A Dental Diagnosis

I’ve been trying to write this post since Monday but I haven’t really been feeling it. Truth be told, I’m still not, but I feel like doing a big old brain dump might clear the mental blockage that’s ruining my work motivation at the moment.

So, for those of you that read my blog on the regular, you’ll know that for the last 18 months I’ve been having a tonne of dental issues, the worst of which has been lingering, inexplicable pain in some of my molars. I’ve been passed back and forth between general dentists, endodontists, orthodontists and implant specialists. I’ve faced a few unnecessary and expensive procedures and a tonne of shrugged shoulders and blank looks.

After a year of frustration my endodontist finally referred me to a specialist and on Monday I had that appointment. Initially I felt pretty great; I’d gotten an early train to London and navigated my way to Denmark Hill on my own. A year ago I couldn’t have done that, my anxiety wouldn’t have allowed it, but now it just seems like a necessity. I had to get there so I did. That shows huge progress and I’m still quite proud of myself.

I’d been expecting a consultation that would have been over quickly and left me to go on my merry way, but I ended up stuck in the hospital for almost 5 exhausting hours. The doctor that was assigned to me was lovely, and gave me a diagnosis within the first half an hour, but insisted that I stay for more x-rays and blood tests and yet another dental exam. She echoed what everyone else has said, I’ve had a lot of dental work done for someone of my age but that it seemed to be holding up and there’s no infection or fractures that would account for the pain.

Officially, it’s termed Post Traumatic Neuropathy. What that basically means is that I’m in pain as a result of the combination of successful treatment coupled with depression and anxiety. It seems funny to me that I started this blog to document my mental and dental health and it turns out that they’re more intrinsically linked than I ever could have guessed! Apparently the recommended course of treatment is CBT and Amitriptyline, which I’ve done and I’m taking already, respectively.

At first, the diagnosis lead to yet another instance of crying at a stranger (I’ve done it so much over the last year and a half that I’m not even embarrassed anymore). When I gave it more thought though, I’ve become determined to see it as a positive. The doctor also commended me on going through all the correct channels and doing literally everything I’ve been able to to help myself so that’s eradicated most of the “what if?” thinking.

My biggest fear from day one was to lose more teeth, and although root canals and crowns have a certain life expectancy, for now it looks like I’ll get to keep them. A diagnosis also means that I can work on myself to try and improve my situation, which means self referring for more targeted CBT and going back to see the psychiatrist at Kings College hospital to discuss possible pain management meds in August.

Ultimately, my diagnosis doesn’t help me in the short term but it’s kind of a relief to know that I’m not going crazy. As with any chronic pain condition it’s completely unpredictable so one day it might disappear as suddenly as it started. Ultimately though, it answers so many questions. It explains my fatigue, my inability to sleep well, my occasional irritability, and more importantly the pain I’ve been in, and why things like alcohol help it and moments of stress exacerbate it.

I’ve been advised not to pursue braces as any further dental intervention is likely to exacerbate my pain, so the jury is still out on whether I’ll pursue that. At the moment though, having had a few days to let the information percolate, I’m just grateful that the endless dentist appointments are now over and that as long as I can manage the pain I can go back to having a normal life.

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