I have been cursed with bad teeth – that is to say, my teeth are not rotten or decaying, but I have had problems with my teeth in one form or another since the day I was born. The opposite can be said of my sister who hasn’t had the need to see a dentist in years and is blessed with thick, robust gum tissue. Next week, I have yet another round of periodontal surgery (gum grafting) to repair lost gum tissue that surrounds my teeth.
My earliest memory of something not quite right with my teeth began when I had horribly crossed front teeth. It seemed to take forever for my baby teeth to come out and in order to get my teeth straightened, they had to come out so the braces could be put on. I remember my mother trying to yank my loose baby teeth out. Once my adult teeth came in, I had 4 back teeth pulled so my wisdom teeth could come in – I had crowding, a common occurance with many people.
I had braces on for 2 years and the results were great – but then things went downhill from there. All that movement caused my already genetically weak gum tissue to become weaker. To make matters worse, my wisdom teeth finally came in, causing my bite to change, causing stress on jaw bone, causing even more gum recession. A general dentist I saw suggested gum grafting. Not knowing what I had signed up for, I agreed to get two sites done. That was undoubtedly the worst dental experience I had ever had.
After the surgery, at home, I began to bleed… and bleed… and bleed. It got so bad, my bathroom looked like the scene of a homicide. My meal that night was my own blood. Early the next morning I went back to the dentist, my mouth full of a clot of blood and found out he had forgotten to tie off a vessel or an artery – it sounds better. That was it – never again would I have this surgery… and I didn’t for 10 years.
For many years, I ignored what was happening (with no dental insurance by the way) until I relented and started out on a path to fix the root cause of the gum recession – my improper bite. Although I knew my bite had to be fixed, recession in more places had to be fixed first. I was terrified – knowing what had happened the first time. In the end, the second time was a breeze. In the 10 years that had passed, the procedure changed from one of the tissue from surface of my palate being taken, to an incision made in the palate and the tissue taken from the inside of the incision – much less trauma, much less chance of bleeding.
Five years later, I had the procedure done again. The third time went even better than the second. Now that these serious sites had been done, I made the decision to fix my bite once and for all – knowing that the situation would continue to deteriorate if I didn’t. I ruled out costly bonding and veneers, and jaw reconstruction – both incredibly expensive – and decided on good old steel braces.
I have to say that although it has been 3 long years of pain, money, appointments, travel and time, the results are fantastic. I’m now biting where I should be and outwardly, I look like a different person. Yes, I put up with the pain, the elastics, the wires poking, the retainers, the screws drilled into my jaw bone, only to know that what was on the other side of the braces was more gum surgery. I have no choice – it must be done, or I risk losing teeth. The gums must be bulked up and roots covered. It’s a combination of genetically weak gum tissue, teeth movement and past recession – all I have no control over.
So next week is my 4th round of surgery (I have gotten 2 teeth done per surgery). After this round, I know there are a couple more areas that need to be done, but they will have to wait. I’m done with dentists for awhile. I’m waving the white flag. I need a rest.
My next post will deal exclusively with the periodontal surgery (gum grafting) procedure to put at ease a lot of you who are squeamish about the procedure. It is really not a big deal. It’s just that when I almost bled to death the first time, every succeeding procedure is a time of great anxiety for me. It’s a mental block. Once I get over it, and the procedure is done, I know I’m home free – and you will be too.
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