Better out than in

Warning: if you’re extra-squeamish you may want to avoid reading this post (or at least looking at the picture towards the end), though it’s really not too bad.

By and large, I have a very healthy set of teeth (or so my dentist assures me).

However, I’ve had recurring problems with one particular tooth, which I have mentioned before.  The last – hopefully in both senses of the word – chapter in the saga of this tooth is now (mostly) completed.

The latest problem manifested itself about 3 weeks ago, ironically the day after my last dental checkup, at which my teeth were given a clean bill of health.  While eating a chocolate bar in the middle of the evening, I bit down on a nut and my filling detached itself and fell out. Because it wasn’t causing me any actual pain, I didn’t bother to go for an emergency dental appointment but phoned up the next morning to book the first available non-emergency appointment, which happened to be this afternoon.

In the intervening weeks the tooth continued to not give me any pain (although the constant worry that it might suddenly begin to hurt considerably wasn’t very much fun to live with) but various bits of it flaked off until the top was fairly level and about half the original height (of the visible bit).

After a quick examination of the tooth today (and an explanation that the lack of pain was due to the lack of live nerves in the top of the tooth as, presumably, they died off once the tooth was filled), the dentist offered me two options – either have a crown fitted or have the tooth extracted.  Since the difference is apparently just cosmetic – i.e. there are no significant disadvantages to just having the tooth removed other than a bit of a gap and since my teeth are already fairly uneven (and it’s not a front tooth) I’m not too worried about that) – and the crown is considerably more expensive, I decided to go for the extraction option.

The other choice I was given was to have it removed immediately or book another appointment to have it done later.  I decided that I’d rather get it over and done with instead of spending the next several days or weeks worrying about how much it might hurt etc.  Two minutes later, I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room waiting for my gums to go numb following an anaesthetic injection.

The actual extraction took place about 10 minutes later and took less than a minute.  Despite the anaesthetic, I could feel the tooth being pulled out, though it wasn’t too painful.  The worst bit was the crunching sound I could hear as the tooth came out.

I was quite fascinated to see the tooth after it came out.  I was aware that teeth have roots that go well below the visible bit, but I hadn’t appreciated (or had forgotten – as I’m sure I’ve seen complete teeth, or at least pictures of them, in museums and school science lessons) quite how big the root is compared to the upper part of the tooth.  Even given that half of my tooth had fallen off, the root is still considerably longer than the top bit.

I asked for, and was given, the tooth (or what’s left of it) to bring home as a souvenir.  Here it is, alongside the filling:
Tooth and Filling

This was just a fairly quick photo I took this afternoon to illustrate this post.  The lighting conditions were not great (it being a fairly overcast afternoon – I used a torch to supplement the light) and I’m not feeling at my best this soon after having a tooth ripped out.  I hope to get some better pictures soon – keep an eye on my Flickr photostream if you want to see them (but don’t hold your breath, as it may be a while before I get round to taking any more).

I’m hoping that the exit wound from my tooth will heal nice and quickly and the extra large gap in my teeth won’t be a problem.  At least it will serve as a constant reminder to keep looking after my remaining teeth properly.

Teething troubles

I went to the dentist this afternoon for a regular check up.

As expected, most of my teeth are in good shape.  However, the one with a filling is continuing to cause problems.

I first started getting problems with this tooth just over a year ago when it suddenly started to ache.  At the time I wasn’t registered with a dentist and hadn’t been for several years ever since my previous dentist had gone private and I’d been unable to find another NHS dentist with vacancies.  This sudden toothache gave me the impetus I needed to renew my search for one, which had lapsed somewhat, and I managed to find one (in my own town, no less) who agreed to put me on his waiting list.  Because it was unlikely that I would actually get to book an appointment for several months, I was advised to contact NHS Direct for emergency dental treatment to take care of my toothache.  I did this and had a temporary (or semi-permanent, as I think it was officially called) filling put in by another dentist further along the coast.

When I finally did manage to get onto the books of my local dentist and have an appointment, he did a routine x-ray of my teeth and discovered a big hole in my tooth hiding behind the filling.  Although the tooth wasn’t actually hurting me at all at the time, I took the dentist’s advice to have the filling removed and replaced with a permanent one.

That was last November and the tooth has mostly been fairly well behaved since then although I did start getting some pain in it shortly after Christmas, which prompted an emergency appointment with my own dentist.  He put some kind of varnish on the tooth, gave me some sample tubes of Sensodyne toothpaste to use and told me to come back if the problem persisted for more than a few days.  Fortunately the Sensodyne seemed to do the trick and I didn’t need to go to see the dentist again until my routine check-up today (which had been brought forward to 6 months from the last one, instead of a year, since I’d had the filling).

I mentioned to the dentist that I’d noticed a slightly sharp corner on my filled tooth and he took a look at it and said that the filling and the tooth itself were both slightly broken.  Apparently this means that the filling needs to be replaced so that decay won’t set in again behind it.

The bad news is that it means I have to go back for another filling in about 3 weeks’ time.  The good news is that, because the first filling is less than a year old it’s still under warranty and I don’t have to pay to get it replaced.

Last time, when I had the temporary filling replaced by the supposedly permanent one in November, it was my first time under the dentist’s drill (and with the attendant injection etc.) so I experienced a certain amount of trepidation due to the uncertainty of what to expect.  This time I know just how uncomfortable it is (I wouldn’t describe it as particularly painful but it’s certainly not what I’d call a pleasant experience) and I’m not sure whether that makes it better or worse.