Tooth Update: ten years of dental drama

Let me pour myself a cup of coffee as I digest the chicken burger with avocado I just inhaled. I will tell you a story as I sit and reflect on one of life’s foremost pleasures: enjoying a mediocre meal that tastes like the most amazing food ever specifically because you had a dental emergency and now your mouth is fixed.

That is a run-on sentence but you can deal with it.

Sidewalk splat

It was May 2011. The teenager was in first grade and I was working very part-time at Target and working on my second bachelors degree at Lafayette College.

I walked the child and a neighbor to the elementary school every day. This day was no exception.

I was almost home. But just like the opening sequence in Ryan O’Connell’s Netflix comedy “Special,” I fell.

O’Connell and I share similar experiences with our cerebral palsy. (For more on that, see my article from The Mighty, Grit and getting published on The Mighty.)

Ninety-nine times out of 100, I get up, brush myself off and keep going perhaps with a scratch or a scraped knee.

This day, I faltered on a bad patch of sidewalk, caught my balance, then stepped forward only to unexpectedly lose my balance again. And I didn’t have a chance to put out my hands or collapse into the fall.

My glasses went flying. My phone also sailed away. My chin was the only thing that hit the sidewalk. This was both lucky and unfortunate.

I stood, gathered my things. I knew my chin was bleeding but when I put my glasses on I noticed something:

There was a tooth on the ground.

I was about four houses away from my domicile. But in my shock, I had no recollection where the accident occurred. I called my husband. He demanded I go to the dentist.

At the dentist, the used butterfly bandaids to hold together my chin as they X-rayed me. They encouraged me to head to the ER next. I ended up with two stitches. (Both the ER and the dentist were utterly impressed I hadn’t broken my jaw.)

Dr. Lorri Tomko

Now, my dentist often has other dentists working in her practice. This particular day I had the true, true pleasure of working with Dr. Lorri Tomko. She went CSI on my mouth explaining what had happened.

When I fell, my bottom teeth and top teeth smashed together and damaged each other. I damaged most of my mouth that day. For the next few years, I had a lot of dental work.

Some of it was hard for me and for Dr. Tomko, but she was dedicated and gentle and it helped my anxiety that she walked me through everything that was going to happen.

She’s my favorite dentist ever.

The tooth I spit out was only half a tooth. It was one of the few cavities I had had and the tooth broke around the filling. A really ancient and in my opinion terrible oral surgeon pulled it, reciting the tooth number the entire time. (#29)

I can’t prove it, but I blame him for a bad mouth infection I got upon receiving an implant. He had missed a piece of the original tooth.

Last night’s broken crown

So last night, I spit out a crown while eating candy from my daughter’s recent Universal Yums box. I was frantic when I saw it was my crown and not my implant crown.

That original crown… Dr. Tomko couldn’t get the tooth to numb and she used laughing gas on me and said something about never wanting to work on that tooth ever again. And that we both needed a glass of wine.

I called her office today, but she doesn’t take me insurance and she couldn’t see me until Tuesday.

My normal dentist got me in at 3 pm, but at this point my remaining tooth is stabbing my tongue when I talk, eat or drink.

My dentist could take the impressions and get the temporary crown on. Thank goodness, but my mouth didn’t want to cooperate. I couldn’t stop my gag reflex for the impressions then I wasn’t biting correctly.

Apparently I kept shifting my bite to the left to bite the stuff in my mouth.

You know what’s worse that doing something that triggers your gag reflex? Doing it seven times! No exaggeration. Seven.

And of course, payment was $394. Their regular price was $1250. But my insurance price was $750. But they would only pay 50 percent and I had a copay.

  • If I look at my American Express bill right now it includes (from the last month):
    • $500 for a diagnostic ultrasound for my breast
      $175 for radiology for that ultrasound
      $400 for the dentist
  • Ridiculous.
  • Go ahead, politicians of a certain type, telling me again that the system isn’t broken. Corporations run this country. And medical insurance is big business.
  • A chat with my Chiropractor

    When you have a condition like cerebral palsy, sometimes it’s difficult to determine what’s an average ache or pain, what’s normal for you, and what’s an actual problem worth seeking help for.

    I’m too tired today to rewrite that sentence so it doesn’t end in a preposition. Deal with it, grammar police.

    I’ve been falling a lot lately. It started before my annual physical, the one where my blood pressure was so high the doctor threatened to medicate me. I fell just walking down the street. I’d lose my balance on the stairs. On Sunday, I stumbled while doing laundry and managed to stab the ball of my foot with the corner of a concrete slab.

    Since I walk a little funny, and I’m a little crooked and I have a little trouble with my S1 joint, my chiropractor has worked wonders.

    She also has extensive knowledge of physical therapy, so I tend to pick her brain.

    Today she told me to do balance exercises, like standing on one foot; calf stretches and anything for my ankles.

    And my past experiences in physical therapy for balance came flooding back.

    I stood on each leg for at least 10-15 seconds four times; I bent one knee and pushed the wall a few times; did calf raises, toe taps, some side steps and matching.

    She also told me to get that blood pressure under control because that also affects balance.

    My chiropractor’s web site

    PS: I destroy shoes. I wear heels at an angle. This weekend I spent about $80 on new shoes for myself. That will help the falling problem, too.

    Stress

    I’m exhausted.

    Obviously stress is in the air today. Nala ate through her perch in her cage. She has two, but only one runs the whole length of the cage and she ate the end off it.

    She played with a bunch of her toys, so I don’t know whether to chalk it up to boredom, anxiety or rambunctiousness. But she’s been here about 16 days and she ate her perch.

    I guess I need to find her some more toys. Although she does have a bunch.

    She seems to be talking more and dancing more. Her favorite song is Angelina by Harry Belafonte.

    Today I went through some medical bills, tax paperwork, a school fundraiser and some band trip stuff with my soon-to-be ex-husband. We all had dinner together. He brought a pizza.

    Then I finished my chores. Laundry. Bird cages. Some vacuuming. The roomba would not go to home base. After an hour and with the battery almost dead I discovered why… the roomba had unplugged its own base while vacuuming.

    And to make my day a little more demoralizing, I tripped over my own two feet walking between buildings at work. The administration offices and the literacy center are a block apart. And I just fell. I was hungry, probably worn thin from too much stress.

    Someone across the street saw me, and yelled to see if I was alright. She was walking a very large dog. I got up and said I was fine. Barely even scraped my hands.

    “Darn ice,” she said.

    There was no ice. Just me and my faulty legs.

    Sometimes I feel so healthy and strong.

    Some days I feel so broken.

    That is what it feels like to have cerebral palsy. Sometimes your body works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    The joys so easy to miss

    If you’ve read some of this blog, you probably know that I have a relatively new job in a brand new field that is giving me tremendous potential to grow as an individual and a professional. It’s challenging and rewarding and it allows me to do some good in the world.

    But in any new job there comes a learning curve and change can be exhausting. On top of my career change, my husband and I separated six months ago.

    So that’s another part of my life in flux.

    Last night, I went to the podiatrist as my toe has been bothering me. It’s the same toe on which I dropped a 15-pound dumbbell almost 2 years ago. I also broke that ankle 4 years ago now.

    I was fairly certain I just had a blister in a weird spot that went a little wrong but with my cerebral palsy I didn’t want to take chances.

    When I got to the doctor, after waiting a week to get the appointment, I realized I forgot my wallet. Luckily I had ways to pay them and my daughter texted me the information in my wallet but that stressed me.

    And then the doctor trimmed my toe nails and removed all the pretty nail polish from my recent pedicure. Now I know that is something he needed to do, but it made me very very sad.

    Then he prescribed me an antibiotic because it looked like the toe did have a blister, got infected, and maybe it was going to be fine but why take the chance.

    So I had to go home, get my wallet, and go to CVS.

    My daughter came with my and as we waited, read this joke book to me:

    I laughed at a few, despite my best attempts not to.

    When they built the Great Wall of China where did they go for supplies?

    Wall-Mart

    And then she begged for the book, and the cashier pointed out I had a 30% off coupon on my CVS card so now we own a $3 joke book.

    And she’s been reading me jokes ever since.

    Stamina and challenges

    My daughter has rediscovered her love of the treadmill.

    She has rekindled a dream of running in the spring with her very own dog by her side.

    “Hey, Mom,” she calls to me after an afternoon with her grandparents, “I want to go to the gym.”

    I don’t. But I’m stubborn and a lazy bodybuilding princess so I go. Because if she wants to go that’s a challenge to me.

    I like challenges.

    I even do the treadmill with her. I hate the treadmill. I hate the treadmill because with my cerebral palsy, the treadmill requires all my concentration.

    But today, as she did walk/run intervals on her treadmill, I had a realization.

    I’m not sure I know how to run.

    I set my treadmill to intervals, too. My intervals were 3.5 miles per hour and 4 miles per hour. But that difference was enough that I had to run on the higher setting. It was hard to stand upright, run, and not use my arms against the handles to keep my balance as I ran.

    That was interesting to learn.

    I’ve always wanted to run a 5k, and the last time I tried I did all my training and the actual race with a broken toe.

    So who knows.

    4th Annual Yuengling Lager Jogger

     It’s a bit of a long story but I will condense as best I can.

    I never drank beer. Started about two years ago when we found a pub near our house that served an interesting selection of craft beers (how can you not want to try a chocolate peanut butter beer named Sweet Baby Jesus?).

    They had Angry Orchard on tap and for beer sissies like me, hard cider was an exciting way to experience ordering a draft. 

    And then the bartender recommended mixing it half-and-half with Yuengling. And then I was soon drinking Yuengling. Like a real grown up.

    My friend Gayle mentioned that Yuengling has a 5K walk/run. So we did it. Last year. The third annual event. I finished in right around 50 minutes and if you’ve ever seen Pottsville and the race course, the first mile from the brewery is up hill.

    The second mile is flat for a while and then up hill. The third mile is down hill.

    The beer tent is at the bottom of the hill.

     
    I entered a significant decade on my birthday last year, and I have been working really hard to gain more muscle, strengthen my lower body and attain more general endurance and fitness.

    I was doing great. My body fat percentage in the fall was 21.8%. (I am scheduled for a follow up visit on Tuesday.)

    Then I broke my ankle. So, when I registered my daughter and I in the 4th Annual Lager Jogger my goal was to run it. Now I have cerebral palsy and I broke my ankle… But I thought this was doable.

    It was a rough winter. A non-existent Spring. An incredibly stressful Christmas season at work, where I put in practically full-time hours. Equally stressful at home with a pre-teen daughter who is so close to puberty none of us may survive 2016. I started grad school. My cat of 17 years will be put to sleep on Monday.

    Training did not happen. Not in earnest. My daughter flat out refused.

    And then child got a cold.

    And all my commitments made me a little crazy.

    And then the weather forecast said it would be 30 degrees and snowing.

    And indeed it was.

    But I needed to win something this week, even if it was hope of someday running a 5K. So I started to run up that hill. My cold toes hurt as the hit the ground and both ankles protested. I probably only made it a third of a mile but then I walked hard and fast. 

    One resident was passing out orange juice. Others had Yuengling on tap from kegs in their front yard, handing out beer to runners as they went by.

    Once we reached the top, I resumed running again and the pace kept me warm as the snow increased. I ran until my lungs couldn’t function in the cold air, walked to rest, and then ran again.

    I finished in 44:31. 

    I’m still no runner but I’m damn proud.