Sunday, August 3, 2014

My crowning achievement

Long, long ago, I mentioned that I might want to talk about the experience of having my tooth crowned. Well, months later, I'm finally getting around to it.

But let's start at the beginning.

I'm not sure whether it was the strain inflicted by my braces, or that time I bit into a coaxial cable and electrocuted my mouth, but around the time I started high school, my left front tooth (that's #9, as I've learned from hearing countless dental professionals talk) started to hurt and then turned grey. It was dead as a doornail, and so, for some reason, that necessitated a root canal. Fast forward to 10-ish years later, and a dentist finally told me the ugly truth: because of the root canal, my tooth was much more fragile than the others and prone to breakage...and because of it being a front tooth, that could be catastrophic. They recommended a crown to protect it from such a fate. Of course, they also recommended a bunch of cosmetic procedures like Invisalign and whitening, so I checked online to verify that they didn't just want my money for something unnecessary. The Internet corroborated their story, so I made my appointments to get a crown.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I hadn't bothered to use the Internet to find out what getting a crown actually entailed, and I naively imagined that they would just glue a coating on top of my existing tooth and be done. I was kind of shocked when they started anesthetizing my mouth and telling me they'd be cutting into my gums.

Then they got out the drill. I was not expecting this either, but apparently they had to shape the existing tooth for fitting the crown over it. I've had more than my fair share of dental work in my day, so this didn't really bother me, but the water that they were streaming into my mouth did. It kept streaming right out again, down the side of my face and into my hair.

Finally, eventually, they were done. As the dentist and technicians busied themselves at the counter by my chair, I had an exploratory poke around my mouth with my tongue. My tooth was all but gone. My lower lip sank into the gap, making me feel like a mush mouth (even more of a mush mouth than I already felt with 3 shots of local anesthetic doing their work), and I'm sure I would have eventually drooled. My mouth hadn't been in this state since I was 6 years old. But I don't remember it feeling like this then, either.

Eventually, sometime in the process of taking castings of my mouth and trying to fit a temporary crown, they gave me a mirror, and I saw the monstrosity that my tooth had become. They'd whittled it down to a cone, a snaggle tooth in a  bed of bloody gums [Lucky you, I lost that photo along with my phone]. I felt a little horrified, but fortunately, that was soon over, and they sent me home with a temporary tooth (which had the texture of sandpaper—I spent the next two weeks cringing whenever I touched it), a tube of Fixodent (just in case the temporary fell off) and dried saliva and casting resin all over my lips. My mouth tasted like dental work. I don't know if that was the blood coming out of my gums or one of the many chemicals they used in my mouth, but it is a smell I remember well from my childhood—not that I would mind not remembering it. As if I didn't feel gross enough already, a bird pooped on my glove as I biked back to work!

Things only got worse as the Novocaine wore off. Oh, the pain! My root canal hadn't hurt a bit. I thought this wouldn't either, since the tooth was already dead. But my mangled poor gums. They were swollen, bloody, and bruised. As the days passed, they began to turn grey. I remember reading on the itemized list of fees two separate instances for "infection control". Hypochondria set in. But fortunately infection didn't.

And that is really the climax of my story. I had one appointment to go, but that was basically more of the same, except less pain and drilling, and more artistry. They were very concerned with matching the color of my other teeth perfectly. They actually had me come in for a special visit just so their resident color guru could calculate my perfect shade. I found the process a little tedious, but I did learn something: Apparently, everyone's teeth have either a grey undertone or a yellow. Mine is grey.

So after two more visits and a little bit more adjusting (in spite of their best efforts, my gums receded under the temporary, so the new incisor had the long leggy look of a horse tooth. I kept having them shave a bit off the bottom. Even if that kept the new tooth from lining up perfectly with the one next to it, I felt like it overall gave my mouth a more balanced aspect.

I've been wearing this tooth for months now, and it hasn't fallen out, and fortunately it's much smoother than the temporary crown, and I'm pretty happy with the look.