The Mighty Logo

When Dealing With Chronic Illness Means Routine Doctor's Visits Get Pushed Aside

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Dealing with chronic illness usually means a constant array of doctors’ appointments and hospital visits. You would think that someone who spends so much time in medical environments would be completely on top of their health as a whole. Even so, when spending so much time at specialists, the “regular” doctors’ visits sometimes get pushed aside.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a rude wake-up call, like what happened to me recently. I’ve been to many gastroenterologists and esophageal specialists lately, but I somehow hadn’t been to the dentist in two years.

I knew that I’ve been way overdue for a dentist visit, especially since the levels of acid in my esophagus can weaken my teeth. With moving, starting a new job, and getting ready for my upcoming surgery, I just hadn’t had a chance to find a dentist in New York City.

I also haven’t found an eye doctor, even though I definitely need a new prescription in my glasses, not to mention a psychologist and a dermatologist, but those will all have to wait until after the surgery. I thought I could get away with waiting to go to the dentist as well, but my teeth had other plans.

I was sitting at work one morning, typing away, when I felt something weird in my mouth. Turns out that part of my tooth had just straight-up fallen out. I had had a root canal on that tooth several years ago…but had gotten too caught up with my other medical issues to get a cap put on it. The poor little tooth just wasn’t strong enough to hold up.

Luckily, I was able to find a great dentist near my office, who saw me immediately. I didn’t exactly want to walk around with half a tooth, so I was glad to get it taken care of, even though it was the middle of my workday.

I didn’t anticipate the difficulties of sitting in the dental chair now that my esophagus has gotten so bad. The slightest prodding in my mouth can cause gagging or esophageal spasms, which isn’t super safe when someone is poking around in your mouth with sharp objects.

The dentist was incredibly patient with me, though, being careful to stop drilling if I had a visible spasm. It took her a little while to figure out what was going on, since I couldn’t talk while she was working, but eventually she understood that I wasn’t feeling her tools through the Novocaine. I’m definitely not the easiest dental patient right now, but this had to be fixed.

So now in addition to coordinating my upcoming surgery, I’m also trying to get a crown put on said tooth. The dental office has been really understanding, especially when the first crown that was sent from the lab didn’t fit my tooth. Now they’re trying to rush the new one, so that I can get it put on before the surgery.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose chronic illness takes over in the appointments department. I know now that I really do need to keep up with everything else, but it is easier said than done. Barring any more emergencies, my focus does have to be on preparing for the upcoming surgery. As soon as I’m relatively recovered, I do plan on setting up other necessary appointments.

Understandably, when it comes to medical issues, the most painful or prominent condition gets the most attention. My tooth ordeal showed me that part of taking care of the body as a whole is to not ignore the individual parts.


Originally published: September 1, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home