Essay: Your Teeth Matter

letsmakeadeal

Many years ago, when I was in rehab, in my first year of sobriety, my counselor had some issues going on with her. Her teeth were giving her grief, and she ignored them, to her own peril. In the end, they had to pull them all, and put in implants. A job that cost a lot of money and caused her months of grief.

I seem to be walking that very same path myself.

When you are diagnosed with AIDS, like I was, whatever else was going on in your body took a backseat to your survival, from said AIDS diagnosis. The initial push to survived trumped any other problem, to our own peril, we know today.

The problem with AIDS, and now HIV is problematic. Because the medication you take is solely for the purpose of keeping you alive. And in many cases, the drugs we take are toxic to the rest of our bodies. And in many cases, other areas of care, become infected, or affected. there is no clear cut way, to properly medicate a body that is immuno – compromised.

AIDS does that to your body. You might be able to save the body, but not its constituent parts, separately. So you have to care for what you can, as long as you can, and hope major issues don’t arise. BUT, HIV is capricious. She is stealthy and devious. You never know when something is going to fail, until it fails you. Then you need extra attention or medical attention.

THAT IS, IF YOU CAN AFFORD SAID CARE …

 

We believe that our teeth will always be in our mouths, and that they will be our North Star, and never fail us … Sadly, that is far from the truth.

I should know this because Memere and Pepere, my mom’s parents, and my father’s father all had dentures by the time I came along. Grammy was the only one who died with all of her teeth in tact.

I should have heeded that warning long ago and took it into consideration, but that was not my case. Far more serious issues befell me and the concentration on survival, took precedence over any other arching issue.

Your medical heath came in the order of importance. Survival was at the top of the list. Everything else took a back seat.

Some time ago, my teeth began to fail, as I crossed the FIFTY mark in my life. One at a time. And as they gave me grief, my trusted dentist, who had been located in the HIV clinic, at the Montreal General, did the work for us, at reduced costs, because who could afford full bore dental payments?

Living on a fixed income as we had for so many years, cost us, in more ways than one. Thankfully, hubby has not seen serious teeth issues yet. But he sure is clued in now, because of where I am today.

Thinking that small problems could be “pulled out” and not repeat themselves was a false belief in my own body’s ability to prevent infection and further pain.

Many months ago, hubby insisted that I go find a reputable dentist who could fix my teeth, once in for all. We knew implants were the only real solution. After two sorties into the world of dental implants, and the costs of said work, turned out to be too expensive for our purses, combined.

We cannot afford upwards of $50,000.00 of dental implants.

Basic insurance in Quebec does not cover major dental. So we knew I would be screwed. One outfit, quoted me almost $48,000 and six months work time. The other was higher, around the $50,000.00 mark, with TWO YEARS work time.

I’ve been not doing well since.

Having to accept myself as I am. Knowing there is no viable solution to my teeth problem, at the moment. And having to accept that my friends look at me with pity, that I cannot afford to properly take care of my own welfare, makes me a little crazy, when my friends won’t look me in the eye, or look away from me, when I speak to them is disconcerting.

Over the past two months, I’ve developed serious infections. I had an abscess on the upper left side of my mouth, with a tooth that just disintegrated in my mouth. That got seriously infected and caused serious nerve damage in my mouth and on the left side of my face. My HIV doctor prescribed me Antibiotics for the infection.

That was a week’s treatment for an issue that only got worse. That hole in my mouth is still there, and the infection with it, it only moved around my mouth into the right side of my jaw and the right side of my face.

So, for the last two months, I’ve been on a steady diet of pain killers and antibiotics. I had been eating pain killers like candy, because the pain has been so insane. I’ve had issues with eating food, brushing my teeth, and sleeping at night.

This problem grew exponentially last week. By weeks end, I was a sobbing mess. I do not do excessive pain very well. I can do PAIN. But not PAIN that does not go away, and throbs in my head, like a jack hammer.

One oft day, I was getting ready to Skype with Spencer, and as the call went through and he appeared on my screen, I had a pain attack that went off the charts as I sat in front of him. Clearly, I was headed downhill very quickly. I could not pound away a pain-killer and hope it did the trick in a matter of minutes. WRONG !!!

This went on for two weeks, and culminated last week, when I could not stand the pain any more. I called all the appropriate doctors, my dentist, and made appointments, that fell during the rest of the month, and not appropriately, NOW as I needed them.

I could not get into my HIV doctor because he in on vacation, and when he goes away, nobody takes his patients. That’s just the way the Quebec Medical System works here.

You make an appointment, and hope you don’t progress further downhill in between. I could not get into the dentist either, because she was booked, and they did not think me an emergency, when I made the appointment, last week.

By Wednesday last week, like I said, I was a sobbing mess. I could no longer medicate the pain away. It was just too much on my system. On Saturday, I was up before dawn, waiting for the clinic, in the mall up the street to open.

It became an EMERGENCY VERY QUICKLY !!!

There is a Dental Clinic in Alexis Nihon, right up the street from home. I knew it was there, but never considered walking in there and doing something about my problems, because, I knew, for the last few months, what HAD to be DONE.

There were no two ways about it.

At Fifty One, my teeth need to be replaced.

So This is a General Warning to all of you …

IF YOU DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR TEETH AND TREAT THEM AS IMPORTANTLY AS YOUR MEDICAL HEALTH, YOU WILL PAY, IN THE END.

Having several warnings in my life, did not make any difference. Knowing people, IN SOBRIETY, who walked this same path, did not impress upon me, the importance of self-care.

But, when you know you cannot afford certain care, what the fuck to do ???

When one is stuck between a rock and a hard place, one has to accept certain truths, no matter how egregious they are.

Saturday morning I got an appointment two hours later.

I went to the Dental Care Clinic. They could not have been more accommodating.

They certainly rose to the occasion.

I was seated by my appointment time. They had done the x-rays, and in minutes I had several dentists in the room with me, telling me what I needed to know. One doctor said he could root canal the tooth and save it. That I did not need serious surgical procedures.

But I told him that the tooth had cracked and was broken, and was giving me so much pain that I could not stand it any longer, and that the tooth needed to come out.

The three teeth on my lower right side, from the back coming forwards are close together. The one tooth at the back is safe. The two teeth in front had such cavities, and the nerves in both teeth had been impacted, causing me neural infection on the right side of my face.

The choice was surgery …

A second young woman doctor came in and told me she was gong to freeze my mouth and told the hygienist that she should prep for surgery. About ten minutes later, they went in with both guns blazing.

They pulled and tugged that damned tooth out of my mouth, while I was holding onto the chair for dear life. They cleared the tooth in front of it. And twenty minutes later, the tooth was out of my mouth, and for the first time in weeks, the pain was gone.

Talk about GRATITUDE …

They gave me a second round of antibiotics and pain killers to chase them.

They took great pains to warn me of all the things I could not do, for twenty-four hours after surgery, for if I transgressed the warnings, the pain in return would be greater.

The infection in my mouth was all over the place. One round of antibiotics on their own did not do the trick, and the infection made a tour around my mouth. So after radical dental surgery, another round of antibiotics.

I’m eating on the left side of my mouth. Have been for some time now. Now, I just need to wait out a little longer for the hole to heal over completely, before I introduce food to the right side of my mouth.

The issue of what to do with the rest of my mouth is still in play. I have a follow-up appointment on Friday this week to get a full picture of the severity of my problem, because none of the dentists I HAD SEEN about implants did any kind of explorative foray into my teeth.

First they wanted a commitment AND CASH to begin the process.

I could not commit to either plan, because we could not afford to see it through to the end. And I could not, in good conscience, saddle hubby with a $50,000.00 loan that the bank would not give us even on a good day, and thinking that I would not survive seeing that kind of money paid back in full prior to my own death …

And that my friends is the latest saga in I need new teeth and soon story.

Hubby got the job, in principle, he has been working towards. Hopefully in the next little while he will get his start date. And hopefully soon after that, we may have a solution to my problem.

A Platinum Insurance plan that will cover Major Dental.

If that plan exists,  in the constellation of insurance coverage, hubby is going to BUY IN, and pay the extra costs in having that ability to help me finally.

Needless to say, hubby is clearly aware of my situation, and has had a serious time dealing with his inability to provide properly. Because I live on a fixed income from the U.S. Government and that money only pays for the roof over our heads every month. We do not get any more use out of that monthly stipend. So my hands are tied to what I can contribute to the house purse.

Being fucked sucks …

That is just the reality we live with day in and day out.

Hopefully, a solution is on the horizon. We will find it, one way or another.

Tuesday: Implants $33,000.00 DOLLARS

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Today’s adventure is brought to you by Centre D’implantologie Montreal – Rosemont.

I was hoping to sleep in today, and make my two thirty appointment to price out the dental work, I so need at the moment. I got a call early on, this morning, saying that an opening came up earlier than my appointment time, and could I make it ?

Hell yeah ! I can make it.

I have to say, I’ve never met a more gracious team of professionals in my life. It’s not like I am a unique patient, they see these kinds of problems every day.

But from the moment I walked in the door, people were gracious and kind.

My anxiety level was cranked at a TEN PLUS. Just knowing I would be sitting in a dentist chair, gives me the willies …

The appointment lasted about 90 minutes. They took an x-ray of my mouth and processed the film, right there. In the office, the design secretary has a very large HD screen over her desk, where they do all the work.

I saw the dental specialist who looked me over and said that the bones in my jaws were good to go, and that they could do all the work in ONE DAY.

The time challenge is the family wedding in May, that may be off the table, now that we know exactly how much this whole shebang is going to cost us.

But they told me that they could do the work, the extractions, and give me a temporary bridge that would look normal, so I would be presentable at the wedding, and that the final fitting would come 4 to 5 months on in the process.

Getting implants done involves several steps, in a certain order.

  1. The Preliminary appointment – information gathering
  2. Filling, Cleaning, upkeep of teeth prior to Phase One
  3. Phase One – Placing the implants
  4. Phase Two – Abutments of implants
  5. Phase Three – Insertion of Prosthesis

Once the process begins, the timeline is seamless. Once I commit to the project, I am locked into a timeline of 4 to 8 months. Start to finish.

  • Option One – Porcelain Implants – 6 implants, fixed bridge $33,000.00
  • Option Two – Acrylic Implants – 6 implants, fixed bridge $19,000.00
  • Option Three – Dentures $18,000.00

Hubby about fell over when I called him after the appointment to tell him how much this little doctors visit was going to cost us. He is sure that our insurance is NOT going to cover one penny of this, however, the dental specialist sent all this working information to my insurance company, saying that we should get a response in three weeks.

From that point, whether we get a Yes or a No, we will figure out what to do next.

Hubby called and spoke to the specialist I saw, to reiterate his fear that insurance was not going to fit the bill. So we will see what happens now.