Friday, September 28, 2012

Sjogren's: An evil twin to Lupus

Isn't it enough that I have SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus ) CHF, (congestive heart failure) Asthma and various and sundry offshoots of those primary diseases/syndromes, that now I have to take a real hard look at Sjogren's and what it has been doing to my body?
More specifically, to my mouth. Dry mouth. I sip on something all day, spray my mouth often with the remedy for dry mouth, which lasts oh, maybe four minutes, and I cannot cry. I mean, I cannot produce tears. I use eye drops several times a day, a brand that is used especially for dry eyes.
So it was no surprise when I went to my new dentist. My former dentist and I had a falling out; mainly it was his staff who got sideways with my daughter, who pays my dental bills. Long story. Essentially, I went to see another dentist. I had lost a the front, top. Where it's visible. I look like Granny Clampett.
I asked him if he could re-insert the tooth, and he shook his head.  Nothing to attach it to. We talked implants for a while.
After a thorough exam, and a scan like an MRI, he gave me the bad news.  Every tooth in my mouth has cavities. Every.  Single. Tooth. So I suggested that maybe he could fit me with dentures.  Get the whole thing over with.  Okey, Dokey. He worked up an estimate, or two, really: $60,000.00 or $80,00.00.
Before we sent the estimate to my daughter in CA, we did some Internet searching for places who make dentures. Every step is itemized on those sites.
I quickly realized that it's not as easy a process as it had seemed. And my new dentist had warned me about patients who had insisted on dentures, and a week later, they were back saying, "I don't like these one bit."  Of course, he was looking more at implants and bridges.
I did appreciate him telling me, after he had decreed all my teeth were "hole-y" it wasn't my fault.  Nothing that I did or didn't do caused my teeth to be in danger of crumbling, right before my very eyes.     
So, right now, I'm in a holding pattern, waiting for the next tooth to drop.  Which it will, very soon. New dentist had told me that within six months to a year, all my teeth would be gone. Lovely.
Bad enough I have a missing tooth on top, next to my new crowns bonded together for strength, as I kept losing the temporary crowns and the dental techs scolded me about "not being careful" as they re-inserted the temporary crowns each time.  I even bought some denture adhesive to keep them in, but they still fell out.
My self-esteem has taken a nose dive, for sure.  I had a good smile, darn it. Now I've got a gaping hole where a nice white tooth had been. I'm convinced I look like a hillbilly who has been drinking too much Mountain Dew (said by some to be Hillbilly Heroin). 
One good thing: I have good bones.  Long ago, I had bridges on both sides of the bottom teeth, which were badly done and infection deemed it necessary to remove them. That was when I had dental insurance from my workplace.  Unfortunately, Medicare doesn't provide any dental coverage. So, essentially, I've been gumming my food for years without any ill effects.
TMI, I"m sure. Too much information about the dental issues I've been encountering, right? But, I suppose I'm really asking for validation, or dire warnings from all my lupus buddies.
If you were this 74 year old woman with lupus, etc. would you want to take any of the measures mentioned above?
Every so often, I think, Why bother? Let the teeth fall where they may, so to speak. Buy a heavy duty blender and eat mush. Somehow, somewhere, a bit of pride intrudes and says I'm worth it. Even if they plant me the day after I get my dentures, by golly, I've taken care of myself. 
This week, in a message to someone on the online lupus support group,  I quoted M. Scott Peck's opening line in his book that changed my life: The Road Less Traveled.... Life is difficult.
Yes, it is. I have to keep remembering that.