Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sjogren's - The Stigma of "Loss" - Dentures at barely 50 years old

If anyone would have walked up to me just 7 years ago, and told me that I would lose every tooth in my mouth within 7 to 10 years, I would have called them much more than I liar.

From the time I was about 13 years old, I was already repressed about my looks. I was never an "overweight" child. In fact, until I was in about the 5th grade, never would I have figured I would have a weight problem. Yet, as I said, by the time I was in the 5th grade, I began to have issues with my weight. I was never to the point of being "obese" but I had extra weight on me, that did give the other kids something to make fun of me about.

I also inherited two top "large" front teeth. My Dad, my half brother, myself, and then even my son all have issues with larger than really should be front two top teeth.  So, when I turned 13, I began to be embarrassed not just about the weight, but more about those large front teeth. I also had crooked teeth, especially about the middle 6 on the bottom. In fact, my parents had taken me to an orthodontist, and they had began removing some of my molars in order to make room to straighten my teeth. I also believe he would have "lessened" the two tops ones as the others began to be straight. So, I went through having some molars pulled, and had impressions made to begin the braces. Yet, for some reason (now since I am an adult I figure money) my parents decided against the braces. I recall just how upset I was. I knew my teeth were ugly, and I always my entire life dreamed of having "pretty teeth".

Years went by, and for many reasons, money also probably a huge one, I never went ahead even after being an adult had my teeth straightened. I could have, but I guess by then I "thought" the stigma was a bit silly. Just like I wanted a larger "chest", yet I was given a small set of boobs, and unless I wanted to go through the surgery and cash to have them enlarged, I would have to live with those also.

Life went on, I married, twice, had two kids, that are now grown, and one with 3 kids of her own, and as I said earlier, not but about 7 to 10 years ago, the two things I FEARED MOST, were losing my hair for some reason, or losing my teeth. I had lost a "half of a top tooth" at 25, in a 4 wheeler accident. My dentist was able to save the tooth, added onto it, and it remained fine until about a year ago.

Then I was diagnosed after many years of all kinds of symptoms of having "autoimmune illnesses". I went through several different doctors and diagnosis before we hoped we are about on the right road. Yet, even now, 7 years after those first autoimmune issues came to light, I wonder each day if we are missing one or more of them.

I've began to see that "autoimmune illnesses, diseases, syndromes... they work in "packs", almost like wolves. They catch you when you least expect it, you are usually overtaken by not just one, but two, three and sometimes more of them. Even though they may have "their own set" of unique symptoms, for the most part, they usually have such similar symptoms, that even trying to make a proper diagnosis is impossible. That is why so many of us may change from one diagnosis to the other, like the wind changes direction. You may have a set of symptoms that "blinks like a red light" saying LUPUS! Then within months, weeks, or possibly a longer period of time, something shows that you also have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's, Raynauds. Ankylosing Spondylitis, or other AI's like MX, Myasthenia Gravis, temporal arteritis, vasculitis and again that list can be almost continues into infinity. So, you may have one, two, or more of these conditions at any given time. Some may flare more than others, and usually after a deal of time passes, patients can usually know which one or ones are causing a "flare". Lupus is one for me that seems to cause me the most fatigue, mouth ulcers, a headache that is inflammatory, and nearly intractable. The only way to possibly "halt" it, is a huge injection of a corticosteroid, and a round of "step down" Prednisone.

So, the issues with Sjogren's as I watched was one of these illnesses, that no one seemed to take much "interest" in. I mean as far as my health issues. Of course part of that is due to not knowing a great deal about the disease. Other issues are that I believe most doctors, even specialists tend to be more concerned over vision problems, even the loss of vision, rather than on how it can effect each and almost every part of your body. "Connective Tissue" in the joints and throughout our bodies need "moisture" to keep them supple and usable. So, when Sjogren's comes aboard and takes that moisture away from our bodies, any and everything could be effected. Of course dry eyes and dry mouth. But, there is connective tissue in the joints, spine, between some of our organs, and any organ that needs its own moisture in order to function can be dramatically effected or altogether stopped from having the necessary bodily moisture it needs to survive. 

So, I as have stepped aside just a bit on my own venture with Sjogren's and how its effected my entire life, yes, it has created such a huge stigma for me, even larger than my "artificial knees, right shoulder, pain pump internally implanted, the scars from surgeries, and all of the other things that have happened to cause me to have doubts about my own perception of my body, my face, and how others see me.

I realize that my entire face has somewhat changed due to the dentures. Especially since the bottom dentures were "pinned down" last week. My mouth seems to be so much "fuller". Well, it is different. It has also effected my speech, how I say some words, and some I have a difficult time saying at all now. My eating habits are totally different. I felt my "diet" routine would settle back down to its own normal once the bottom dentures were more secure daily. Yet, now I am once again having to completely re-adjust to having them in, pinned down, and then how my top dentures "fit in" with the bottom ones now. My eating will never be the same. Many things I loved so much that I used to eat, I may never be able to eat again.

Between the horrid expense, which by the way, the bill after all is said and done, is right at $10,599.00. Now that does not include about the first 2 or 3 teeth that I had to have pulled out at first. Those are the ones that first broke off at the gum line. I went into my "regular" dentist and he pulled a couple of them before we even knew how bad my teeth were. But, of all things my own dentist has severe osteoarthritis, in both hands. It is so bad that there are many things he cannot do any longer. That is why I went to this other dentist after a couple of these teeth broke off. My own "regular" dentist just could not pull a back molar that had broke off, so then is when the digital entire mouth type of X-ray was made and then we saw that every tooth in my mouth was in one way or the other in the process of decaying rapidly.

So, you could add another $400.00 plus onto that figure above, and the whole situation was more like $11,000.00!!!! Plus, guess what? Just like many of you out there, I have NO dental insurance. And even though this was proven to be all caused from an "illness" and had nothing to do with my dental hygiene or any of that, I griped, fussed, threatened, cried, and begged to try and get a portion of this paid for by my health insurance. Yet, I never saw a dime. Even though I filed all of the claims myself, with all of the diagnosis coding and so on, my insurance refused to pay one dime on any of it.

Another little known fact, or was for me. Each dentist charges a bit differently. Some, charge in upwards of $25,000.00 or more, when ALL of your teeth must be pulled first. Or if you choose to try and "save" some of your teeth, which by the way I would NEVER suggest at all, to ANYONE with Sjogren's as bad as mine to "repair and save" some of your teeth, then just put in the others that were so bad in a partial. Bull!!! If you already have teeth that are "rotten" from the inside out, like mine were, no way, no how would I ever spend MUCH MORE MONEY to do root canals, caps, bridges and so on, only to have the others eventually fall out anyway. So, then you are stuck with another astronomical bill, and I've seen that type of work estimate at a definite $20,000.00 to well over $28,000.00 or more.

My dentist did two "treatment plans". One was to "save" what teeth he could. Do root canals, bridges, overlays, and then partials to replace the missing ones. That was actually HIGHER by about $3,500.00 over what it was to have them ALL PULLED and put in the dentures, including "mini implanted titanium pins" to hold the bottom ones in place. So, it was not brain science to me. Spend thousands more to "save" what I would lose anyway, probably sooner than later. Or go with the whole shooting match, hook, line and sinker... and hopefully be over with it, until "Gabriel blows His Horn"!

Now, as I've told this, I will say this once again. These "dentures" and having to have them as early as I've had to in life, has implanted its own "stigma" upon me.

OF course I've tried my very best to make "lightly" of it, by saying, WOW, now I have my "pretty teeth"! One of my dreams come true. Now, I will actually smile a bit in photos. Yet, underneath all of the lighthearted portions of it, still looms this "seething emotion" of just how much more will these horrid diseases take from me?

They take my energy, my brain at times, cause me to be ill more, have almost cost me my life back in 2010, have probably been the culprits in me having horrible, almost intractable headaches again. They have taken so many pieces of daily living away. By keeping me more tired, or causing me to move more slowly, not be able to think as quickly, or get dressed as quickly... the times I've had to postpone a family holiday celebration, or not be able to go out shopping. 

There is not one thing in life that autoimmune illnesses don't effect. Whether it is the person ill, with them, physically, mentally and emotionally. It effects those people around the person that is chronically ill. It can change the scope of relationships in marriage, family, friends and more. It can cause you to have to lose or quit a job. Your entire life completely is turned upside down and right side up. Often this actually occurs more than once. For with "each" diagnosis can come a new set of circumstances.

So, as much as I am "heavyhearted" at times about the loss of my teeth, how it happened, why it happened, and why there was not more done about it earlier in my life, I AM GLAD that I am able to have the dentures and my hopes are that they last the rest of my own lifetime.

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