Health

The Reality of Aging

I woke up to a face filled with pain the other morning. I sat up with a moan, trying to figure out what was happening when my daughter entered the room.

“Oh my God! What happened to your face?” Katie exclaimed.

I staggered to a mirror. My upper right lip had swelled to the size of a sports ball.

That would definitely explain the pain. Poking around the area I determined the source of my agony:

I had another toothache.

Shit!

I thought I had sorted all of my teeth. I choked down some pain meds, applied an ice pack to the swelling, and waited until my dentist office opened.

I spent a week on antibiotics to reduce the infection before my dentist felt safe removing the tooth. I am now teaching myself to speak with my upper lip covering my remaining teeth to conceal the gap and aid in pronunciation.

It is time I faced reality. I could end up killing myself if I continue with the misguided notion that I can save any of my teeth. My dentist has urged me to at least remove all of my top teeth and advised that I may want to have the remaining bottom teeth removed as well. While they may have a few years of life left in them, their removal is inevitable.

I’ve known this time was coming for years even if I didn’t want to face it. I’ve spent the past few years asking people who have had all of their teeth removed about their experiences as I sought their advice.

Interestingly, while those in the lower and middle-class income spectrum all recommend getting an immediate denture, every single wealthy person I’ve questioned has informed me that I would be wasting my money. Immediate dentures rarely fit right so they are uncomfortable to wear if one is able to wear them at all. Even the people who recommend them have told me that they only wore them on rare occasions if they could wear them at all.

One distant relative, a very wealthy businessman, had all of his teeth pulled at the height of his professional career. His research indicated that dentures would not fit properly until his mouth settled so he dressed in his business suits, taught himself to conceal the issue while he spoke, and waited three years for his mouth to completely settle before investing in his first set of dentures.

Other wealthy people have told me a similar story. Almost every single one of them decided to throw vanity aside and wait three years before acquiring their first set of dentures. Not a single one of them had any regrets over the decision, and every single one of them told me that I would be throwing my money away if I didn’t wait at least a year before acquiring my first set of dentures.

My auntie has suggested a middle-of-the-road approach. Have them all pulled and wait until at least Spring of next year to evaluate the condition of my mouth and decide if it has healed enough to justify the expense. She believes that, while I may have to replace that initial pair in a few years as my gums continue to shrink and the bones readjust that it would offer a reasonable compromise between vanity, health, and expense.

I’ve got to do this. If I don’t, I could end up killing myself. This last infection came completely without any warning. While I had noted that I had less energy over the preceding week, I did not make the connection between my energy levels and my mouth.

I have no desire to regain my freedom just to drop dead from a tooth infection.

Despite what society tells us, losing our teeth is not necessarily a sign of poverty. Even multi-millionaires have removed their teeth to avoid health issues and have opted to go without dentures for a time to allow their mouth to properly heal. As one wealthy lady informed me, it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars trying to save something that will have to be removed regardless or to spend a thousand dollars on a set of dentures that will be useless in a few months to a year.

I happen to agree.

When my dentist office opens today I intend to call and make arrangements. I will set my vanity aside and allow the world to think what it wants about my toothless demeanor; my health is more important than societal beliefs.

To answer the question you may be asking: no, I am not completely comfortable with the thought of eliminating my teeth. I am definitely not comfortable with having to walk around toothless for an extended amount of time. It has to be done, however, so I may as well get it over with. Procrastination serves no purpose.

4 Comments

  • Linda Sand

    My grandfather never wore his dentures. He ate a lot of soft foods–custards, noodles cooked in beef or chicken broth, etc. A pressure cooker was invaluable in his circumstances as it softened many foods he would otherwise not have been able to eat. Of course that was before the days of blenders and smoothies. You can do this.

    • Annie

      Thank you so much for the encouragement, Linda. I suspect that I may be able to eat better once the teeth are removed than I can eat now. The number of gaps I possess currently makes chewing even softer foods a challenge. I didn’t mention it in this post but that is another factor in my decision to stop procrastinating on this issue.

  • Karen

    I’m so sorry you’ve got to go through this. I’ve lost several teeth, and not for lack of regular dental visits or good home care.
    Although they’re very expensive, and perhaps not an option for you, dental implants are really the way to go if one can afford it. I’m surprised the wealthy people you spoke with haven’t had implants installed. It’s a lengthy process, but in the end it’s like having real teeth.
    I’ve had several done, mostly one at a time, but even with the help of so-called dental insurance it’s an expensive option.
    I wish you the best as you go through this uncomfortable transition.

    • Annie

      Hi Karen!
      I am losing my teeth to a condition known as “Mountain Dew Mouth” in this area. Due to a lifetime of imbibing soft drinks, the acid from them has destroyed the enamel on my teeth. Despite the fact that I have always been religious about brushing and flossing, my teeth were at the point of no return by the time a dentist diagnosed the issue several years ago. He told me that it was “just a matter of time” before I would need to have all of them removed. I have been actively procrastinating at facing the issue ever since but this last infection scared me into action.

      Some of the wealthy actually suggested implants if I could afford it. However, several purchased them only to have them removed in a few years due to extreme discomfort. Even if I could afford to have them, their stories have made me cautious.

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