Periodontal Disease…What Is It?

In all my 31 years I’ve only been to a dentist four times.

The first time, I was pregnant. He told me my migraines were caused by my wisdom teeth. He also refused to pull them until after I had my baby. I was 17.

The second time, I had a terrible toothache. The tooth apparently had worn down and the nerve was exposed. That time, I went to what I can only call a “drive-thru” dentist. He yanked it out and called in his next patient. I was 27.

The third time, I had “real insurance” through my job. I went in for a cleaning and exam. He had me come back and told me he could fix all my dental problems for ten thousand dollars. I walked out of there and never went back. I was 30.

This week, I went back to the dentist, a different one. This time I knew I was going to have to face the fact that my teeth are not healthy. I’ve been loosing little chips for years. I’ve even had to adjust the foods I eat. I haven’t had corn on the cob in years.

This time, I was told I have periodontitis, an infection that can lead to tooth loss if untreated. After X-rays and a thorough visual examination by four different people, I heard the phrase “root canal” about 30 times.
When the dentist came in, he sat down and asked if the hygienist had advised me of my situation.

“I’m screwed,” I answered.

“Well, I wouldn’t put it quite that way, but it’s true. You are screwed.”

I liked him right away.

“There’s two different ways to be screwed,” he went on. “You can be screwed from the gums up, or from the gums down. You are only screwed from the gums up. It’s preferable to being screwed from the gums down.”

So we talked. We went over treatment, possible repercussions, and I realized that I am dentally retarded. I knew nothing�nothing� about my teeth and how they can effect my overall health.

Periodontitis is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The minimal problem I can have with this is tooth loss.

The scary part is, over the past two years, or so, I’ve been sicker than I have in my whole life. I recently had to have an ultrasound on my thyroid because my doctors just don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. I have chronic pain, chronic fatigue, frequent dizzy spells, chest pains, sharp pains in my head, blurred visionâÂ?¦.
The list is too long.

I was horrified to learn that every time I swallow, I’m spreading this infection all through my body.

I told my new dentist, “It’s gonna take me awhile to pay for this.”
I still had the 10k figure in my head, and I spit it out to him.

“It’s not gonna cost 10k,” he said very seriously. “It’s gonna cost more.”

Final tally? Right around 30 thousand to fix my teeth.

That’s a brand new, no-other-butt-in-the-seat-sparkling-ashtray car. When I lived in Texas, I saw houses for 30k.

“What do you think is the biggest expenditure people have in their lives,” he asked me.

“A house,” I answered immediately. The one I’m trying to buy now is going for 106k.

“And the second?”

Apparently, most people say it’s a car. It’s not.

“It’s their mouths.”

And I’m living proof of it. There is a bright spot, though. According to four different people in his office, including him, I have excellent dental insurance.
Just doing the top row of teeth actually costs 22-24k.

My treatment plan will start with the top row, incidentally. There’s so much plaque and bacteria built up, there’s no point to flossing. It hurts anyway. So, first round, I get about 15 root canals, a thorough cleaning, and temp caps. He’s even planning to fill the hole left by my second dental visit with a sparkling implant to the tune of 4600 bucks.

So. What causes this stuff? It’s linked to poor oral care. I can admit there were times when I didn’t brush as well as I should, and I never really learned to floss. Flossing is the key to preventing the buildup of plaque under the gums that becomes the breeding ground for the bacteria. Warning signs include bleeding or tender gums. Scary thing? Sometimes there are no real symptoms.

Poor oral care isn’t the sole cause, though. Some people are genetically predisposed to bad teeth.

Another scary thing? It’s transmutable. This meansâÂ?¦kissing my girlfriend or one of my two boyfriends could pass it along. My kids could end up just like me. It’s a slim chance, however. They see the dentist regularly, and brushing teeth is a requirement of continued existence.
The knowledge that I could infect my loved ones with this stuff is utterly depressing. I love kissing. It’s a small thing to give up, but I’m nearly in tears because twice today my live-in beau has refrained from smooching me.

So, all those times when you were told to brush your teeth and flaked on it, or you skipped the flossing because you didn’t have time can catch up to you. At the moment, my periodontitis is reversible. It’s not so bad yet that I have to lose all of my teeth. I realized that going without them, and having dentures terrifies me. I’m only 31! My mind keeps screaming, I’m too young for dentures!

My dentist agrees. And he’s down to earth enough to work with me to help solve this problem. Hopefully, within a year, it will be under control, and I can eat corn on the cob again.

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