a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Side Teeth

Monday, December 19, 2011

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Side Teeth

SUMMARY: Vanity, thy name is Money.
TWO years ago, right around New Year's Day, I broke an upper-left molar. (Actually, the first premolar, if you want to be technical.) Broke it good, too, right down into the root, so there was no way to repair it. Had to have the root pieces extracted. Asked the dentist with great trepidation about whether this is my future, breaking my teeth and becoming a toothless wonder by the time I'm ready to retire (whenever that may be). He assured me that it was an oddball occurrence; the tooth was already damaged with at least a couple of fillings through the years.

Looked into implants: Very expensive and the expert guy said this one wasn't a good candidate for it anyway. Looked into bridges: Fairly expensive, and you have to replace them every few years with equal expense, and they have to ream down the teeth on either side of it, which I just hate to do. Looked into removable plates--well, just uck, did one of those in high school (a "retainer") which sucked. Rejected that, too.

And, after a year, when no one anywhere had commented about me suddenly missing a tooth, it occurred to me that maybe no one noticed. Or could be they were being polite, but really good friends would say something, right? So I decided I didn't need to do anything at all.

So, fast forward to right around New Year's Day ONE year ago, when I broke a lower-right molar. (Actually, the first premolar, if you want to be technical.) Broke it good, too, right down to the base of the gum, so there was no way to repair it. Asked the dentist with great trepidation etc. etc., and he reassured me that this was an oddball occurrence; this was an old baby tooth that never had an adult tooth come in behind it, and it was also previously damaged, and baby teeth when left behind get kind of brittle anyway because the roots are so tiny (or something along those lines).

I didn't have it dug out because there were no jagged edges, and it kind of acted like a placeholder while I decided what to do with two gaps--which didn't seem to actually bother anyone except my tongue, which keeps looking for the missing toothers.

It's been almost a year now. Maybe I should wait until the New Year just to be sure we're not in some kind of tooth-breaking pattern here. BUT. This one, I think, is noticeable. Sometimes. Or, at least, with 2 teeth missing, if my mouth is open enough, people are going to start noticing.

Teeth seem fine--

Teeth seem fine--

--uh -- hmm, what's that big gap?!

Dentist says it's OK to leave them like that for a while, but eventually I should have *something* done because (a) the teeth on either side will start drifting in, and (b) the opposing molars (actually premolars) will start drifting up, and it could screw up my bite.

So, today, I had the baby roots (not to be confused with Baby Ruths) extracted as a first step towards getting an implant in the lower right. I have no dental insurance, and it most likely wouldn't be covered (or not much of it) anyway. We're talking $2000-3000 for the implant and another $1000-2000 for the crown to sit on top of the implant.

Do you know what I could do with that kind of money? My want list is huge; my baglog of repairs and upgrades for home and car is huge. But, OK, for 30% practicality and 70% vanity, I am going to spend it on a new tooth.

Progress will be reported in future months. Implant minus 2 months and counting.


  1. Wow...big decisions to make and you're right dental insurance wouldn't have covered much I don't think. Hope it all goes really well!

  2. Gads, every time I think about the $ I get cold feet. On the side that argues for it, I can pay a good chunk of it out of my flex spending account, which is pretax, so really it's only costing me, erm, that amount minus whatever my tax rate is.

    This morning, I'm thinking, "What am I THINKING?"

  3. The other thing that's scary is, am I going to have to do this for more teeth in the future? I can't believe this will be just a one-up thing for the rest of my life. Now we're talking REAL money, over and over. Yikes.

  4. I so feel your pain! I have ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic condition that results in, among other things, seriously messed up / missing teeth. I've got about $20,000 worth of crowns and bridgework (thanks mom and dad for covering the initial purchase!) that will need to be replaced at least twice if I live long enough... My dental plan would cover about $1500 in a year, but it should really all be replaced at the same time, otherwise there would likely be a lovely patchwork of colours and textures with nothing matching the other -- wonderful! -- so I'll be left with a nice $18,500 bill. Twice. So YUP it bites (heh) having to save up money for plain old (new) teeth. Soooo many other things could be done with that kind of money. Depressing to think about, so I'll stop thinking about it now :-D but misery loves company so I thought I'd share.

    I don't think that gap is noticeable at all, but it's really up to how you (and your tongue) feel about it. And if there are potential implications down the road with the other teeth moving around, sounds like that's pretty important to deal with sooner rather than later.

    Looking forward to following your implant journey! I always get a kick out of hearing about other people's experience with teeth.

  5. Thanks for the comments. My goodness, you've got a whole lot more to worry about than I do, don't you! My teeth have apparently never been strong and I think all the molars (and premolars?) now have crowns, looking at the xray. Which means there's been damage to them in the past, and that means they're weak--I'm afraid someday I'll have to fill my entire mouth with something, too.

    Amazing though to think about a mouth full of teeth costing as much as a car!

    I asked a coworker about teeth today, and he has implants in his front teeth and loves them; says he can eat apples and everything. He also said he didn't think my gap was much of anything. Sigh.

    Well, I have a couple of months still to think about it. Thought I'd decided for sure but every time I think about it I go back and forth.

  6. I'd get a 2nd opinion if I were you. I've had dentists tell me I needed a root canal and point to a place on my xray only to go to a different dentist who told me I didn't need one and that was over 5 years ago with no trouble in that tooth.

  7. Thanks for your concern. You are not the only one who has suggested a 2nd opinion. I obviously didn't include enough in the original post, so here goes:

    (1) My dentist isn't doing the implant work.
    (2) I did say in my blog that I looked into other options. My dentist has carefully gone over all the options, costs, issues, and benefits and left it up to me to decide which, if anything. He hasn't pushed me at all, in the 2 years I've had one or two missing teeth.
    (3) The implant dentist has carefully gone over all the options with me as well.
    (4) My dentist doesn't do implants and the implant guy doesn't do bridges, and they both told me exactly the same things about all the options.
    (5) I did say in my blog post that my dentist said that "eventually I should have *something* done because (a) the teeth on either side will start drifting in, and (b) the opposing molars (actually premolars) will start drifting up, and it could screw up my bite." He didn't insist on anything and in fact waited for me to ask for details about the options; merely noted originally that there are options if I wanted to do something and why he thought I should do something sometime, and it is related to my bite.
    (5) I don't like the bridge or partial options for various reasons--as I said in the blog, (a) I hate the idea of having to grind down 2 good teeth to put in a bridge. (b) I don't like the idea of having something loose in my mouth ( I hated that retainer in high school. The options I've seen in today's technology don't look or sound any better).
    (7) Consumer Reports did an article on the options, back in '96 unfortunately, nothing newer. I read that carefully too.

  8. Continued:
    (8) Everything I can find to read indicates that even the oldest implants with "modern" technology--20 years ago or more--are still mostly doing well, whereas bridges, for example, need to be replaced every 5-15 years (dental insurances seem to cover replacements every 5 years, not a confidence builder).
    (9) The cost of a bridge looks like $2000-3000, while an implant is $4000-5000 and would last a lot longer.
    Yeah, it's scary expensive but my other choice at the moment is to do without. And I've been fretting about those missing teeth for 1-2 years now. I feel like i'm too young to be displaying missing teeth. Doing the more visible one (the one I think is more visible) is my concession primarily to vanity and the rest to having something there for chewing on. I'm tired of having peas, nuts, and other things that are tooth-sized get stuck in there when I'm eating! It's just the wrong size in the wrong location! (The upper left one doesn't seem to catch things; maybe the gap is bigger or more out of the way.)
    (10) I have set aside the money for a portion of this in my flex account for next year. If I don't spend it on this, I might lose it if I can't come up with other random medical-related things to spend it on. That's a lot of money to get through. I have often benefitted from visiting a chiropractor, for example, but don't often go as I consider it a luxury. I could buy a couple new pairs of glasses. All of that probably doesn't add up to what I've set aside.
    (11) I still have a couple of months to decide for sure--the implant dentist wants to see how the jaw heals and what my bone looks like after the extraction (done yesterday) before he will confirm that he'll do the work. (Remember I noted that he wouldn't do the missing upper one because he didn't feel that my bone structure there would support it.)
    (12) No one is pressuring me except me. I might still turn tail and run and just go with no tooth and a big gap forever. But either way, the money in the flex account is now committed to medical expenses. It's only whatever additional money beyond that amount that I'd save.
    (13) I've talked to a couple of friends who've had implants. One has both upper front teeth as implants and he says it's just like his natural teeth, can eat apples and everything.

  9. P.S. I've had several root canals now. All have been as a result of bad, unrelievable pain. I have no reason to believe that something other than a root canal would have helped them. (And usually my dentist tries to do something else, and so does the periodontist, who does various tests to be sure that I really need a root canal because, he says, it's better to leave the root there if it can be saved.)

  10. What intrigues me about this is the various people who are all telling me to get 2nd opinions. Are dentists really that scurvy in the rest of the world?

  11. I didn't have the bone structure for implants, but they sound awesome. With crowns I can bite into an apple, but not confidently and I wouldn't do it in public, "just in case"!

    And, like you, I'm definitely a fan of NOT grinding down perfectly good teeth to accommodate a bridge unless it's really necessary.