So, teeth. Teeth are something you take for granted, until they start falling apart on you. Medicaid in this state does not cover dental for adults at all. I can go to the dental clinic for reduced fee care, but even that takes money I don’t have. And they won’t touch my bottom teeth at all because the nerve is tangled with too many roots. I need a dental surgeon for that. They don’t have one in the clinic, I’d have to pay for that entirely out of pocket, full price. I take extra calcium, I brush extra, I use a mouth wash rinse, I’ve stopped flossing because that was just making it worse.
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I guess I should start at the beginning. I’ve been asthmatic since I was about 15 years old, and it’s gradually gotten more and more severe until at this point I have permanent lung damage and I’m sitting at about 60% of average lung volume for my age. This means I’ve been using an albuterol inhaler for almost 30 years now. I also use albuterol nebulizer treatments regularly, singulair twice a day, and take prednisone daily amongst other things. There’s a reason you are supposed to rinse your mouth after using albuterol. It can affect the enamel on teeth.
They haven’t done any studies I’ve been able to find, but I’ve spoken with a few dentists and dental assistants and it seems to be common knowledge (to the point they note it in dental charts) that asthmatics are at risk for higher rates of tooth decay due to inhaler use. I went to college with an orthodontic assistant, and she talked to the orthodontist about it, and he said as well that my tooth issues were due to the inhalers and really there was nothing that could be done about it other than what I was doing to slow the damage. My sister was told the same thing by her dentist. She hasn’t been on albuterol as long and her asthma isn’t as severe, but she’s still having issues.
So now, my teeth are falling apart, from the inside out. I can see it. First one will change color; the enamel will almost be opaque. Then it will darken. This can take a few days or a few weeks depending on the tooth. Then I’ll wake up and half the tooth will be gone, or I’ll bite into something and half of it will fall away. It doesn’t hurt. Not yet. The tooth itself is dead. It isn’t until weeks or months later once most of the tooth is gone and the gum gets aggravated that swelling and pain starts.
Sometimes in the time between the first piece falling out and most of it being gone, edges get sharp and cut the inside of my lips and my tongue. Then I end up rubbing at the tooth with my finger hoping to rub the edges off so it stops. Sometimes I’ll get chewing gum and fold it over the sharp part for a while to give my mouth a break. I’ve found bits of tooth in my chewing gum as well. But the gum helps relieve some of the pain.
Right now I have four teeth on the bottom mostly gone and one in process, all molars. On the top I have three teeth gone, one mostly gone, and three others which are affected. One has a hole and is black inside, one has just turned black, and a third is slowly going opaque. Those four are in the front. Soon I’ll lose my bite, or at least the top half. If I ever win the lottery I think I just want to have them all pulled and get false teeth; teeth I can take out when I use my inhaler and put back in after I’ve rinsed my mouth. They’re all going to fall out piece by piece anyway, I think it would be better to get it all done and over with; it may hurt more in the short run but I could stop worrying about it and stop worrying about something getting infected and causing more problems.
As I write this a sliver of one of the bottom teeth has broken off of the rest of the tooth. It wiggles, it hurts, and it’s still lodged in the gum. If I can get it loose it will bleed a bit, but the gum will heal and it will stop hurting. At least until another piece or tooth gets to this point. If I don’t it will swell up and get infected. I know this from experience.
Maybe if I had dental insurance they wouldn’t be this bad. Maybe they would be just as bad but I’d be able to get them taken care of instead of just dealing with it and hoping for the best. Instead I do what I can to reduce the effects of my medicine on my teeth. I take extra supplements, I take extra care of my teeth, I watch my nutrition (because several of my meds leech other nutrients as well), and as I said I’ve stopped flossing because that just seems to break them apart faster. I’m careful what I bite into; nothing too hard or too cold. Nothing too sticky either because that just gets wedged in and nothing gets it free. Everything is linked; lungs, teeth, meds, calcium, etc. What I don’t understand is why the people who designed the safety net, the ones who care about those of us who need it, can’t seem to consider that. I guess I’ll just have to focus on winning the lottery.