February 28, 2012

Teeth, Part 2

If you missed part one, you can read it here.

Everything seemed fine with the two dead teeth until one sunny summer Saturday in June 2007.  I was bouncing my niece up and down and I went to give her a big bounce and I bit down and….something cracked in my mouth.  Cracking isn’t a normal noise for your mouth so I put her down and asked my mom to take a look.  She said your tooth cracked, right down the middle.  I looked in the middle and she was right.  My dead tooth, the one in the front was cracked.  Whenever I bit down there was pain. 

Maybe I should mention that my family from NH was visiting cause I was leaving on Tuesday for CA where I was have training for a little over a week.  After that I would be in charge of 5 college kids in Viet Nam for 5 weeks.  I was in charge of running a summer camp program and making sure none of them died.  And I was leaving a few days early so I could attend my best friend from college’s wedding.  As a bridesmaid.  Just keep that in mind…

So I managed to deal with the pain till Monday.  I called my dentist and since it was an emergency, they fit me in during lunch hour.   I saw a new dentist and see looked at it and took x-rays.  Because it had been dead for so long it became brittle and cracked all the way up to the root.  A cap would have prevented this from happening (they NEVER told me that!!!) The only thing they could do was take it out.  She tried to take it out but couldn’t.  I was full of Novocain and at one point she had the tooth in pliers and was trying to pull it out.  I had been back there for a couple of hours and finally the receptionist let my mom go back.  She saw the dentist, with a pair of pliers in my mouth trying to pull the tooth out and me with tears running down my face.   She put a stop to what was going on.

The dentist agreed that she couldn’t get it out so she called to the oral surgeon to see if they could squeeze me in.  They could but they were in their other office so we had to drive over there.  No biggie.  While we’re driving the Novocain starts wearing off and my face is throbbing.  Thankfully I got more Novocain once I got there.  They took me back right away but then I could hear some of the techs talking about how they were going to have to stay late because of me.  I was so stressed…I was supposed to be on a plane to CA tomorrow, my face was throbbing and now I had people mad at me.  The tears continued to stream down my face.  Great.  Then the oral surgeon walked in.  It was the guy who had originally done the root canals, the one with no bedside manner.  Lovely…the day just kept getting better and better.  He gave me a bunch of options and told me I should not go to CA or Viet Nam.  I told him I was going and that was that.  So we decided that he would pull the tooth and then pack it with cadaver bone.  He said he would have to let it heal before he could put a post in for an implant.  At that point I didn’t care, I just needed to be able to catch a plane.  I remember the oral surgeon being very unhelpful.  Needless to say I was NOT going to go back to him.

So eventually he gets to work.  He tried a few things but I guess part of the tooth had somehow fused to my jaw bone.  He eventually got it out but not before he had to take a few swings at it with a mallet.  And not a little mallet…it was a good size mallet.  A BIG mallet.  A BIG, RUBBER mallet.  No cool.  But he got the tooth out, packed me full of cadaver bone and stitched it up.  And he wanted to see me on Wednesday. 

So when I got home I called my contact person and told her what happened.  She was so happy that I was still going to go that they no problem with me arriving to Team Leader training late.  I changed my flight to Thursday and tried not to stress about missing training.  After all, I had NO CLUE what I was doing and I was feeling very inadequate. 

With the team at training in CA, June 2007

I got to rest on Tuesday and then had to see the dentist and the oral surgeon on Wednesday.  The dentist made a flipper (or a flapper?  I can never remember…the fake tooth thing to wear so people don’t know you’re missing a tooth) for me to wear.   I LOVE LOVE LOVE my dentist and they were so good to me.  The one with the pliers?  She was let go not long after but the other dentists in the practice are amazing.  So amazing that when the oral surgeon didn’t like how close the flipper was to the gum and he ground it down so it wouldn’t touch my gums, they were mad and made him pay to replace it.  I just pocketed the money cause I wasn’t going to wear the annoying flipper anyway!

I smiled like this a lot before I got used to missing a tooth and was still very self conscious! If you know me at all you know that this is NOT my normal smile.

So off to training I went, still sore and on drugs.  I was nervous and this didn’t help!  My team was great though and took my missing tooth in stride.  I remember learning some dances (like chicken dance) and a lot of them had jumping in them.  Without thinking I would jump along until I started feeling something gritty in my mouth.  Yup, the cadaver bone was coming out.  It was so gross.

With my team in Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam

The summer went well.  I refused to wear the flipper cause I couldn’t talk well with it on and I wasn’t supposed to wear it to eat.  It was easier and more comfortable to not wear it.  It turned out to be a good thing actually.  In Viet Nam many people don’t have great teeth.  There isn’t a high priority on dental health.  I never thought much about it but I had more than one student in the camp program say to  me that I had a beautiful smile even without the tooth and how it made them feel better to know that not all Americans have perfect teeth!  Some of them are very self conscious about their teeth but I was able to help them feel better.  It really wasn’t all about me.  I loved knowing that God used this experience to help others!

And I made back in time for the wedding.  I feel bad cause in all the wedding pictures I’m missing a tooth!  I wore the flipper but I think it looked so bad.  My friend was so gracious and was just happy I was there!  Thankfully you can’t really tell in most of the photos since they are further away.

Missing a tooth and wearing the flipper at the wedding.

And it’s not over yet…at least the worst is over!


  1. I can't believe your awful experience with the oral surgeon. But wow, what a blessing in disguise to be missing the tooth during your time in Vietnam! That is so beautiful how your student said you had a beautiful smile. It's always nice to see something from a different point of view. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your story.


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