Friday was my visit to the reconstructive and restorative dentist in Sydney, he used to be my general dentist in the eighties before I moved to Queensland and he is now specialising in implants, and tooth alignment and jaw anatomy.
My trepidation at the thought of the dentist's visit was considerable. I had spoken to my mother some months before after a visit to the local dentist and told her that I was concerned about the lack of dental care I was receiving. In fact I was so concerned that I was ready to cry! She suggested that I have her dentist assess me and see what I need to have done and what can be done about some problems with my lower back teeth (and the rest of them). The local dentist was insisting on taking them out and mentioned nothing about how I was going to manage to chew with only a wisdom tooth at the back and missing the next two molars from the bottom jaw on both sides! And I won't mention my creaky jaw.
The dentist, I'll call him Tom (we are on first name terms!), is still as kind and gentle as he was twenty odd years ago, and still not a bad sort.
First we discussed my medical conditions, drugs I take, and so on. Then he asked what concerns I had with my teeth. I mentioned several things and also that I didn't like how stained they were but that I didn't want them to be like glowing tombstones! He said he understood. I also mentioned that I'd need extra work for that as some of the front surfaces of the teeth would need refilling. Then I said that was secondary to keeping my teeth and having them in good order, I do like to eat steak and chew my food!
Tom checked all the glands in my mouth and the lymph near my mouth, jaw and neck. He also checked the muscles at the back of my teeth (where they inject you to block pain), and the muscles which control the jaw on the outside of the mouth. It was a bit painful. I also have a creaky jaw (he called it crepitice, I know what that is from my first aid training). After this he explained that this jaw problem I'd had for a few years was from my teeth not being in the correct position and my jaw having to move in the wrong way to chew. The teeth in the wrong position are partly due to bad dentistry (they don't restore the teeth surfaces properly to where they were before they were filled), and because I'd had two teeth out when I was nineteen which have caused my top teeth to spread away from where they should be.
He charted all the filled teeth and whether they'd had root canal or just fillings, then he checked me for gum disease. All the time he was telling me what he was doing. The gum disease test involves putting a probe between the tooth and the gum and measuring the depth. One and two are OK but need care, three and four are not good at all. He probed and called out the numbers to his assistant. The jaw is divided into six for this, three on top and three on the bottom. I got 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1. I was quite chuffed. He did say that my teeth are in good condition for my age, but I was correct to be concerned about what was going on and the lack of dental care I had received lately.
After he'd measured the gums he discussed with me that my teeth weren't in bad shape as far as what he'd looked at so far. Then he said he'd check for decay. He has a "whistle" for want of a better name, which he puts on the surface of the tooth. The tone tells him whether there is decay. I hate that noise.
Fourteen teeth need fillings, and he explained to me that they were mostly decay around amalgam fillings. Apparently the amalgam grows over the years and this causes the teeth to crack. As well as the expanding amalgam causing cracks the tooth tends to decay where there is a filling. This was something he wasn't happy about. He asked when I last visited a dentist and I told him it was about six or more months ago. I'd explained that we got a lot of dentists at the local surgery who are foreign and they only stay about a year before they move on. I had a checkup when I'd visited the dentist in about June last year and that only found about three areas of concern, certainly not the fourteen found by Tom!
Tom told me that he'd not used amalgam since 1990 and had been using composite as this was a better material than amalgam.
He discussed what would be needed to bring my teeth back to near perfect... let's say it's two Toyota Corolla cars... However, he knows that this is not affordable so he's going to work out a plan for me. He asked whether I could extend my holidays, I said I might be able to extend by a few more days, and asked by how long? He replied, "Oh, about six months..."
His plan of action so far is to align my jaw and stop the degeneration of my jaw joints first, then he can see what needs to be done with the restoration of the teeth to make them meet properly and begin to replace and repair the decay and further align the teeth. He sent me to have a few head x-rays, that was interesting! My family rubbished me about whether I had a brain or not, but the x-rays were for my jaws and teeth.
After he assesses the x-rays he will work out a plan of action to fix my teeth and align my jaws. The first stage is a splint for three months. He may also fill teeth which seem to be the worst decayed.
Saturday night was spent packing and disposing of any fruit in the fridge which wouldn't keep for a week.