It’s been a year since I finally agreed to getting a partial for my sparsely furnished upper set of teeth. I was bothered and beleaguered and blatantly resistant, but finally realized that I needed to do something. And so, in great co-operation with one of my favoritest dentists ever, Dr. Steward, there were impressions made and a partial plate was procured, and —
It didn’t fit.
It felt so completely unnatural and huge and wrong and I couldn’t even get my upper teeth and lower teeth to meet. (I wondered which barnyard was missing their horse’s upper plate!) Dr. Steward took one look at my face, one look at the fit of the teeth in my mouth and started over. I still don’t know if that was necessary, or if I just “needed to get used to it,” but Dr. Steward mumbled some things under his breath about the lab not believing a bite could be quite this diverse and taking it upon themselves to change it up a bit, and how he needed to put on the instructions “DO NOT CHANGE THIS IMPRESSION EVEN A MILLIMETER! Just make it as directed!” He wasn’t extolling the virtues of the partial plate nearly to the extent he had before
(You see, I have a very strange cross bite as well as a very small mouth to put it into, and there has been more than one dentist who mentioned the fact that I needed to open wider. Then reminded me again. Then insisted in not so gentle tones. There was even one who found my efforts so unsatisfactory that he put this miniature jack into my mouth and cranked it open. It hurt like crazy, and when he was finally finished and released my jaw, it went into a muscle spasm that reappeared with regularity over the next year of two whenever I yawned. Shew-eee!!! That kept me away from dentists for a good while!)
But I digress . . .
Following the first disaster, after another couple weeks or so, a second one was procured and this time the fit was acceptable. Not that I liked to wear it. I didn’t. But the fit was about as good as I could have imagined after the way the first fitting came down, and I went about wearing it (at least some of the time). As time went on, there were days when I wore it less and less. It made my mouth so dry I could hardly talk. It sometimes made my mouth so sore in places that I almost couldn’t eat, and it just felt so unnatural. There were days when I thought about my grandmother, Savilla Bender Yoder and how I never saw her wearing her dentures. She kept them wrapped in a hanky, tucked into her Mennonite cape dress. They just didn’t fit her mouth right, and she really disliked wearing them. One time she dreamed that she saw them riding out of town, bouncing around on a flat bed tractor trailer, the only thing on the whole, empty back of the truck. I became rather sympathetic towards my grandma, and wondered about what significance that dream may have held. I kinda’ thought that wrapping my partial in a napkin and carrying it in my pocket would have the same desired effect — but when I remembered what they cost, I thought better of it.
And so the months passed. And the consistency with which I wore this appliance was getting spotty indeed. But then Certain Man’s sister, Lena, came to spend a few months and she was having severe issues with her dentures. Wanting to help, I thought that maybe she could get some help at my dentist. However, I realized how little I was wearing my perfectly good pair when I faced the prospect of accompanying her to an appointment.. I also realized that having a partial that fit wasn’t something to sneeze at. Which I certainly could do without fear of dislocating my upper teeth! (I did realize that a hearty sneeze could send false teeth into orbit if they weren’t properly fitted.) Suddenly, I began wearing my partial a whole lot more. I found that it was a rather useful gadget.
But then something happened. I don’t quite remember if it was at our annual picnic or some other time, but I was happily chewing away when I bit down hard on something with the only “anchor tooth” I had on my upper left. This tooth had been saved by a root canal and a crown and it sometimes protested having the partial’s clasp tightly around it, but whatever was bitten upon this day was very specific to this one tooth. And the immediate protest set me back a bit on my heels.
“Maybe that was just a fluke,” I thought sadly. “Maybe it is just sensitive for some reason, and it really won’t be anything. Maybe it will get better.”
Well. That immediate starburst of pain did pass, and even though I found myself being a bit partial to my one remaining upper molar on the left, it seemed that it wasn’t too bad — unless I happened to bite down on it. And as the days and then weeks passed, it became apparent that it wasn’t getting better. But the days were full of demands that left me almost not thinking about that crazy tooth unless it was late and I was getting ready for bed.
“H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m,” I would think as I brushed and water pikked and mouth washed with a healing dose of Listerine. “I really should do something about this tooth!”
But we went to Ohio for the birthday party for all three grandsons, attended the ordination of our Eldest Son, and enjoyed exploring the house that they had recently purchased, came home again, had a gazillion things here to catch up on and the days went by. Finally, last week one day, I had really had it and I called my beloved dentist and before I knew it, I had an appointment for that very same day!
I trudged into the office at the time instructed and tried to be cheerful. The dental assistant took me to my chair and did an X-ray and then Dr. Steward came in to check things out. He was his usual cheerful, kind self. He put my chair up in the air, tilted it back and proceeded to poke around the offending tooth.
“Let’s have a look,” he said. “Uh-huh! It has some wiggle in it!” (Why are dentists so cheerful when the news is bad!) He poked around some more and then said, “Well. It has a crack in the root. That’s a tooth that has a root canal in it already, and the crack is longitudinal. There’s nothing we can do except pull it.”
“What about my partial plate?” I asked anxiously. “That’s my anchor tooth for the rest of the plate.”
“Won’t be a problem,” said Dr. Steward, confidently. “We’ll do an impression, send the plate out and have them add that tooth, and then when it comes back, we will pull that tooth, and put the plate into your mouth right away. It will act as a ‘band-aid’ for the site and will actually be helpful.”
And so the impressions were made, and about a week later I went in and they pulled the offending molar. Dr. Steward was nowhere to be seen. Young, pretty Dr. Gall did the honors. It was a tough extraction. The crown came off right away, and then, piece by crumbly piece, they got the root out. The sweet young dentist was cheerful, careful and thorough. She left not a single particle of the tooth behind, and ended up needing to suture the gaping hole in my jaw. My small mouth made things a bit difficult — especially when my lip got caught between the forceps and my lower teeth. That situation got rectified soon enough, but a cold sore followed on the site a few days later.
When things were finally done to her satisfaction, in went to revised partial. My heart sank. The area over the stitches was so high, no other teeth would meet. I was exceedingly worried about this, but Dr. Gall encouraged me to not get frustrated — they were going to make it all right again. And so I sat for another half hour while they filed, then tried the fit, put carbon paper in my mouth and told me to grind, pulled it out and filed again, then the same procedure over and over again. Finally, I convinced myself that I could live with it, and that it would probably settle down and that it was never going to be the same again, and I might just as well get used to it. So I called a halt to all proceedings until the numbness wore off and I had a chance to see how things were and I got into my car and cried. Then I put it into gear and came on home.
Home. Where the fire was warm and there was a kind husband waiting. He ordered me to my chair under treat of retribution if I didn’t take a nap and looked like he meant it. I crashed onto the chair and slept a really good sleep. When I got awake, things didn’t seem so bad. The pain was manageable, and the partial was fitting fairly well. I collected Grammy’s Girl and together we fed the birds, looked for pretty leaves and made a pretty candle holder for a tea light.
The days have passed, as they are wont to do. There’s been plenty to keep my mind off my jaw, but it has been troublesome to put it mildly. I’ve been wearing my “band-aid” faithfully, and I do think it has been helpful. Pain medicine has helped, too, and now, almost a week later, I feel like it’s improving. Getting a tooth pulled just feels like a violation somehow, and I hate it! But one thing kept going through my mind while Dr. Gall wrestled with this tooth. That was how thankful I was that there was Novocaine for this sort of thing. It sounded terrible. In fact, it sounded like it was REALLY going to hurt when the numbness wore off. And it sounded like it was the kind of thing a person could faint over if they were trying to take it straight up. I thought about people through the ages and even now in less developed countries who do not have the choices that I have and who would have suffered so much more than I ever did.
And yes! My heart gives grateful praise. For Novocaine and and cheerful doctors who know what they are doing. For a nicely fitting partial plate after all the trauma and for competent dental care for me and my family. I’m thankful for a husband who protects and cares for me, and for enough freedom from pain to carry on with my responsibilities.
And I’m thankful for a brightly lit leaf lantern, for this season of grateful praise and for the many, many opportunities I have for joy.