Teeth and Head & Neck Cancer
I want to discuss teeth. I’m on stage two of a dental plate making process (partial metal denture). I lost my top front teeth in my most recent surgery nearly four years ago. The denture has been my lifesaver because I’m not confident going out in public without a set of top front teeth. The incisors to the side are large and make me look like a vampire (not really but I don’t like the look). Trouble is, the denture has become more and more uncomfortable over the years. It’s tight on one side and the only time I am unaware of it is when I am 100% in a state of “flow” or totally absorbed in what I’m doing. It doesn’t both me much on my long walks! I remove it if I’m alone but there hasn’t been much of that lately.
So after lots of discussion and even arguments, the oral health department of my local district health board has agreed to make me another one. It’s not easy for them because of my trismus, but I’m hoping for at least a 50% improvement. We have a universal health care system in NZ – which is great – but lack of funding around the edges is frustrating. The oral health department isn’t meant to make a second plate but they have relented. I’d have to mortgage my house to buy one myself.
I and other members of my support group have been invited onto a review of head and neck services in Auckland. Oral health is so problematic that we might have a separate committee just for that. One of the leading dentists told me that “Dentistry is the forgotten son of medicine.”
Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Head & Neck Cancer Support Group.
That sounds so frustrating, Maureen, but I’m glad they are going to make you a new one! What a relief. It sounds like you are uniquely qualified to participate in the committee. Your feedback will be invaluable, I’m sure! Could you explain what the process is like to have a new plate made? I haven’t had to venture down that path yet. I’m missing all my teeth on my lower right, but US insurance does not cover any replacements that I’m aware.
I know only about the partial metal dentures. It’s a 5 – 6 step process. First they make an impression of upper and lower jaw with some sticky stuff which will be a model for how to make the plastic plate onto which the teeth are fixed. Today I am going in for stage 2 but have forgotten what happens now – I think he’ll fit the plate and shave bits off it to ensure a snug and comfortable fit. Eventually they have to choose the teeth which is almost funny because even nice white teeth are different shades of white:) Some part of the process is making wire hooks to affix the plate to existing teeth.
I’m really interested in how people in other countries receive their dental care after cancer. Is it funded by insurance in the us, by the government in Canada and the UK.
Bringing @nanab1219 and @loli into this discussion about dental issues and insurance coverage.
More about my denture making process – step 2. The first impression with a rubbery substance was used to make a plastic tray in which to put another gooey substance to make an impression for the acrylic base of the denture. It is so hard for the prosthodontist with my trismus and my paralysed lip. He has to fit this big object into a small mouth! But it worked and came out after 8 minutes with a good impression. Apparently I need only 2 or 3 more fortnightly appointments before I can take it home. I sit on the dentist chair with my fingers crossed because a well fitting plate will change my life for the good.
I have to say that I am getting on better with the prosthodontist this time too. Last time, a couple of years ago I was a more passive patient. This time I have had a good talk to him, ironed out some of my frustrations and we’re both trying to do better.
As a long term Head and Neck Cancer I patient I can only recommend that people get their dental work done as quickly as you can and even prior to your cancer surgery if you can. I did not. I was unable to afford the dental work after my first surgery and radiation treatments. Cancer had killed the budget for everything. 6 years after and still paying medical bills I was diagnosed with metastasis to the lungs and lymph nodes. When you are diagnosed into stage 4 the last thing you will think about is fixing your teeth. That was 7 years ago and my teeth are now broken, chipped, missing and painful. I really never thought I would live this long so I kept putting it off. Get it done early if you can.