Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Take care of your TEETH!!!

        Twenty-two years ago I had the first tooth crack.  It was an upper molar and back in enough to not really be visible.  However, I went to the dentist like I should.  He wanted money up front before he would work on it.  We were a normal suburban couple, working and raising a batch of young children.  At the time, we had no health insurance and no dental coverage, and no Medicaid.  Everything we had went to the kids, to keep them healthy and their teeth in good shape, and eyeglasses on the ones that needed them.

        Besides...the tooth didn't hurt.  It was easy to ignore.  I shrugged and thought 'oh well', and went on with life.  I've always been the one in our family that took good care of my teeth.  I brushed them on nights when everyone else was exhausted and went to bed without brushing.  I flossed, when my kids just did so hit & miss.  I rinsed with either half-and-half water and peroxide, or mouthwash. 

        Time went by and another molar had a piece broke off.  That one didn't hurt either, though it cut up my tongue a lot while it was sharp, and eventually it wore down to where my tongue was okay.  My front teeth, all the visible ones, were still in great shape.  So again I just went on with life. 

        For a lot of years my teeth stayed about the same, but as I passed my middle-40s more of my molars started to break.  Still no pain, which was a real downfall.  If I had some bad toothaches I might have taken it more seriously and gone in to the dentist.  I was sad with each piece that broke off.  But I went on with life, working around the growing gaps back in there. 

        Then I started to get the occasional absess.  Sometimes I could take care of it myself by hitting it hard with saltwater gargles and peroxide rinses, and cutting all sugar from my diet for a couple of weeks.  In my body, at least, there seems to be a correlation to the sugar thing when I have an infection.  So once again, I had it handled.  I was fine.  Life went on.

        Last November, 2013, I felt really sick one day in town.  A vein in my neck was swollen and throbbing.  It looked like one of those cartoon hearts popping out and in.  My collarbone hurt.  I felt generally icky, but no pain in my mouth or teeth.  I had no clue at that time that they were related.  We thought I had a blockage and was on the edge of a stroke.  I was kept in the city over night on stroke watch and my blood pressure was high, which made it even more likely.

        The next day an astute doctor looked in my mouth and said it was a dental infection.  He prescribed an antibiotic and told me I should get the teeth taken care of soon.  And I was out the door.  The antibiotic did the trick, for the time being.  They prescribed penicillin that time, and I went on my no-sugar diet again.  I mainly ate fresh, unadultered meat (usually our own venison) and fresh or frozen unsalted/unsugared vegetables, and things like plain oatmeal with berries in it, no sugar.  The infection cleared up and as a by-product I lost 15 pounds in two weeks.  I stayed fairly good on my eating until we got into January.

        And let me emphasize that...I stayed fairly good on my eating, and I missed all the candy and pies and stuff throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  I ate one tiny piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and one small piece of peanut butter candy at Christmas.  That was my ONLY sweet treats the whole season.

        Then after New Year's we came down to southern Nevada to work for the park service at Lake Mead until May 1st, and my diet got gradually crappy until before long I was grabbing stuff off the dollar menu at McDonald's or buying cheap mac & cheese boxed dinners and hamburger helper, buying pizza and baking it.  I even broke my vow to not drink pop again and had pop a couple times in late January.  Then Dairy Queen had a "customer appreciation day" and everything was half price.  I had a banana split in the early afternoon...and a hot fudge sundae at dinner time.  Later that night I felt the first prickliness in my cheek on the right side. 

        I knew I was in trouble.  Yep, sure enough the vein in the neck was throbbing.  By morning my collar bone ached.  Infection was back.  I was an idiot.  I was also 1,100 miles from home.  It was a Saturday.  No dentist was open. 

        Well, no problem, the Wal-Mart store near here has a walk-in clinic.  I decided I'd just run in there and get a prescription for an antibiotic.  All went well and they took me back into a room and asked some questions and weighed me (I'd lost another five pounds!  Ha!), and then... they took my blood pressure.  :O  They sent me straight to the emergency room, got me right in ahead of a bunch of people and hooked me a billion things and had me scared to death, talking about my arteries just popping out from my heart and justlikethat I'd be gone.  My mind was in a whirl.  I never felt so scared of actually DYING as I did then. 

        My blood pressure was 238 over 118.  Kinda high, huh?  Just HEARING that shot me into an adrenaline rush and I had a huge panic attack.  They gave me more stuff.  I had a nitroglycerin patch on me, and they gave me four aspirin and piles of other meds, plus some antibiotics into an IV.  It took them FIVE HOURS to bring my blood pressure down to 194 over 89.  Then they gave me a pile of prescriptions and released me. 

        I made an appointment with a dentist, which was easy to do.  Well, the first place I called never answered the phone except a recording that finally stated their hours and that if it was business hours it meant they were busy and couldn't answer the phone.  I had done a google search on the dentists in the area.  The next one I called I chose because I liked the look of the dentist and his staff, and I liked that their website had personal things, like pictures of the dentist with his dogs, and he is a cyclist, as am I, and also supports a local cycling team.  They answered just before the second ring and got me scheduled for the next morning.  The gal I talked to was sweet and patient.

        Getting in to a doctor was something else.  The hospital gave me the name of their doctor-on-call who was supposed to get me in  in a timely manner by being referred by the hospital.  They had a 2-week wait.  I couldn't wait.

        I cleaned my diet up immediately and kept up with my walking and exercising, and kept my dentist appointment.  They were great. I was embarrassed about how many bad molars I had back in there but they treated me with respect.  They were ready to take the molars out on the spot except for one thing.  My blood pressure was up.  It was 212 over 119 right there in the dentist office. 

        They brought in their complimentary massage person to relax me.  She brought in her chair and I had the first massage I've ever had in my life, all while she talked to me calmly in her lovely New Zealand accent about two horses she adopted as rescue colts.  I could have relaxed just listening to her talk.  But when they took my blood pressure after half an hour it was almost exactly the same. 

        The dentist called a few doctors in the area but none could see me for at least a month.  The only one he found that would, was a concierge type doctor practice and I would have had to pay a $1,500 'membership' up front, plus the doctor fees.  *cough cough*  I think that's out of most people's range and it was out of ours.  So...back to the emergency room to get the blood pressure meds upped.  This time they also gave me an anti-anxiety pill to take too. 

        Now, I'm an herb-type person who has always been able to treat whatever came up by myself.  It really rubbed me the wrong way to be filling my body with all this stuff.  But at this point it was either that or die.  The dentist said it was critical to get this done as soon as possible.  The antibiotics only work so long.  And this one already had not been working this time and he had to switch to another antibiotic.  We couldn't wait for the doctor appointment.  So all stops were pulled out. 

        Starting Friday I went all vegan, and no salt, no sugar (I don't use artificial sweeteners either).  All I've been eating since Friday (Today is Tuesday night) is plain old-fashioned oatmeal with plain berries in it, pumpkin puree stirred into plain unsweetened almond milk with a little bit of cinnamon.  Bananas, apples, carrot sticks, plain rice cakes (no sodium) with unsalted/unsugared almond butter on them.  I've gone for walks and bicycle rides every day. 

        Yet over the weekend the best I could do was getting it down into the 140s over the 90s.  And they hoped for it to be lower.  Finally yesterday it started to come down more, except when certain stresses (like the 3-year old grandson we're raising getting loud and whiny) caused it to go up some, but even then it was pretty much just the 140s over 90-ish area. 

        Today it's been good.  130s over 80-ish most of the day.  They gave me the green light for getting the dental work done tomorrow.  The unsavable molars will be removed and the savable ones fixed.  They tell me that I should start feeling better, and that the low-level inflammation that has probably been circulating through my whole body from the bad teeth, will start clearing out and my arteries will become healthier again and my blood pressure should drop on it's own. 

        That is... if I live.  The likelihood is that I'll do fine.  But my blood pressure could spike during the procedure and put me into cardiac infarction or stroke or other ways of probable death, or at least permanent damage.  I feel like I'm in good hands, and the staff has kept in touch with me during all this and offered me all kinds of reassurance that they'll take good care of me.  The hospital is right across the street from the dentist office. 

        The reason I'm writing all of this to you is to bring dental awareness to the foreground.  Most of you who read these posts are preppers.  And as preppers we should make sure all of our medical needs are attended to and updated.  If the SHTF tomorrow, do you have bad teeth that should have been taken care of?  My recommendation is to GET YOUR DENTAL WORK DONE!!!  Be in a state of readiness for anything by not leaving that.  Same with any medical concern you have been letting go.  Get it taken care of.

        If you've seen the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks, then you saw him dealing with an absessed tooth he put off having fixed before the plane crash.  It nearly killed him and he had to knock the tooth out himself to save his life.  He passed out but he lived.  I'm not sure I could have brought myself to do that. 

        Even if you're not a prepper, bad teeth can ruin your health, destroy your heart, cause hardening of the arteries, and kill you from the infection. 

        Yes, it's expensive.  Find a dentist who will work with you.  Or start making it a priority and save money for it, and see if you can get started on the work as you pay for it.  And do it before things get this bad.  Not only will my bill be higher because I let it go so many years, but I also have two emergency room visits to pay for too.  This isn't going away for a long time.  We'll be paying on it for months, but I will be glad to still be around to pay for it. 

        By the way... the tingling I felt in my cheek?  It's nerve damage from the infection (which wasn't causing me any pain, by the way) and it was also eating into my jawbone.  If I had left this go long enough, and lived to do something about it, I would have been to the point of needing jaw reconstruction.  As it is, I may feel a slight tingling in my cheek the rest of my life. 

        To look at my front teeth you'd have never guessed.  What all are you hiding?


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