Friday, April 16, 2010

Not going as planned

On 11 March, I wrote about my oral woes. My mouth needs a new mouth. Today, I'm going to share some of the details, and explain why I say that, even though I'd summarized back then.

Years ago, while in NY, I went to the dentist because I knew I needed a cleaning. I wasn't looking forward to having my teeth scraped, but there's only so much one can do at home. The dentist asked when the last time I'd seen a dentist was, and I told him that I couldn't even remember that far back. Fearing the worst, he took x-rays, and was amazed to discover I had no cavities whatsoever. Oh, my teeth were out of alignment, but that was stress causing me to push my teeth forward while I was asleep. So he cleaned my teeth, and that was the end.

A few short years later, I moved to AZ, and found myself suffering what had to be one of the worst ear aches I'd had in ages. It was late in the day, and certainly not ambulance worthy, so I took a bus to the nearest emergency room, where they examine my ear and saw nothing at all. That's when the ER doc looked in my mouth and saw my gums were infected. He prescribed antibiotics, and I was fine in a few days. But the one thing he said that stuck out in my mind was that my teeth weren't in good shape at all.

This was a mystery to me. How could my teeth have gone from being cavity-free just years before to being the potential nightmare he saw? I took time to look around my mouth, and for anyone without dental mirrors and has also done so, you know what this is like. It means using both hands to spread your lips in various directions and practically unhinging your jaw to see what's what in there. I didn't have to look far. Right where the gum met my lateral incisor was a black hole that screamed, "YOU NEED A DENTIST!"

Easier said than done in AZ. Medicare (in general) and Medicaid (out there) have no "drill-n-fill" policy. They'll extract all of your teeth for nothing. But replacing them...? Not a chance.

So I've been doing my best to simply live with this mouth that's now filled with decay. Some of the holes allow for food to become trapped, regardless of how well I brush, and that's allowed for my gums to become infected over...and over...and over again. I've practically lived with a prescription for penicillin amongst my meds since moving to KS.

Knowing I need dental work done, and there being a dental clinic right next door to the medical clinic I go to, I FINALLY worked up the guts to walk in and ask what can be done for me. As before, they'll pull everything for free, but that's about it.

Another thing that has recently entered my mind is the possibility that I have osteomyelitis in my teeth, (or jaw, as my online research claims). I mean, I have one of the symptoms, which is joint pain far from my teeth. I've been taking narcotic painkillers to deal with just that. What if what's going on it my mouth is the cause for all of my bodily woes? Well, now I have one more reason to get my ass in gear and get this looked at, because if that's what's happening, I need IV antibiotics. Anywhere from four to eight weeks of them. (And that means another chest catheter. Oh, joy.)

Even with the worst case scenario being osteomyelitis in my mouth, the teeth have got to go. And once they're gone, I'm going to NEED replacements. No, not surgically implanted replacements. That's too much for me. I have enough on my plate without having each tooth surgically replaced. I'm talking dentures. (What's good enough for Dad is good enough for me.) And the reason I say I need replacement equipment is because I need to be able to actually CHEW my food. I already digest my food slower than normal. (Don't ask how I know this.) Without the ability to chew, it would be even slower.

On 11 March, I put a price tag on replacements. I claimed "almost $2,000." The price I was actually given was $1,750. Close to $2,000, but not quite. Since last month was a lean month for me, I have started the saving process this month. Even if I manage to save $200 a month, it won't be until Christmas when I'll be able to finally get my mouth replaced.

This month, I was given a drop of hope, only to have it evaporate with a few keystrokes. Kansas has something called "The Mission of Mercy," brought to the people from the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation. For two days, people from all over the state gather in Independence, Kansas to have dental work done for free. Initially, I was told they do EVERYTHING. So I thought my need to save money was over. But doubts were cast over the process, resulting in me doing a little research. It turns out that they only do extractions, fillings, and cleanings. I have too much going on in my mouth for mere fillings. Extractions would result in an empty mouth. And a cleaning...? That's almost the punchline of a joke. Thus, the Mission of Mercy would have been a waste. However...

Okay, here's what I'm planning on doing. First, I need to check to see if osteomyelitis has anything to do with what's going on in my mouth. If it does, I need to get myself set up for the IV antibiotics via a chest catheter. Then I need to contact the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation and find out if there's some way they can help me get a new mouth going. I'm hoping I can plead my case well enough that they agree to help. And if that fails...Well, my friends, I'll be begging for aid again.

I hate doing that. I was free and clear, now that I've moved in with people who give a damn about me. But this need has grown much larger, and it seemed to have done so smack in the middle of last month. Sure, it was bad when I first got here, but it's become a nightmare as of the middle of March, when it seemed that everything I ate was causing me discomfort in my mouth. I need help, and may be forced to ask my old network of financial aid to help me out.

I'll leave it at that for the moment. Just thought I should fill you in, (no pun intended). Meanwhile, be well, all.

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