I’ll take ugly over hungry or dead.
I acknowledge not being the only person to fear people who stare at you through a large magnifying glass and carry a needle in one hand and drill in the other. Like others I flash back in horror to early life traumas perpetrated by professional hack and slash sorts who call themselves dentists. My earliest nightmare of such was age nine when Dr. Drilltokill climbed onto the arm of the chair with his knee to get better leverage. As his nurse pinned me in place he ripped out a tooth.
“Geez kid, you have the roots of a horse,” he grunted holding up the bloody and busted incisor and gleefully examined it in the bright lights with the joy of a hunter ogling his dead prey. “See that wasn’t so bad was it,” he grinned, failing to acknowledge the freezing had not worked.
Due to my fear of dentists I ignored signs and symptoms of dental problems, afraid to get them dealt with until issues became major. I did not look after my teeth. Flash forward to three years ago when on Boxing Day I suddenly developed a major tooth ache. I snivelled to Tez about not knowing it was the beginning of a long, arduous nightmare that nearly killed me.
By the time my dentist saw me the tooth had abscessed and my face swollen up like a gourd. Afraid to touch it he sent me to an oral surgeon. Dr. Naito skillfully took it out yet the pain continued and the face remained swollen. I returned to Naito three more times as he removed three more teeth in an effort to eliminate the swelling and pain. Eventually Naito ordered antibiotics and punctured the bottom of my mouth inserting a tube to drain out the poison. None of that worked either. Baffled by it all Naito ordered a blood sample sent to a disease specialist. The result – Osteomyelitis, a rare and deadly bone disease that literally eats away the bone.
“It’s a one in a thousand people disease Charlie, not well known,” Naito told me.
That’s when life became a bit of hell. Nato and talented oral surgeon teammate Dr. Bell explained they would do a surgery to scrape away the infected bone. Hodge luck continued to rear its ugly head – the disease was so extensive and deep they had to remove half of my jaw (from the left side of my face to the middle) peeling back the bottom of my mouth in multiple layers, placing a titanium plate where the bone had been, then layering back the skin. They did a tremendous job.
Three or four months later though the skin pulled away from the titanium and the poison returned.
This time plastic surgeon Dr. Williamson performed an eight and a half hour surgery taking out the old titanium plate and replaced it with a shiny new and bigger one. He then removed nine inches of my fibula (smaller leg bone) cut it into little chunks and grafted it to my new titanium plate. My mangled mandible is now covered with a beard to save folks from seeing the scars, but I am thankfully alive. Williamson was a god-send. However I have no teeth left on the bottom of my mouth and only four on the top.
I ate through a tube for several months and mushy food only for more than a year.
This past year I have been blessed with gums that have toughened up and I’ve learned to use my four teeth, old and rotten as they are, as slicers of some food. Last month one of them broke.
Nato sent me to dental specialist Dr. Chambers . Afraid of any surgery that may kick start the Osteomyelitis we ruled out false teeth or pegs and decided to simply attempt to save the four remaining teeth by removing the cavities and filling them. I asked him to somehow glue them in place. Chambers chuckled.
So yesterday Chambers in his calm, soothing, skilled manner did just that treating the tooth with Silver Diamine Fluoride (Riva Star) an Australian discovered product that stops cavities dead. Not only was I able to eat three hours later, my entire trip to Chambers was pretty much pain free, including the needle for freezing.
“The only drawback is that it turns teeth black,” Chambers told me.
I assured the fine fellow that with more than 200 stitches in my mouth and face, more than 50 staples and 13 screws from the past operations I was not worried about a couple of black teeth. My vanity and ego vaporised back with the jaw surgery.
“Besides I will take ugly over hungry or dead,” I concluded.