To pull or not to pull: When autoimmune disease wreaks havoc on teeth
Written by Sandi's Ow on August 10, 2014
In kindergarten when my first molars came in, they collapsed.
During my first trip to the dentist, I got a filling and part of another tooth smoothed down.
When my adult molars came in, they did the same thing. The dentist capped both of them.
I always had cavities. No matter how much I brushed or flossed, I could count on having one or two.
I love milk and spent a good part of my childhood outdoors, so it wasn’t the calcium.
The big surprise came when I was 14.
I had 15, yes fifteen, cavities. The dentist of course thought I didn’t ever brush or floss or anything. I had to take a class in proper mouth health and I did every single thing I was taught.
It didn’t work.
Of course, no one considered that my immune system could have been in fault. I figured this out in my 20s.
Of course now, it’s obvious your dental health is connected to your health in general and bones are bones, whether above or below the gum line.
When I was put on antibiotics on a regular basis at 19, the cavities stopped. I had checkup after checkup with no cavities. I developed TMJ because I clenched my teeth and wore a splint in my mouth for years. Still, with antibiotics, no cavities.
When I changed rheumatologists, the first thing the new doctor did was take me off those infection-fighting drugs and – what a surprise – I had cavities a few months later.
The war in my mouth raged on through my 30s and 40s. In my 50s, things escalated.
I started getting abscesses and had a few root canals. I hoped that was the worst of it. I was wrong.
My teeth started breaking. At first an edge here and there, then whole pieces of tooth would come out for no real reason.
My dentist finally spelled it out for me: my teeth were demineralizing. They had given up the fight and were surrendering the only way they knew how. They were leaving.
It was scarily fast. I couldn’t floss my teeth without pieces coming out.
It was time to make one of the hardest decisions I had to make.
I visited several places that made dentures, selected a plan and made an appointment to have my teeth pulled.
Over two days, all my teeth were pulled. The first day I walked out with a temporary denture on top. The denture was full of pain killing goo to sooth the stitches there. The next day, it was repeated on the bottom.
It took well over six months for the swelling to go down on my gums enough to get my permanent dentures. It was enough time to pay for their top of the line teeth. I figured if I was going to have to wear false teeth, I wanted to look like I belonged on a red carpet somewhere.
Sadly, I’ve been healthier without teeth. No infections or abscesses to bring my whole body down, but I wish my immune system had found a different way to tell me it was in bad shape.