Thursday, 23 November 2017

Driving and Dental Surgery

Over the past week I have made the thirty mile journey up to Belfast three times; on two of these occasions I drove myself. I suppose I have been fledging, testing my wings to see what I can manage. I had to put a pillow against my side under the seatbelt, but I completed the drives okay. I took it steadily, after eight weeks off I felt a little rusty. I was tired and my side was sore when I got back home each time, but I was pleased with my achievement.

The first trip was for the sixteenth edition of The Squat Pen, part of the CS Lewis Festival. I am very thankful to my co-host Ray Givans who did much of the organising of the event. My contribution was mainly to the online publicity. We were in a new venue, the deconsecrated St Martin’s Church, which was an excellent space but in a rather out of the way location without parking nearby. All of the contributors gave great performances to a smaller than usual audience. Our special thanks go to Paul Maddern, who stepped in as our main reader when Fred Johnston pulled out through illness. Indeed November must be the illest month, as I had to step in and select the Desert Island Poem at short notice, after Mary Montague pulled out with a sore throat.

Second was for the AGM of Cancer Focus NI. This is a great local organisation that provides fantastic support for cancer sufferers and their families. Since my diagnosis in 2011 I have benefitted from a range of their services, including counselling and residential workshops on learning to live with cancer. Indeed, I have been an active member of the Sing for Life Community Choir since it was founded by Cancer Focus in 2013. I had put my name forward to serve as a Non-Executive Director and Trustee and I’m delighted to say that I was elected. I’m looking forward to helping to give something back to this important and much needed local organisation.

Third was for an appointment with Dr Mark Diamond for a dental implant at his specialist clinic on the Antrim Road. He is the most experienced implant dentist in NI, having done this work for twenty years, and his clinic is referrals only from other dentists. I needed to be there because I have some poor teeth. This is due to a combination of gum disease, inherited from my mother, and decades of poor dental treatment. I had been referred to him from my normal dentist because I had reached the end of treatment for the tooth in question, it had first split and then had been extracted.

The treatment began with my mouth being numbed by a series of injections. Then I had a panoramic scan done of my full mouth. Mark showed me the results. He could see exactly how much bone I had in my lower jaw and where the main nerve ran. This meant he could decide how deep to drill and the exact right size of implant to insert. The next step was he and his nurse putting on surgical gowns, gloves and masks. Then the surgical treatment began.

He first cut open my gum to expose the jawbone. Then he began to drill down into the jawbone. It sounds dramatic but you don’t feel anything. He used a long straight drill rather than the small one used to drill into teeth. It took a little while. He told me that I have a tough jawbone. And when the hole had been drilled deep enough, he screwed in a titanium bolt with a little torque wrench. It felt like someone doing DIY on your mouth. The wrench clicked as he screwed in the bolt until it reached the correct tension. The titanium bolt has a threaded top into which a removable cap is screwed. Then he stitched up my gum.

The implant bolt is left in your jaw for at least three months for the bone to grow strongly around it, before the next steps are taken. I drove home with a numb mouth and a short course of antibiotics to ensure there would be no infection. After a couple of hours the injections had worn off and my jaw was a little sore. I took a couple of co-codamol and rinsed my mouth with warm salty water. I’d have to eat on the other side of my mouth for a few days. But, in comparison to the other operations I’d had in recent years, this was nothing to make a fuss about.

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