just me being over-sensitive so I waited until I saw Sapphire and Love Chunks that afternoon. "Mum your teeth are funny," and, from my beloved, who is always so very tactful and kind, shaking his head: "They're shockers. You've got to go straight back and get them done right."

We've all had to take things back to get them replaced, fixed or a refund, haven't we? But teeth? That are permanently affixed in our mouths? That are made of stuff stronger than our own natural enamels and will last longer than our own lifetime? Hmmm, we weren't talking about an overcooked steak, wonky DVD rental or tight pair of shoes. Was the dentist no better than a tradesman who'll slap in the tiles in your laundry upside-down when you're at work and then bugger off and hope you won't notice? Especially if you've already paid his account?

There was nothing to it but to walk back in as soon as the surgery opened the following morning. Blushing profusely I asked Sulky Socks to see Dr T. "You don't have an appointment, can I tell him what it's about?" Whilst I was tempted to fire back with "It's about fixing my spare unicycle tyre.....what the hell else could it be about?" I didn't. Instead I gave a weak and embarrassed smile and whispered, "Er, I'm not happy about the colour of my front teeth."

Out came Dr T and with him, the dental technician, Bill. I again repeated my complaint and weak smile. They looked at my smile under the dental chair's light, then the office light, the technician office's light and then suggested I stand outside in the sunlight. I did, feeling like an right berk as I smiled at no-one in particular in the alleyway behind their surgery.

There was a green BMW parked there that had 'BITE ME' on the licence plate. Just as my face was beginning to hurt from all that non-genuine smiling, they agreed: the colour was wrong. They got all technical about the base colour being too blue or something but I was happy enough to hear that they agreed about the colour and I didn't have to argue my case. Bill dashed back upstairs and returned with a colour chart of teeth and we three together selected a colour more appropriate.

Back on went the temporary spitball ones for another fortnight of smiling with tight lips. Two very long weeks later and I was again back in the chair, nervously awaiting my new teeth. Bill brought them in proudly, "Ah these ones are grand, my best work yet." Yeah right, well we'll believe that when we see 'em out in the sunshine, buddy boy.

l felt like a slow-mo headbanger as Dr T yanked off my temporary teeth. My tongue immediately ran over my front teeth and it was an awful feeling - two tiny sharp stumps instead of two square teeth and now Dr T wanted me to go outside and smile with these pegs so that they could check that the new teeth were the same colour.

"Please Dr T, don't show me a mirror of the remains of my original teeth - I don't need to see that underneath I look like an in-bred Hillbilly banjo player who only has enough in her mouth to suck tobacco with. I'll just have to trust that you and Bill can check that the colour is right."
"Fair enough. And don't worry, Bill's got the colour perfect this time."

They were glued in and I had a look - perfect, just like my old teeth, except stronger and hopefully immune to any stress-related nocturnal gnawing. "Great, I'm so relieved; they're so much better now," I beamed. "Well, that's the last you'll be seeing of me for a while."
"Sorry love, but we've got a few more things to sort out. It's clear that you'll need some root canal work on your upper jaw and we've got to make you a mouthguard to wear at night so that your other teeth don't get ground away...."

Since then it's been a real treat for Love Chunks at bedtime. He's always had to endure that final honk into my hanky to clear my nose before the two squirts of the tactfully named 'Rhinocort' are inhaled, followed by my slapping on some super-strength hand cream which I invariably use too much of and ask to rub the extra on his hands. But now my little routine ends with a 'click clack' as I pop in my rock-hard mouthguard. Any conversation we have after that results in my sounding like a lisper with a mouthful of fantails.

Last night he said, "Ooooh Kath, do all that again and leave your ugg boots on - you know how to keep things hot."

Pompous Old Git.


Cat J B said...

Omg Kath, I promise I am not laughing...not at all. Ok, maybe just a tiny bit because you do have such a way with words, and HOW ON EARTH do you always find such fabulous photos?

Wow, you've just made me realise how much I value my teeth and how much I'd miss 'em if they weren't there.

Vanessa said...

My homme and I both have the night guard to prevent further grinding damage. I have taken to pulling mine out while I sleep so every morning I have to do the search in the bedsheets to find the darn thing.

Kath Lockett said...

CatJB, finding pictures is really the sad result of working from home and procrastinating! Like today, for instance. Did I finish the article that I need to send to my editor for some money - No I did not. Instead I washed the dog, hung out some wet clothes, dusted the living room and sorted out my tax receipts!

My mouthguard stays in all night Vanessa and once I found myself about to go for a run with it still in - not a good look.

River said...

I've spent enough time in dentists chairs to remember that ceiling tiles have 29x29 holes, so I no longer need to count them. Instead I now strain my ears trying to hear whichever song is playing while the drill is running. Or I try to work out if the drill is sounding like a crop-duster, a jumbo jet, or one of those old troop transporter Hercules.
My latest front tooth denture is the perfect colour, done by a student at the dental hospital while I still had a health care card. Two years ago now. I'd love to get crowns instead, but it's the same old lack of $$$ story. I have dental insurance, but I'm not sure I can manage the difference in cost. I would have to get crowns and a bridge, quite expensive I believe. I "lost" the original front tooth when I was 18, an abcessed nerve, which was cleaned, then (unbelievably now) left open to drain, so naturally got very painfully infected, necessitating removal.

Excess super strength hand cream can be rubbed into elbows, knees, heels, even on your face. Moisturiser is moisturiser, your skin doesn't care that you're using hand cream on other parts.

Kay said...

My dentist has installed TV screens in the sound though. Usually plays Cirque de Soleil dvds but last time I was there, I got terribly engrossed in a game of baseball on One.(And I hate watching sport of any kind.)

Kath Lockett said...

River, I hope you win lotto soon so that you can get your teeth done - are you sure it can't form part of a workcover claim? :) Oh and as for moisturiser, I use it everywhere and still rub the extra on LC because I always overestimate the amount. He's got nice soft skin now!

Kay, telly on the ceiling is a brilliant idea. But not if it's playing 'Little Shop of Horrors' or anything featuring Mick Molloy or David Koch.....

Lad Litter said...

That was quite a compelling saga, Kath! I'm not scared of dentists per se, but am fearful that one day I'll be told, "Sorry mate, they're stuffed. We're gonna have to take the whole lot of them out..."

Pandora Behr said...

That sort of dental work is my worst nightmare - and I'm very thankful I've never had to have anything more than to wisdom teeth removed.
God you're brace - and braver for going back to get them fixed after the colour was wrong.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I could write a blog post about my experience with "tooth-butchers" but I won't do it in your comment box.

I have a crown and I vividly recall the pain and anguish of the weeks that it took to insert the bloody thing.

I now have a new dentist and his first comment upon seeing my teeth was "Oh dear! Those fillings aren't looking good. They need replacing!" and the swine did just that. I recall driving home with a numb mouth, slurping the drool away but still dribbling like an insane idiot. And now he wants to replace the crown - I don't think so! It looks perfectly fine to me.

I have to apologise too, Kath, because I chuckled at your post - it all seemed too familiar.




Trudi said...

LOL ok this was very very funny - well not for you at the time but I loved it, thanks for sharing.

JahTeh said...

I have false on one side, front and back and my dentist matched the colour beautifully. Unfortunately the plate was a little late coming and I had to front the Magistrate's Court to give evidence in a family feud with only half my front teeth. Do you know how hard it is to speak clearly but not let your tongue fall out through a gapping hole?

W.V is pubui. Run with that Kath.

Benjamin Solah said...

Ugh. I ground my teeth throughout the whole thing :P

Baino said...

Haha well worth the long read. I've just been told that I need a couple of crowns when the fillings finally flop out but my they're expensive! Love your man because he loves you you old honker!

Rayner said...

Hiya, Kath! Ooh, talk about discolored teeth. I know someone who grew up having unevenly colored teeth. Most of them were white, some were a bit yellow, and a few were really yellow. That's why by the time she got a job, she saved up for an appointment with Chicago cosmetic dentists.

Majority of the opinion pointed to teeth whitening, so she sought a great cosmetic dentist in Chicago for that. Now, she wears her smile like a red dress. You should see the transformation!