I am fretful because there was a misunderstanding at my dentist’s office. I thought they wanted me to go get some orthodontic adjustments for cosmetic reasons, and when I called back to say actually that wasn’t a financial priority right now so never mind about forwarding that paperwork, they mentioned that actually this referral was not about looking pretty, and they used the phrase “If the tooth can be saved,” which riveted me. “If the”! “Saved”! When I’D thought we were talking about The Pursuit of Unnecessary Dental Perfection! (This is the kind of event/reaction that gives a nice snapshot of the type of life someone is living compared to the world average. Is a tooth crisis at the HIGH end of my Life Stresses Spectrum? Then things are going pretty well, global-perspectively-speaking.)
This stressful phrase (“If”!) was on my answering machine, which won’t be clear from the first paragraph because I’d thought it would be simpler not to go into details such as that when I called them I talked to the receptionist, but then she gave my message to the dentist, who then asked a different receptionist to call me back. See how boring that is, and how it seems completely irrelevant? And yet without it there is confusion, because it seems like if I called them to say X, and they responded Y, my answering machine would not be involved and there’d be no Stressful Needing-to-Call-Back element to this story, nor a Not Knowing What’s Going On element.
Anyway, this means I need to call back and find out what on earth is going on. Casting my mind back to the conversation the dentist and I had, I think the tooth in question must be one of my two front teeth. [Update: Yes.] The root is apparently re-absorbing, according to the x-rays. (He didn’t say it was re-absorbing. But he said it was “transparent” on the x-ray. And I looked that up online and found that that probably means it’s re-absorbing.) [Update: Yes, the root is re-absorbing.]
It can happen from trauma or, most often, from orthodontic work. Presumably that’s where the misunderstanding happened, but I’m still not sure what the misunderstanding WAS. Why wouldn’t I have come away from the appointment realizing the tooth was in jeopardy? [Update: Evidently because my dentist hates to deliver bad news and also thinks a patient knows what it means when a tooth’s root is reabsorbing.] Why would I go to the orthodontist about a tooth that might need to be pulled? [Update: The dentist was talking about afterward, if I wanted to straighten my teeth in general. The person he was in fact referring me to was an endodontist, to see if the tooth could be saved. Endodontist said no hope.] If it’s the tooth I think it is, it WAS the one I wanted to go to the orthodontist about: it has shifted down from the other teeth in a way that bothers me cosmetically, but not enough to feel like it Must Be Taken Care Of. [Update: It is actually the other front tooth. The one I think of as “shifted down” is normal, and the one I think is normal is pushed up a bit, possibly because of not having as much root as it should have.] And certainly I wouldn’t want to finally go to the expense and trouble of having that tooth re-aligned with the others, only to have it pulled out.
Also, I’m very stressed about it maybe needing to be pulled. It’s not only the expense (my mom recently looked into the price of replacing one of her own teeth, and the estimate was about $5,000) [update: hers then cost well over $6000], it’s also the shock of not anticipating such a thing AT ALL, even as a possibility (“But I FLOSS!! And I don’t engage in dangerous sports!!”), and the way “having a tooth removed” has old-age associations for me. I immediately think of my grandmother and her fascinating removable-tooth-on-a-piece-of-fake-gums.