When 2016 began and everyone was celebrating, I was in a tolerant mood due to a toothache. The pain had been around for two weeks and each day it got worse. I knew I had some sort of infection because my gums on the upper left side of my mouth were really puffy, red, and I felt a foul taste in my mouth. I went to a small clinic when the pain was minor, but I guess the dentist missed out on something. Swallowing Tylenol, applying Orajel, and salt water rinses barely eased the pain.
January 3, 2016 I went to the emergency room at St. Barnabas Hospital with Gil. There was not much the ER medics could do except give me the wrong diagnosis of having a tooth abscess, predicting I would need a root canal, and get me high on codeine to forget the pain. At least I was referred to the dental clinic in the hospital, which we went to early the next morning. I was quickly called in.
After a few x-rays and explaining my problem, the dentist found I did not have a tooth abscess at all. No root canal was needed. My roots were fine. A cold application of dry ice to test my sensitivity and a pointed probe was put on my gums. That was painful. A gum specialist came in and asked me many questions about my family dental history. She suggested I get a scaling and root planing on the infected area. A few minutes later I was seated in the hygienist chair.
This was the worst part of my day. The pink gel did not alleviate the excruciating pain of the six shots of novacane I received and I yelled out. The scaling and root planing itself felt like an eternity even though it was 40 minutes. The pressure was uncomfortable. After the procedure was complete I was ordered to rinse my mouth with warm salt water 3-4 times a day and was prescribed painkillers along with antibiotics (doxycycline).
The next three days I had to miss work. The scaling left my mouth sensitive to the weather, my gums were still bleeding, and I developed a fever due to my body fighting the infection. I researched what could have caused the infection. I maintain great oral hygiene so what was I doing wrong? After a week on the antibiotics and other recommend remedies I returned to the hospital for a follow up.
This time I had x-rays done for my entire mouth. I have a tiny jaw so its difficult biting down on that little square. The dentist and gum specialist viewed the x-rays and then asked two important questions;
“Is there a history of gum disease in your family?”
“Do you have any problems related to your blood sugar?”
I nodded yes to both questions. Lo’ and behold my diagnosis was solved! The gum specialist examined me with more detail. The infection was thankfully almost gone, my gums had healed well from the scaling, and the pain was reduced to a slight discomfort. My gum pockets were measured by a probe and some of them were a little more than 3mm deep. She does not believe I have periodontal disease, but a gum condition. I was complimented on my great oral hygiene, but the family history and my struggle with hypoglycemia were not in my favor, so she came up with a treatment plan to keep “perio” at bay. I was scheduled for a laser treatment on February 3, 2016.
I asked the dentist what else I can do to improve the gum condition? He recommended better oral hygiene with products that have anti-gingivitis ingredients. I also asked about the use of a water flosser since I had a clumsy habit of cutting my gum tissues with any kind of floss. He admits no real research has proven it completely works, but to give it a shot.
So let me introduce you to my home team of keeping “perio” out of my mouth:
- Oral-B tooth brush with gum massages.
- Waterpik Water Flosser and Sonic Toothbrush (also known as the Complete Care Kit).
- Colgate Gum Health mouthwash.
- Colgate total advanced toothpaste.
- Salt for salt water rinses.
I do my new oral health routine at night since I am usually in a rush in the morning. It is more time consuming but has so far been beneficial for my gum condition. The Waterpik took some “training” when I first used it (believe me I wet most of the bathroom and myself with this thing). It leaves my mouth clean and plaque free, which is something my gum pockets need to heal. The sonic brush is used for massaging my gums and removing more plaque. Warm salt water rinses assist in eliminating bacteria from my mouth. I plan to reduce the salt water rinses to once a week. Add all this with not eating for the rest of the night and I am good.
Now lets fast forward to February 3, 2016, the day of my laser treatment. There I was in the dental chair wearing some cool goggles, getting 10 shots of novacane into the upper left quadrant of my mouth (two out of ten shots really hurt). I got a small scaling which was not painful this time around. The laser was tiny and had a slight tickle to it. There was the smell of my gums being treated by burning off the bacteria, it was not pleasant (think the smell of burnt rubber). The treatment lasted about an hour and my gums were covered in blood clots, but hopefully this solves the problem of what the infection caused. When the novacane wore off I felt a huge blast of pain. I was close to banging my head against my bedroom wall from how bad it was. The 600mg ibuprofen did not kick in fast enough.
The dentist did point out I might have a small case of Bruxism (also known as teeth grinding). Bruxism can have many causes such as stress, lack of sleep, anxiety, and in dangerous cases the beginning of sleep apnea. Most people do not know they are grinding their teeth while asleep. Mouth guards are recommended to stop the damage grinding can do to your teeth, but until the cause is clear on why I am doing it the “solution” is on hold.
Now you are all probably thinking “Is there anything else wrong with you?” For now no. I just need to be on top of my new dental hygiene routine. Fingers crossed I do not need anymore dental visits until six months from now. Its not easy for me to share this, but I do want to raise awareness and let others know how I small infection can almost destroy you in a matter of days.
Photo by: Rosa Elena Oliveras.