I Lost My Molar

Yesterday, while I was chatting with my mentor about my React App, and about the timing problem I had with setState(), my head seemed to explode with pain coming from my upper right molar. I had not been having a problem that I knew of, and out of nowhere, I was overcome with sudden, spontaneous pain.

I had to cut short the conference, because I couldn’t concentrate anyway. My brain had gone from solving this timing problem and understanding how React schedules state changes with setState to holding my head and feeling whether the pain could be helped by feeling my gums with various fingers. Nothing helped. I wound up taking about 40 Advils that night. Eventually, I could get some sleep. As soon as I broke off with my mentor, I called the dentist, and I managed to get an emergency appointment my dentist, bless his heart, and he gave me the news this morning:

Your tooth is toast.

Actually, he didn’t say this, so I should not make it a direct quote. But I liked the alliteration, so I’m going with it.

It turns out that this tooth had a fracture for as long as my dentist has known me. It has been documented as far back as 2001. So I’ve had it for at least 17 years, and he suspected it was a pre-existing condition. He asked if I had extractions when I was a young boy getting orthodonture work and braces. I said I had. He said that in the old days (yes, I am old) orthodontists did that, but they eventually realized this was a dumb idea. Perhaps because it jeopardized surrounding teeth that no longer had the support for the root systems of nearby teeth and could eventually cause fractures in surrounding teeth? Well, I had one of those.

The Root Canal that Wasn’t

My dentist gave me the bad news, but that was only the beginning. The saga extends for at least one more sequal, which happened today 3pm. I met the endontist.

I’m not sure what endontist means. But I’m pretty sure he makes a lot of money, as if my dentist didn’t make enough. But he’s a very nice guy, extremely professional and fun and, well, I like him. Plus he’s in charge of making my root canals pleasant and not scary. So I’m not going to antagonize him. The plan was to start a root canal and figure out whether this fracture in my tooth would allow me to solve my problem with a simple root canal.

My endontist said to me, after about twenty minutes, that he would not be able to save the tooth. The fractures were too deep. He showed me the pictures, and I could see the fractures myself. It was basically a split tooth. No way could a root canal hold over time. The tooth would have to be extracted.

Next Steps…

Next is deciding whether to go with an implant or a bridge. A bridge takes the surrounding teeth around the hole (created by the extracted tooth) and killing them with a root canal. Apparently, a structure is built that anchors the new replacement tooth as a permanent fixture between these two teeth.

The preferred way is to construct an implant in the hole created by the missing tooth. However, it’s a trickier proposition. You have to create a bone graft for the new stud to attach to. Before that can happen, since this was on my upper jaw, not on my jawbone, my sinuses have to be pushed out of the way. We’re talking about some serious surgery here, folks. This is not a trivial procedure, apparently. It takes about 8-months after the extraction to get a working implant.

I have an appointment with the oral surgeon tomorrow at 3pm. I’m not sure what will happen then. I probably will have the tooth extracted at that time. He will probably look at the underlying bone structure and sinus layout. He will probably estimate the success probability of a bone graft and an implant. I could be eating mush for a while.

It’s possible I won’t be a candidate for this decision. In that case, the only options will be to leave a hole or construct a bridge. Sounds to me like constructing a bridge might be even more of a problem, because now you’ve got to kill two teeth that have been working fine. And then you split the workload of three teeth across two teeth. Not sure how that works out well. But perhaps we’re at the stage of playing the cards we have left. I’m not sure what’s best in this case. Is not getting a replacement tooth not an option? That’s what I don’t know.

Time was, it used to be the only option. If you lost a tooth, you had a hole there. But now there are solutions. And sometimes the hi-tech solution is worse than the problem. Not sure if that applies here, but I have to ask myself the question now.

Oh well, at least my skull isn’t throbbing, so I’m a lot better off than I was 24 hours ago.

Thanks for reading!