The Tooth, the Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth

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Another week has passed and I finally made an appointment with my dentist to take care of the tooth that got pulled out by a piece of candy a couple of weeks ago. It isn’t bothering me — I believe it’s a bridge or a cap — and it’s far enough back that the gap isn’t easily visible.

It isn’t that I have a problem with dentists. Before Mom got her degree and became a teacher, she was a dental assistant, and I babysat my dentist’s three children. (My friends always said: “Ewwwww! Do you have to brush your teeth first?” when they found out. I never told them he would ask me to make fudge or some other goodie while he and his wife were out.)

No, it’s that going to the dentist is boring. I can’t just do one thing: I have to do at least two. If I watch TV, I have to also knit or play on the computer. If I read, I have to also listen to music. If one hand is holding a phone to my ear, the other one is holding a mouse and playing a video game. When I write, there’s either a TV or music playing in the background.

So I go to the dentist and all there is to do is lay there with my mouth open as he fills the empty void with his fingers and instruments — and then begins a conversation with me. Including questions I can’t answer ’cause my mouth is full. If nothing else, it disturbs my nap. At any rate, I have to drag my mouth in to his office tomorrow. I should remember to stick my tooth in my pocket.

When you have diabetes, you need to be extra vigilant about taking care of your mouth. When you run high blood glucose, your saliva is extra sweet and contributes to excess plaque (as does eating foods containing sugars or starches). Plaque, in turn, leads to tooth decay and gum disease. This is why you need to get your teeth professionally cleaned. It gets rid of the plaque and can save you all kinds of problems down the road. Even I get my teeth cleaned and, frankly, I’d rather have a root canal. I strongly dislike having my teeth cleaned.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

Gum disease can happen more often, be more severe, and take longer to heal if you have diabetes. In turn, having gum disease can make your blood glucose hard to control.

Also if you don’t have your teeth cleaned, the plaque hardens and you can get the first stage of gum disease, called gingivitis. That’s when your gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily.

If you still don’t do anything, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. In this stage, the gums pull away from the teeth and the pockets that are formed become infected. The infection causes the bones and tissues that hold the tooth in place to break down and you can lose teeth. Not to mention bad breath and a change in the way your teeth fit together.

Other diseases that uncontrolled diabetes can contribute to include thrush, dry mouth, and burning mouth syndrome. That last one is a burning feeling in the mouth, dry mouth, and a bitter taste. Yuck! I don’t want that one.

Maybe I should have called my dentist a couple of weeks ago. At least I’m going now. He’ll probably make me have my teeth cleaned, too.

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