I have terrible teeth. I always try to smile while keeping my lips locked because I am so self-conscious about them. See my teeth look terrible, but my dental care is pretty good. I brush 2-3 times every day. I floss almost every day. I use special mouthwash 1-2 times a day. And I don’t sip sugary beverages, drink soda or do a lot of the other frowned upon things that create more obstacles for happy smiles. I haven’t had a cavity in years. And this is quite a feat, because I do have natural things working against me.
I have a brittle bone disease called Osteo Genesis Perfecta, or OI for short. And it doesn’t just affect one’s bones, but one’s jaw and teeth as well. My teeth are already wanting to crack, break and otherwise retire. (I use special dental hygiene products to help combat this.) I was born without a few teeth in the back on the sides and one in the front refused to come down all the way. And they’re crooked. But when my teeth are just waiting for an excuse to come apart, braces, not to mention more extreme suggestions like jaw surgery or chains on my tooth to force it all the way down, aren’t really options for me. I mean I can totally do them in hopes to make my smile pretty, but most likely it would mean the destruction of my teeth and I would be looking at dentures or implants or something along those lines. No thank you, I’ll stick with my crooked teeth.
If the OI wasn’t bad enough, I kind of throw up a lot. No I don’t do it on purpose, but I have a stomach condition called Gastroparesis, basically my stomach doesn’t empty, so yeah that happens. And every time I do get sick, I am stripping away minerals and the enamel on my teeth. So having a healthy, if unfortunate-looking smile, really is an accomplishment, and I’m proud of it.
But last Monday, a filling fell out. And I freaked out. Why? Okay, well I have a heart condition (three heart surgeries so far, but hoping to push a fourth off for another four to five years) which means that any type of dental work is risky. This sounds silly, and I’ll admit that for the first 25 years of my life, I never understood why I had to be all hopped up on antibiotics before I went in for a cleaning. But my cardiologist insisted, and I only argued when I felt something was wrong, stupid or detrimental to me. Taking some antibiotics wasn’t hurting me, so oh well.
And then on my 25th birthday, I died. Like actual physical death. I mean I came back, because I’m stubborn as hell, but that doesn’t take away from the fact at I was dead. (Talk about a conversation starter!) After ten days in critical condition (my admission courtesy of several grand mal seizures and two major strokes, which were caused my temperature of 109 degrees) and all sorts of tests (I am happy to say I did not have malaria, West Nile virus, meningitis, and a bunch of other things they tested for including lupus) they finally figured out the culprit: I had Endocarditis.
Basically, the reason my doctors always got on me to take my pre-med was to avoid this exact thing. When I was diagnosed, the doctors said I was a special case because it seemed I had had it for awhile, but was not symptomatic. So it was incubating in my body until it caused a literal meltdown. When they told me how long they thought I had had it (6-8 months, whereas most people are diagnosed and treated within the first 6-8 weeks) I realized I had a dental appointment right before that timeframe. A filling fell out (my first actually, this particular Monday was only the second) and I had to get it replaced. I went in to get it replaced right away, and I took my premed, but apparently it wasn’t enough…
If a person has had Endocarditis, they are more likely to get it again compared to someone who hasn’t had it before. So now, for the second time in my life a filling fell out. Fuck me!
So I wigged. But seriously, who can blame me? I mean rehabilitation from being able to walk and talk again thanks to serious strokage is not fun. No way I ever want to go through that again. Roy (my husband) called the dentist as soon as I discovered the filling was missing (I have no idea how or why it feel out, I was eating soup when I noticed it, and had not had anything like popcorn that could be an obvious culprit, nor did I hurt myself) but they were closed. So he called the next day, and they fitted me in the next morning.
I think at first the people in the office thought, “What’s the big deal?” For a healthy person it wouldn’t be. The missing filling did not hurt, and was not sensitive. It was not swollen or bleeding and did look inflamed. And these are the true dental emergency situations – normally. But I am so not playing around with this. At our insistence, they saw me quickly, and I was relieved. In the chair the dentist said since it was not sensitive, he didn’t have to numb my mouth or the area if I didn’t want him to. I’m like, “Let’s do this.” Yes there was some drilling, but I handled it like a BOSS. And I’m really grateful I had the option of being numbed or not, because quite frankly (for me) that’s the worst part of it.
And now that my filling has been replaced, I feel much better. Am I still contacting my cardiologist to see if he wants me to do a blood culture in a few weeks to cover our bases? Duh. Again, death teaches you things, and one of the greatest lessons it taught me is: I don’t ever want to do that again!
Update So, I wrote this the day after my filling was replaced. I did contact my cardiologist and before I could tell him why I was concerned, he said he wanted me to come in for that blood culture in mid-April (incubation period ends then) as well as an echo (heart ultrasound) just based on what happened. It’s not that I want things to be serious, but it’s nice that the expert agrees this is something serious. I’m not overreacting, and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll get the news: “Everything looks good!” 🙂