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Today was The Start of All the Dental Work My Mouth needs.  I got props from the staff for just walking back tools of torturephoto © 2009 Bob With | more info (via: Wylio)
through the door – my level of chicken-heartedness is recognized there.  😉  I ended up taking Brendan with me, and he did great – very interested in the tools, the process, the (gulp!) needles, etc. And happily, this practice also cares for children, so I’ll have to get him in for a cleaning at some point in the near future.  :)

I put Peace & Calming under my nose and Valor on my wrists and walked in to meet today’s destiny.

I made it through the worst of it – the numbing.  I despise needles.  Having to get injections every day of my pregnancy with Brendan was a feat of motherly love, because I really, really, really hate needles. I still can’t feel part of my face and yes, we joked about the Bill Cosby “dentist sketch.”  I’m afraid to drink water from my Camelbak bottle because I think I’ll dribble down the side of my face still, but hey, I was brave and got the first part of the work done.  :)

The bummer is that we had to juggle stuff around – the broken tooth which had to be crowned also had decay under the amalgam filling, and instead of drilling too deep, they put a pulp cap and some other things in the tooth which will encourage tooth growth and healing.  And then packed it with a temporary filling product – which will give us a good 8-12 weeks of time to wait while the new tooth material is reproducing.  But in the meantime, we’re going to crown the other tooth.  Blurgh.  The only good thing that comes from this is that these two teeth represent the majority of work that will be done in my mouth (monetarily-speaking), so once these two are done, financially it’s a lot easier to manage.

I know that there will be huge benefits to having these mercury-amalgam fillings taken out; random people in my life have decided to share stories with me (unprompted) about how their health has improved after having this junk taken out of their mouths, and I personally believe I will see some major upswings in my overall health as well.  I did not, however, expect what happened today and if anyone had told me it would happen, I would’ve said, “That’s probably psychosomatic.”

The process of taking the amalgam out was quite extensive – a dental dam, an oxygen mask (so I didn’t breathe in the vapours from the mercury filling), and eye protection for me as well as the dentist and assistant.  The drill went at ridiculous speeds and the iPod was blasting my favourite Celtic tunes in to my ears at ridiculous volumes as I tried to drown out the volume of the drill.  When the amalgam was completely out, though, I knew it. Not because they said it was out, but because almost instantaneously, my brain was clearer. I was more alert and awake at that moment when the mercury was out of my mouth than I had been all day, even with my nerves about going to the dentist in the first place.

I related that to the dentist and his assistant and they smiled and said that I wasn’t the first one to report that experience. Dr. Kovar then said, “And that was just one tooth.

I’m genuinely encouraged about what I’ll experience as each amalgam filling is replaced, and slightly less chicken-hearted than I used to be.  This practice makes it easier to be brave than any other dentist I’ve been to.  :)

Well, I survived.  Thanks to countless prayers from family and friends, several doses of essential oilsPortraitphoto © 2010 R. M. Calamar | more info (via: Wylio)
(Peace & Calming and Valor), and a very chicken-sensitive dental office, I made it through the visit.

I was sincerely hoping that the broken tooth was smaller than it felt – because it felt cavernous.  No such luck – the dentist was looking at the radiographs (digital x-rays) in his office as the were taken and said, “WOW! That’s a BIG HOLE!”  Dang.

The short of it is that I need a crown on that tooth and maybe on another.  The other tooth has a cracked filling and Dr. Kovar will go conservatively at first, trying to do it with a replacement filling, only resorting to a crown if absolutely necessary.  The dental assistant told me that he’s a perfectionist, so nothing short of perfect will be done in my mouth as far as work.  That’s good – it scratches my own (recovering) perfectionistic tendencies.

But here’s where the real work begins.  I chose the dental office I did because Drs. Margolis and Kovar are biological dentists.  A biological dentist is one who practices holistic dentistry and won’t put toxic things in your mouth to fix your teeth.  There’s no point in fixing your teeth and poisoning your body by the materials used to fix your teeth.  I’d begun to be concerned about the sheer volume of amalgam (silver, metal) fillings I had in my teeth, aware that they were very old, and thinking that maybe at some point I would have them removed and replaced with porcelain fillings.

Now is that time.  This crown will be the first in a long series of dental visits to remove the amalgam fillings.  As Dr. Kovar explained it to me, amalgam is 50% mercury (the only metal that’s liquid at room temperature).  When you eat or drink something hot (coffee, tea, dinner?), the mercury expands in your tooth.  It’s packed in the cranies and crevices of your tooth, and it expands as much as the tooth will let it.  But guess what happens when you drink ice water (iced coffee, iced tea, ice cream?)?  That’s right – it contracts!  So all this while, the poor tooth is expanding, contracting, and absorbing pressure from eating, chewing, talking, and (in my case) clenching my jaws while asleep.  So last Tuesday night my tooth said, “ENOUGH!  I can’t take it anymore!” and broke off the first of 4 pieces that would eventually come out.

Now here’s where the “brilliance” of traditional dentistry-propaganda comes in to play:  that mercury filling is toxic when outside of your mouth. When it comes out of a mouth, it must be quickly whisked away, labelled as toxic waste, and disposed of in a safe manner.  But as long as that mercury filling is inside your mouth, it’s “safe.” Huh.  Really?  The distance from my tooth to outside of my mouth is something like 2.5″, maximum.  So the distance from “outside my mouth” to “inside my mouth” suddenly turns the most toxic, non-radioactive substance on earth “safe”?  Wow.  We really are sheep if we believe that!

As much as I dislike the whole dental experience, I am happy to have the amalgam removed.  I am excited to see what new form of health awaits me once this known-toxin is gone.  It’s interesting in that my research about side-effects of mercury exposure have turned up a link between asthma and mercury.  I got my first amalgam filling at age 3 (don’t ask why – most dentists who doing more than drilling for dollars will leave primary teeth alone) and my first recollection of struggling to breathe is at age 4.  Is there a link?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it will be interesting to see if there’s something there for me.

If you’re still not convinced about mercury and its off-gassing in your mouth from fillings, watch this video.  It shows the direct effect of heating up a mercury-amalgam filling (from chewing, drinking or eating hot things, etc.) under normal circumstances.  It’s eye-opening, to say the least.

So it’s not a big secret that I’m a dental chicken.  I had 6 years of braces, 3.5 years of retainers, and a mouth full Aaaagh!photo © 2006 Finizio | more info (via: Wylio)
of amalgam fillings to show what we didn’t know about dental hygiene when I was a kid.  Add in a few extractions, some oral surgery, and a desperately horrible (tear-inducing) reaction to whatever disinfectant they use (I call it The Smell), and you’ve got a fantastic recipe for a near-phobia.

So I take super-good care of my teeth – I brush like a maniac, I floss (unlike most people, I really DO floss when I say I do), and I’m very aware of my teeth in general.  I do this so I don’t have to visit a dentist very often – an ounce of prevention, as they say…

Recently, I’ve become more aware of how my mouth full of amalgam fillings might be affecting my overall health and have sought recommendations for a biological dentist, with the idea that maybe someday I would have my amalgam fillings replaced with ceramic.  I chose one, but like the typical dental chicken, I didn’t do much with the information.  Until now.

I wasn’t chewing anything when the tooth chipped; I was sitting at ReKindle, listening to my group-members talk about how they wanted to define their futures with their spouses. Suddenly, there was a piece of something hard on my tongue.  I looked at it and realized it was tooth.  I hate when that happens – I’ve chipped a front tooth ever-so-slightly and had it filed smooth, because I hate the rough-edge.  But I came home and examined it and Mark said not to worry – it was just a small chip.

The next day I tried not to worry when a tiny piece of amalgam came out in my mouth.  Again, I picked it out and discarded it – the last thing I wanted was to swallow that bit of mercury-laden junk.  And I tried not to worry.

Today, as I was flossing after lunch (trying to get the bit of carrot out), another piece of tooth came out.  And then two more. By then, I was freaking out.  My teeth aren’t supposed to fall apart in my mouth!  This understanding collided with my reality and I fell apart.  Mark tried to calm me down – for whatever reason, I didn’t respond to his assurances.  There is no pain at the moment, but there is a hole in my mouth, and I’m pretty darned sure it’s not supposed to be there.

So I called the biological dentist I had chosen from the referrals and explained the situation; the receptionist indicated that the doctor I would see was very gentle and sensitive to chickens.  This is a very good thing.  She said that since I had no pain, it wouldn’t be considered an emergency and Monday was the first she could get me in, but to avoid chewing on that side and getting food stuck in the hole.  It’s a bit disconcerting, really.  I wish there was some way to know what will be done, how much it will cost, and how much pain will be involved ahead of time.  In the meantime, there’s a hole in my mouth.

Time to screw my courage to the sticking place and face my fear, head-on.  😐

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