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December 5, 2017: Health and Physical Fitness: Dental Incidentals

I have come up with a third header for my dispatch column. The first two are The Writing Life and The Horse Life. The new one is Health and Physical Fitness. This latter one will primarily be about what I’m learning about movement science. Primarily. There will be some related topics.

Now I know that dental histories are boring, I think because 1) They are personal, and 2) Detailed. I know this because my mind often wanders when other people tell me about their dental trials and tribulations. So I generally, I keep my dental incidentals to myself. Generally. I am in this respect now feeling like the lid on a popcorn pan. I am going to blow if I don’t get my story on paper. My other rationalization is that this is an important story in terms of my own personal history. If I don’t tell it, it will go

the grave with me. I would just as well leave it behind.

For sure, I will share this with my dentist. When I was 14, I got an abscess on my right hand side second-to last rear molar. The pain was excruciating. My mother took me to see Dr. Martin Fields, the family dentist. He was a good friend of my Grandfather, who had a medical practice down the street. Dr. Fields said that the tooth needed to come out.

I was not going to let him do this nor was I going to be awake for this. I think I had memories of my mother having had her wisdom teeth pulled. So I was sent to the office of another dentist who first did an entire x-ray of my jaw. The good news was that (he said), I was born without wisdom – teeth. The bad news was that the tooth was going to have to go. So he put me under and yanked that sucker out of there. I woke up with a dry mouth full of gauze and a gap between my rear molars.

There was no talk about spacers or bridges. This, as far as my mother was concerned, was a done deal. 20 years later, I decided I should take matters into my own hands because the rear molar was tipping forward. I was then teaching English at the University of Minnesota, Morris. I went to the dentist there, his name was Jeff Haugen. He was an excellent dentist. He suggested that I first go to see a local orthodontist. I don’t remember what his name was, but he was an excellent orthodontist. The dentist and orthodontist worked together – and so for a while I had a lower retainer type brace. And when my teeth were straight, I had a Maryland Bridge put in. The bridge was an engineering marvel. It lasted for 30 years.

Well, five years ago it gave out and my bottom lower teeth went out of alignment. An Anchorage, Alaska dentist replaced it with another Maryland bridge that was not an engineering marvel. He also put in a retainer wire. The bridge was funky. I went to another Anchorage dentist – a woman – who could not believe that the former dentist would do such shoddy work. She pulled that Maryland bridge out, leaving me (again) with a gap between my rear teeth. I got this distinct feeling that she thought that I had gone to this dentist because I wanted to have work done on the cheap. She lost interest in giving me an assist when she learned that my insurance company said that it would be five years before they’d pay for another bridge.

So here we are now. Another dentist, a good dentist, put in a wire retainer three years ago. It’s providing stability for the front teeth, which because of bone loss, have less stability. I went to this dentist today because the retainer wire was poking me. Apparently I had been too vigorous with the electric toothbrush. I now have three options: 1) Keep the retainer wire – most likely all will remain the same though getting the space behind the teeth will always be difficult to clean. 3) Conventional orthodontia. 3) Invisiline, which is orthodontia that takes the form of a series of retainers. Options two and three might result in more bone loss. What to do? I am on the fence and it is poking me in the butt. There is no easy answer.

Of course I am angry about this – this is not an instance of dental neglect. This is an instance of medical malpractice on the part of the dentist who put in that second Maryland Bridge. He knew what he was doing. He knew that he would soon be retiring and moving out of state.

What to do? I have no idea.

Next: 337. 12/6/17: The Writer’s Life: High Hopes

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