Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2014/ Goodbye, Tooth

Goodbye, Tooth

Today marks a turning point in my life. A few hours from now I will be missing a tooth. This marks the point at which my health got irreversibly worse. Although a tooth extraction is a relatively minor operation, this operation is involuntary, and it is a signal of defeat: my poor tooth has been judged irrepairable and unsalvagable, and so has been sentenced to exile. The dentists suspect (but do not know for certain) that the tooth has a crack in it, so they do not want to bother with a root canal. A root canal would be a signal of defeat as well, but then at least I would keep the tooth for a while.

This operation is concrete evidence that my body is decaying. If I had any reason to believe that this was an anomaly then I might feel less despondent, but this is not the case. I have another upper molar that is in definite trouble, and now the corresponding molars on my lower jaws are beginning to ache, and -- worst of all -- the dentists tell me that my teeth are demineralizing, which means more decay and more expense and more frustration. Even as I type these words I feel my body wracked by waves of anxiety and overwhelmedness. I have years of tooth problems to look forward to, and I am not looking forward to it at all.

Today marks another important milestone: the point at which my life becomes unaffordable. If I had to pay the entire cost of this operation out of pocket it would cost me two weeks of salary. In six months I will be out of pocket for $5000, which is about half a year's worth of savings for me. Again, if this was going to be a one-off cost that would be one thing, but this is just the first float in a long parade. For now I have insurance that will cover some of the extraction. Insurance won't cover the $5000 dental implant. I won't have dental insurance benefits forever. Already I resent the way that benefits are keeping me chained to my employment.

The tooth in question has a name, given to it by the dental-industrial complex. It is named "tooth 26", I think. Tooth 26 and I have a long history. In some ways it is to blame for me going to the dentist at all, because it is the first tooth that ached at night, and it scared me into thinking that I really should start going to the dentist, lest I lose all my teeth. Lots of good that did me. Yes, going to the dentist made my gums healthier, but I am still losing this tooth, and thanks to the demineralization I will probably be losing a lot more. I have been flossing and brushing regularly, and it doesn't make any difference. I (or rather my insurance) has been tithing hundreds of dollars a year for cleanings and fillings, and it doesn't make any difference. Once I had my teeth cleaned I became really diligent about flossing and brushing precisely because I did not want to lose my teeth. I have remained diligent about flossing and brushing. I am losing my teeth nonetheless.

I have been complaining to the dentist about this tooth for a long time. Again and again, they told me that there was nothing to worry about, and that (other than some small decay that required small fillings) the tooth was okay. Then Tooth 26 got infected, and suddenly it has to be removed. I have also been complaining about discomfort in my other teeth, and for years and years they have been ignoring those warnings as well. Now all of a sudden they tell me that my teeth are demineralizing, and that other than selling me $10 bottles of dental rinse there is nothing they can do.

It's all my fault, of course. I moved into a house where the water is softened, so I am getting less calcium in my diet. Apparently my water is not even fluoridated, which surprises me since I thought only Waterloo water was affected by the idiotic anti-fluoridation referendum result, and I live in Kitchener. I was sucking on lots of hard candies in an effort to lose weight, which no doubt took its toll. Of course, I had not gone to the dentist for over 20 years before 2009. But the biggest error I have made is aging, and this is what aging is like. My body is falling apart in so many ways (and this is just the beginning).

Today marks the beginning of a different long and expensive journey. Today poor Tooth 26 will be executed. In six months I have the privilege of paying the $5000 to have a titanium implant installed. Then six months later I can pay some undetermined amount of money ($1000? $2000?) to have a porcelain doppelganger of Tooth 26 installed. For the next year I will have a gap in my mouth, which will make chewing harder. Tooth 26 has two neighbour teeth; both of them will become more difficult to floss and brush, which will leave them more prone to decay.

The kicker is that overall Tooth 26 is still pretty good at its job. Over the past few weeks I have been noticing my chewing patterns, and I chew much more on the left side of my mouth than the right side, because chewing with Tooth 26 is more comfortable than the more-sensitive (and demineralizing) teeth on the other side of my mouth. Once Tooth 26 has been exiled, I will have to change my chewing patterns in ways that make it less comfortable to chew.

Goodbye, tooth. I hope your verdict was just, and that you really were cracked and beyond redemption. Beyond all reason, I hope you really are an anomaly. Thank you for your years of dedicated service.