September 16, 2023

A less crooked smile

"You don't strike me as someone who is overly concerned about how his teeth look."

This was what someone at my dentist's office said earlier this year. I have told this story to a few people, and everyone has been a bit offended for me. But it was a true statement, and I took it as such. They knew their audience I suppose. 

My teeth have always been a bit janky, with two teeth half hiding behind my two front teeth, but it has never been anything that I cared much about. When I was a kid, braces were suggested, but it wasn't for anything functional, strictly cosmetic. I of course never fully understood what the money situation was growing up, but I felt like there wasn't money to spend on something that wasn't strictly necessary. 

And of course who wants braces as a kid. 

At the dentist earlier this year, they told me that my bite was putting too much pressure on a single tooth, and it was destined to crack. The two options were a crown, which would be a band-aid, or get braces to fix the underlying problem. Since this seems to be the year to fix what is broken, and kicking the can down the road to "future me" to deal with doesn't seem to ever work out, braces was the decision. 

Of course things have changed dramatically since I was a kid. No longer would there be a mouth full of metal, but rather plastic trays that snap into place. You have likely heard of Invisalign, which is a brand name for this sort of system, and I have something similar made by SureSmile. 

My treatment would be a series of 30 trays, each worn for two weeks, with each successive set moving my teeth a bit farther from their original state, each successive set moving my teeth a bit closer to the final alignment. You are supposed to wear the trays for 20 - 22 hours a day, only taking them out to eat. 

30 trays times 2 weeks equals almost fifteen months of dental fun. I just put in tray 16 this week, so I am halfway there. 

I can't wait for it to be over. 

Not because I am excited to see my new smile (see above about not caring what my teeth look like). Not because my mouth looks funny with the braces in, or that my speech is particularly effected (this tech is pretty great in both respects). No, I just find it an annoyance every single day. Not a huge deal each day, it is just always there, being annoying. 

For the first few days of every two week cycle, the trays are very difficult to snap in or remove. At my first appointment when the dentist/professional was trying to get those first trays in, it was a major ordeal, and I just imagined fifteen months of this pain-in-the-assery of me trying to do it my amateur self, and I did not take it well. And of course your teeth hurt as they are being pressured to move where they don't want to.

And honestly I just want to be able to sip my cup of coffee leisurely at my desk without being on a timer to floss, brush, snap my trays back in.

Again, small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, and tiny in the medical complaints department, but to spend $5,600 (adult dental insurance is near worthless) to do something that is annoying, where you don't feel like your life will be any better for it, while people who care about teeth are so excited for you...ugh.

Am I vaguely curious what my teeth will look like in the end - sure. Am I excited about wearing braces at night forever, because apparently your teeth still want to go back to square one - no. Was it the right decision - yes. I trust and like my dentist, and slapping band-aids on problems is not a long-term solution.

Will I continue to be annoyed, and miss those slowly sipped cups of coffee for the next seven months - yes, yes I will.

September 10, 2023

A flesh wound

 2023 has been the year of the medical professional. Thankfully nothing life threatening, but there have been more appointments and procedures than in any other time of my life. And more bills. 

  • One thing has me feeling like an old man.
  • One thing has be feeling like a late-blooming teenager.
  • Others, I am guessing, are more of an average experience these days. 

We'll start in the middle. One of the average ones. What is going on right now. 

I have had a growth on my neck for the last few years. At an appointment after it showed up, it was agreed that we would keep an eye on it. This year, it seemed like it was getting bigger, and was feeling itchy. The lump was sliced off, sent to a lab, and was determined to be a basal cell carcinoma. 

From my limited understanding and Googling, basal cell carcinoma is a cancer, the most common skin cancer, and the most common type of cancer overall. However, it is not one that spreads quickly, and is not generally a concern as long as it doesn't go ignored for a very long time. But it does need to be taken care of. The lump that was taken off showed cancer cells all the way to the edges, so there was more left on my neck to be addressed. Another appointment was made for this past Tuesday. 

More brief Googling. 

I had guessed that I was going to have what is called a Mohs procedure. In this procedure, skin is removed a layer at at a time, each one being analyzed for cancer cells. If that layer has some, you keep going until you get to one that doesn't. Instead, my version was having one removal procedure, large enough to feel that it was safe I suppose. This is likely much more efficient, time and cost effective, etc., but it was still a bit of a surprise. 

The procedure itself was fine, though the torque of the stitches as they closed things up seemed like a lot. They put the chunk of flesh in a jar for testing, and let me take a peek at it. The size of it was even more of a surprise. For a lump that was smaller than the nail on my pinky finger, the amount they took looked a couple of inches long, and about 3/4 of an inch deep. They said the scar may line up with a ridge in my neck, which was a great relief for my future modeling career. 

The test came back on Friday that showed that they got it all. Recovery has been a little painful, but most mostly just annoying. I couldn't turn my head for a number of days, so had to turn my whole body like a robot. It is also difficult to change out the dressing on a part of your body you can't see. I have become very good at using mirrors to cut my own hair, but somehow I could not get the bandages flipped around the right way looking side-eyed in a mirror. 

Pictures of the before, during and after (but not of the sample they took) are below. I don't think anything is too graphic, but the stitched incision is a little gross, so if this not your thing, you can click the back button now. 













After the lump was removed

First round mostly healed, on to the next

A day after removal

Five days after

Get those bumps checked out.