Chemo and Teeth: When Bad Luck Turns Good (Part 2)

Chemo and Teeth: When Bad Luck Turns Good (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of Ronni’s dental series. Read Chemo and Teeth: Not a Pretty Picture (Part 1).

At some point in my dental drama, I had lost so many molars that I had to nibble my food with my front teeth, like a rabbit, or gum it in the back, like a baby. I anxiously awaited the day when I would get a bridge on the upper left side. Then I would have a connection to the tooth below. Also, while the previous teeth pulled were at the back of my mouth, this one on the upper left was close enough to the front that you could see the gap. A bridge seems to be a euphemism for a false tooth. It is technically an anchor put on a tooth in front of a gap and the tooth behind, hence the bridge.

Financially, as well as physically and emotionally, this was a pain. The dental insurance I had as a full-time newspaper reporter wasn’t great, but what I bought for myself as a freelancer was even worse. For the plan to cover the major work that I needed when I had the toothache from hell, I had to wait a year…in pain. I would have spent a fortune on tissues to dry up my tears if I waited that long. I paid out of pocket. To the tune of about $6,000.

I’m joking, but seriously

I joke but am slightly serious when telling people that the day that I got my fake tooth, er, um, I mean my bridge, was one of the happiest days of my life. The day of an extraction at Brigham and Women’s Hospital also turned out to be a good one, though it seemed bad at first. One of the surgeons in the room said he thought he saw tongue cancer. A friend’s sister had died of it. I panicked.

A biopsy revealed severe dysplasia – the presence of abnormal cells at risk of turning cancerous. A head and neck surgeon at Dana-Farber removed a chunk from my tongue. The healing process REALLY hurt. With all that moisture in there and no exposure to air, it took a long time.

Meanwhile, a friend who had survived leukemia got a squamous cell cancer on her tongue. They took it out, but it was too late. It had already spread. Sadly, she died from the squamous cell cancer, not from the leukemia she had beaten. So if I hadn’t had those teeth pulled, the spot on my tongue might have turned cancerous, and I might not be here now.

There always seems to be something

A three-part bridge was my latest expenditure. I favor my left side; the contact isn’t as good on the right, where there are more gaps. In the process, I ground down three lower left teeth so much that there was hardly anything left. My dentist either likes me or feels sorry for me. He gives me a good price. Though it is mostly one-sided, we have interesting talks while I’m in the chair. He makes me laugh. The staff is super friendly and responsive. It would be worse if I hated going in there.

Last spring I got them a thank-you gift for taking such good care of me. It was an edible “flower” arrangement made of fruit. I figured that candy wouldn’t go over well. I enjoyed doing something for them as opposed to them always doing something for me.

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