As the Crown Turns - Phoeniz, AZ
"Well I took a look and I see exactly what...
- 3 Nov 2011
"Well I took a look and I see exactly what happened," my dentist said. "Your crown turned."
"OK. Wait. What?" came my extraordinarily intelligent response. "I didn't know that could happen. How is that possible?"
Had I been standing up rather than laying in the dentist's chair, trapped by the overhead light, I might have stamped my foot like a frustrated 4-year-old who just got an answer she didn't like to her fifth "Why?"
As it was, "Seriously?" was the best I could do as he explained.
And thus begins the latest chapter in the saga of my first crown.
Let me back up to the beginning. In July, I manage to chip a chunk out of the middle of one of my back teeth. I have no clue how I managed it, but after I heard the telltale crunch and felt around with my tongue, I knew I had a problem. I took a quick look and sure enough, there was something resembling a U in what should have been a smooth molar.
I made an appointment to see the dentist, whom I hadn't seen since 2002 ... ish.
The bad news was I needed a crown as opposed to just a filling. The good news was a root canal would not be necessary. Back to the bad news, needles were in my immediate future. The victim of a moderately severe needle phobia, I instantly broke into a cold sweat, all the while reminding myself that it wasn't a root canal.
Since having my braces ripped off about 100 (OK 25) years ago -- I had bands on every single tooth, thank you very much -- I haven't had any major dental work done. This would be my first -- and now my second -- crown.
The prep went as you might expect. Lots of grinding, a seemingly inordinate amount of tooth dust, an impression and a temp. A week later I went back for the final appliance.
It was a tight fit. So tight they had a hard time prying it out of my mouth to apply the cement. Once it was in, flossing was quite the treat. This is likely, in my humble opinion, when the unexpected rotation occurred.
Everyone who has had a crown told me that you get used to it and forget it's even there. That wasn't my experience. I was -- and continue to be -- very aware of that crown from the moment it went it.
It was tender. It felt weird. And sometimes it downright hurt. Mostly it was a more annoying than actually painful and I figured that's simply how it was going to be. Looking at, it appeared fine to my non-dentist's eye.
A few weeks ago it started to hurt. I mean really hurt. I have a fairly high tolerance for pain -- with the exception of needles -- and it was driving me insane. The weird thing was it wasn't just my tooth that hurt. Sometimes it was my jaw. Sometimes it was closer to the front of my mouth. Sometimes it was in my ear. And I could feel liquid wash over my tooth whenever I drank anything. It was an odd sensation.
I thought I might have a sinus infection. I honestly couldn't decide if I had an ear ache that was affecting my tooth and jaw, a jaw ache that was affecting by tooth and ear, or a tooth ache that was affecting my jaw and ear.
It was truly bizarre. I could decide whome to see, my GP or the dentist.
When I flossed, my gum bled more than it should have and the floss itself seemed to be catching on something. I thought perhaps something was stuck -- you know how popcorn hulls can be -- but it turns out it was just the edge of the crown. And I could see what I thought was the bottom edge of the crown. That answered the question of where to go.
With a doctor appointment made as a backup, I finally manned up and went back to the dentist, fearing the worst. I wondered if I'd developed an infection, or, remembering the original tight fit, if my teeth were shifting. I had a variety of dental horror stories playing in my head.
One look at the X-ray was all it took to learn that my crown had turned. The rotation was small, less than 5 degrees, according to the dentist. But it was enough to cause pain, expose the nerve and leave me vulnerable to infection.
Who knew 5 measly degrees could cause all of that? Who knew a crown could turn 5 measly degrees?
"That's dental work for ya," my dentist said. "X-rays don't lie."
My dentist explained that it happens three or four times per year and is more common with round preps (as opposed to square ones). He said the cement takes a few minutes to solidify, which is why I think it happened when we were wrestling with the dang floss.
Bottom line: After less than four months, I had a leaking crown.
Had I waited to go back, my dentist said the pain would have become progressively worse and the crown eventually would have fallen out.
I learned that the particular nerve insulted by all of this -- the trigeminal or fifth cranial nerve -- is about the size of a pipe cleaner, stretching from about the middle of the front of the mouth all the way back to the ear. No wonder the pain kept moving!
The good news is there was no abscess and I still don't need a root canal. I do, however, need a new crown, and once again, there will be needles.
To be on the safe side in terms of infection, my dentist put me on an antibiotic and gave me something to manage the pain.
In about two weeks, hopefully sooner, we (he) will cut off the current crown and repeat the entire process from the temp phase. To keep this from happening again, the dentist says he'll cut a small groove in my tooth stump to catch the crown and prevent it from rotating. The new appliance and my tooth should fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.
I haven't decided yet if this was his fault or just a fluke.