Oct 272015
 

I don’t have my “original 32” teeth. I have 31. A holistic dentist extracted the 32nd — molar number 2, to be exact — about a year after I was diagnosed.

I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

Root Cause

The tooth gave me trouble for years. The root cause (sorry, sorry) was damage inflicted by an impacted wisdom tooth growing sideways into my molar. It left a large hole and a tooth that was sensitive to touch. Still, I resisted filling it, because I was afraid I’d need a root canal.

Finally, I visited my dentist and asked him to fill the tooth if he could do it without a root canal. So he placed a large mercury filling (this was in 2000, before the move away from amalgam picked up).

The tooth never entirely calmed down. It always hurt a little when I pressed against it, and when I drank hot tea, I’d notice a metallic taste. No dentist ever agreed to extract it, though, despite my questions about whether that might be a good idea.

It Gets Worse

When the big filling eventually fell out, I had it replaced with an even bigger one. I was preparing for grad-school finals and didn’t have time to do anything else. And then a few years later, I had a crown placed, but the dentist left a small piece of the filling inside the crown, since it was so close to the nerve.

Pain exploded inside my mouth after the dentist placed the temporary crown. I took constant Advil and waited in misery for the permanent crown. A few weeks later, when my boyfriend found a lump in my breast, one of my first impulses was to finally have that tooth pulled. But I didn’t. It seemed like a lot of hassle, and I’d just gone through a procedure to save the tooth, so why pull it now?

A few months later, during the cancer diagnosis whirl, I thought again about ripping that tooth out of my mouth. It was a visceral feeling, but I felt overwhelmed with biopsy surgery and a lumpectomy and then local radiation. I also didn’t know where to find a dentist who’d agree to remove the tooth, since it wasn’t dead.

Finding a Holistic Dentist

After radiation ended, when I was experimenting with supplements and diet to help me recover, I spoke with Bill Henderson, the author of the book Cancer-Free. He said he felt that until I addressed my dental issues, I would not heal from cancer. I wasn’t sure about this, but I started researching holistic dentists.

Later that year, when I’d found my alternative doctor and his program had started working, I asked him about holistic dentists. He encouraged me to let his program finish working first, but I was eager and said I’d rather do it now. I wanted the tooth out, and I believed that only a holistic dentist would agree to extract my tooth. So he gave me the name of a nearby dentist.

Instantly upon meeting the dentist, I felt at ease with the decision. He listened to my complaints about the prior 15 years of tooth trouble and agreed to remove the periodontal ligament along with the tooth. I decided against getting an implant, because that area of my mouth had been a problem for so long I felt it needed to relax and heal, not adjust to a titanium post in the bone.

Peace with the Decision

The procedure took place in October 2012 and took about an hour. Some of my bone had deteriorated near the tooth (which was drilled away), and my gums were deep blue from the mercury and silver leaching out of the filling.

After a few days of recovery, I felt better. I’d felt low-level pain from that tooth for so long that I’d forgotten what it was like not to feel dimly aware of it at all times. Now I felt stronger and healthier — just a general sense of well-being. When I told my regular dentist, who’d always been opposed to removing it, he said to my surprise that sometimes a bad tooth is worse than no tooth.

It was a big step for me to remove a living tooth with no implant replacement, no assurance of benefit, and a risk of possibly making things worse, but I felt deeply that it was the right choice for me. If you’re considering something similar, hopefully my story will help in that process.

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