Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“A Pain in the--Mouth"

         About a month ago, I slightly chipped my front tooth. The sliver, noticeable only to me, drove me crazy. In an effort to stay on my budget, I hunted up a coupon with a dental office that offered a great deal:  X-rays and an examination for $29.99. When I set the appointment, I counted on everything going smoothly, and it did. Except for the fact that before I left, the young woman who did my X-rays handed me a list of additional work the hygienist suggested I have done. I think my eyes bulged when I saw the tally of the procedure recommended.
         “Excuse me?” I queried at the front desk, “Could you tell me exactly what this work is for?”
         The nurse glanced at the itemized list and carefully explained that the scaling and planning procedure would treat my gum disease. I stood in bewilderment as I have absolutely no sign of any gum problems—no bleeding when I brush or floss, no puffy gums, no redness around any tooth, no soreness at all. I told the woman I’d have to get a second opinion and would contact her office later.
         My mission once I arrived home became an in depth internet search of periodontal disease. I must have looked at hundreds of images. I went to several informative sites that had elaborate videos differentiating between healthy gums and infected ones. Quite frankly, my gums looked just like the healthiest ones shown as examples. So I began to suspect that this dental office lured patients in with a great coupon deal, and then once they have someone hooked, they outlined an expensive treatment program. My resolution to the problem seemed simple. After the holidays, I would schedule an appointment with the dentist that I used to use years ago. I’ll admit, I haven’t been in a dental chair for five years because I never have problems. One hygienist once told me that my teeth looked like they’d been cleaned six months before when it had been six years between cleanings.
         I decided, though, to step up my daily program a little. I’d make certain to floss every single day, brush my teeth twice a day, and even use one of the mouthwashes currently on the market, Crest Pro Health, twice a day (I usually only used it in the mornings). I figured my diligence couldn’t hurt.
         Boy was I wrong. Within two weeks, I noticed my teeth looked even yellower than before. My mouth, as well, felt strange and metallic. My gums, though, still looked nice and pink with no bleeding or puffiness; so I continued brushing, flossing, and rinsing. During the third week, pain descended. First, every tooth ached with subtle nuances that never quite let me pinpoint a specific spot. Then my jaw began to throb. Another round of research made me think I may have developed TMJ, so I started trying to make certain I wasn’t clenching my teeth during the day or at night. By the end of the third week, my entire face hurt. I began worrying that I had an infected tooth, or a sinus or ear infection. I added cold, massage, and heat to my daily routine. Eventually, I couldn’t run my tongue over my teeth without searing pain. I worried that my toothpaste, a product by another company, could be in conflict with the Crest Pro Health mouthwash. At the store, I decided to make everything “match” and purchased the Crest Pro Health sensitive toothpaste in an effort to alleviate my woes.
         I spent the next three days in horrendous pain. Loading up on Advil and Benadryl, I hunkered down for the possibility of a sinus or ear infection. In agony, I hit the internet one more time to try to solve my growing problem. In the way that searches tend to do, one trail led to another, and I stumbled upon a horrible realization. I was having a severe reaction to the Crest Pro Health products! In my attempt to make certain my gums and teeth improved, I’d purchased the very items that have caused problems to customers for several years.
After reading story after story, I threw out all of the Crest products. I shifted immediately to rinsing my mouth with salt water, and I found a tube of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste that my mother used when she had her teeth pulled for her dentures. Within hours, the searing pain became tolerable if I kept Advil in my system. The next day, I continued with the salt water rinsing and purchased a new tube of Tom’s. The dry mouth, the puffy feel to my lips, the shooting pain that throbbed from tooth to jaw to ear subsided. The third day found me off of Advil with barely a twinge in any of teeth.
I realize now that that first dental hygienist must have seen the yellow stains left by the Crest products and assumed the stains were tartar build-up. I don’t know what procedure I’ll have to undergo to get these stains removed. Some people report that their teeth returned to normal with changing toothpaste. Others say their dental hygienist removed the problem in one very long cleaning session. Still others say the stains remain even after professional cleanings.
         For now, I’m happy that the misery of the last few weeks diminishes more each day. Soon, if I’m lucky, I’ll wake up one morning and find that I have no pain at all!

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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