Sugar and Spice
I was brought up in the 60s and 70s in North America and enjoyed a sugar saturated diet; we had Captain Crunch for breakfast, Pop-tarts for lunch and picked up Twinkies from the candy store on the way home from school. As a result, I had a mouth full of silver fillings when I arrived in this country. Adapting to my new environment was a shock; besides coping with a high school with no boys and regulation underwear, I had to walk for blocks to find a ‘dairy’ which had only a few chocolate bar options and one brand of chewing gum. I drank more milk and did my best to become quieter and more serious.
Over the years, my filled teeth deteriorated. Cracks developed in these teeth and corner sections sheared off. My mouth increased in value as crowns were needed to hold things together. I thought that this was just age and bad luck. Sadly, I was never told that these cracks were actually caused by the amalgam fillings expanding. I was never given the option of replacing the old silver fillings with a more tooth friendly composite.
Five years ago, I was informed at a check-up that I had yet another crack in one of my filled teeth. Again, the dentist advised me that I needed another crown. I baulked. With no pain and no sense of impending need, I deferred, suspecting that I was being had.
What Happens when you Ignore your Dentist
I started working for my friend Heidi at Dental Artistry. One day, after a movie night with attendant popcorn, I complained to her that my tooth was sore. Heidi, not aware of my pain threshold, suggested that I might need a filling and promised to look at it when she had time. After a week of busyness, I finally suggested that I really would like it investigated and hoped aloud that it would not need a crown.
Heidi prodded and the tooth promptly splayed open, split to the base of the root. I jumped, Heidi jumped, her assistant paled. I didn’t need a crown after all; I had left it too long and there was no saving the tooth, what I needed was an extraction.
I was whisked into another surgery where Mark removed the shattered tooth shards. It had all happened too fast and I was shaky with the turn of events. I felt old and was mortified that I had lost a tooth. I vowed to replace the remaining fillings before I lost another tooth to the amalgam. I shuffled home shamefaced and spent a few days downing Panadol and hoping I would not bruise. The area was a bit sore but there was no swelling or bruising and so no one noticed. This was reassuring and enabled me to pretend that it had not really happened.
After a number of months of deliberately ignoring the space where my tooth had been, it was time to take the next step. While my tongue worried the gap, my mind worried about the ‘placement’ procedure, which sounded by all accounts to consist of drilling a screw into my bone.
Whilst the bearing of five children attests to my capacity to cope with pain, the thought of having a screw drilled into my jaw was daunting. On a sliding scale from examinations through fillings and extractions to root canals, the screw in the bone must surely top them all. It was therefore with trepidation that I bravely left my office for the surgery down the hall.
Surprisingly, things were not as I had expected. I had not been prepared for the skill of Mark or the way in which he and Jo worked together. It was a fascinating dance of sorts with the two working efficiently and yet in complete harmony. After anticipating that the placement would be on the level of a root canal, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was about at the level of an easy filling. Unlike a filling, however, there was no need for me to grip the chair arms in fearful anticipation of hitting a nerve. I found myself quite relaxed and certainly there was no pain.
I went straight back to my office and back to work. Although I was advised to take regular painkillers, I also found that I had neither pain nor swelling after the procedure. I had no pain that night or over the next few days either. I began to suspect that nothing had in fact been done. I actually made Mark show me the x-ray the next day to prove there was an implant in the bone.
Four months later, having forgotten that I actually had an implant, I was reminded that I needed to proceed to the next step – the uncover. As the implant itself had been covered up with gum after the placement, by all appearances I just looked like I had a missing tooth. Given that it was far enough back not to be noticed, I had not bothered to get anything temporary to fill the space.
The uncover – where the area of gum over the implant is cut to expose the top of the implant – was as uneventful, but much quicker than, the placement. During the procedure, the implant is also tested to make sure that it has integrated into the bone and is solid enough to take the pressure of a tooth. Given that any score above 70 is stable enough to proceed, the 94% I received made me feel as though I had aced an exam. Mark screwed on a little metal cap into the implant and I was left with a metal nub where my tooth should be.
In spite of the fact that my kids were impressed with my mouth stud, I booked in quickly for the final stage where the implant crown is made and fitted into the implant. A couple of months down the track, I was looking at my new tooth which could not be differentiated from my natural teeth. The implant crown not only looks like a real tooth, but functions as one as well. I expect that it will last longer than two pairs of new glasses that I just bought (for the same amount of money), which I am yet to tell my husband about.
Jacki, Practice Manager