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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.

I am a chicken.  A complete dental chicken.  This is really quite ironic, because I’ve been to the dentist most The Drillphoto © 2010 Paul Lowry | more info (via: Wylio)
of my life, had extractions, oral surgery, gum surgery, and 6 years of braces and 2.5 years of retainers.  It’s not like I’m afraid of the unknown.

Except maybe that’s my problem.  I’m not afraid of the unknown – I’m nervous about the known.  And then there’s the smell.  My friend Mel is a dental hygienist and she laughs at me – but she’s gotten used to The Smell. The Smell is enough to induce a full-on panic in me – it nauseates me and makes my eyes water.  There was one time I took Brendan to an oral surgeon to have his mouth evaluated (he was tongue-tied at birth and it wasn’t corrected surgically until he was 3.5 y/o – a long story) and they invited us back to the examining room.  As we stepped through the door, I was hit full-face by The Smell and did everything in my Mom Power to keep it together and not completely bolt out of panic.  So far, I’ve done a good job of not relaying my dental chickenhood to Brendan, but it’s work on my part.

Confession time:  I’ve not been to the dentist since I got pregnant with Brendan.  Yes, I’m aware that’s a long time ago.  And yes, I’m aware that he’s nearly 9.  Don’t remind me, please. But I have a good excuse – or set of excuses.  Mark’s previous employer had really crappy dental insurance – regular cleanings were not even covered at 50%, and we simply didn’t have the extra cash to cover the cleanings AND whatever work needed to be done.  Going in to debt to have unpleasant work done in our mouths wasn’t exactly high on the priority list, either.  Doing a really good job on cleaning your teeth and making sure you remove the acids from your mouth becomes a pretty big priority when you can’t afford dental work – and when you’re a dental chicken.  So I’ve been meticulous for the past several years about brushing and flossing and have done a pretty decent job, I think.

Now I look back and see it as a bit providential in the way it worked out.  A few years ago, I finally got my hands on raw milk.  Within a few months of drinking the raw milk, my teeth felt … better.  I’d had some sensitivity that I attributed to some potential decay, but miraculously, they went away and didn’t hurt anymore.  My gums stopped bleeding when I flossed, and there was nothing else to point to except the milk.  I wasn’t drinking a gallon per day, but just a glass and whatever was in my coffee cup in the morning.  Huh.  It kind of went along with Dr. Weston A. Price’s theory about eating real (whole) foods in primitive cultures and not having the dental decay/health decay that Western societies had after eating processed food.

We’re now in a place where we can afford to have dental work done – and our dental insurance enrollment is coming up in January.  All of a sudden, I realized – I want a dentist who looks at health like I do.  It’s what has put me on the hunt for a biological dentist – one who doesn’t use mercury-amalgam fillings (I have a mouthful of them), who doesn’t push fluoride on patients, and who will treat my whole family.  A few in this area are covered by our dental insurance, but several aren’t.  Which also makes me question if it’s possible to take the premium for our dental insurance ($70/mo) and stuff it in our HSA, paying for dental care out of our pockets.

Lots of questions, but I think there are answers out there – I just have to be diligent.  If the office doesn’t have The Smell, that could very well be a tipping point for me – because it also erases the majority of my fear about seeing a dentist.

Hard to believe that when I was Brendan’s age, I wanted to be a dentist!

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