Opioids and Looking Like Uncle Festus

Opioids and Looking Like Uncle Festus

(This will be posted to The Pain Community Blog on Facebook this November)

Several years ago I began taking opioid medicines to combat the hideous pain I’d been living with for decades.

It worked and I began to experience the happy diminution of pain throughout my body.

But–there’s always a “but” in happy stories–a few years ago I switched to another opioid after developing tolerance to the first medicine.

While the new medicine worked well I quickly developed dry mouth that I dealt with on my own; I wasn’t about to let a little sub Saharan dryness diddle with my improved pain.

Yet it’s in the interstices of muting pain and acidic Saharan Zephyrs that brews disaster in the mouth of the blissful unsuspecting.

Yes, brewing calamitous enameled weakness.

It started with a ham a cheese sandwich where in my second bite I crunched something much too hard. Fishing it out I held on the tip of my finger that which could only be a chip of tooth enamel.

This dolorous calving of my teeth repeated itself over and over in the following months.

Dental care became a must.

However, my tale of ending up like uncle Festus flamed up as if accelerants had been hidden in those increasingly edgy spaces between my individual teeth: my unemployed wife, my inability to work, our son still at university, dwindling savings and the conspicuous lack insurance.

But we all know too well that dental insurance is…well…laughable.

Denial fell like a blackout curtain across my reason: The loss of enamel, like calving glaciers, would certainly end soon; I could ride it out.

I couldn’t.

And neither can you.

Denial crumbled like my teeth when I saw the gaps, the lost teeth, the decay.

Uncle Festus in the mirror.

Eventually, I sat in a dental chair for days over months at the University of California-San Francisco being worked over by a student dentist from India.

I got good care, though the out-of-pocket expense was, and is now stunning.

Now living in Chicago with my wife employed and after selling one of our apartment buildings at the hands of eminent domain in Utah, we now have the thousands, I mean thousands, necessary to hammer, pick, extract, fill, bone transplants implanted perfect imposters.

I now look less like uncle Festus and more like my aging self.

The moral of this posting?

There is none. We’re trapped between the Scylla of delicious opioid relief and the Charybdis of disastrous decay.

What’s to be done?

Change, if you can, the medication. Consult a dentist privately or at a University if possible. Drink more liquids than you can possibly stand. Suck sugarless mints. Mouth wash, mouth wash, mouth wash. Floss daily if you can or use a waterpik. Rinse your mouth especially after eating; rinse, rinse, rinse.

Oh, yes, contact your legislators and agitate for better dental care insurance.

Any suggestions from sub Saharan veterans is sorely welcome.

About left0089

Columnist at American News Report. Pain care activist. Poet, memoirist.
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6 Responses to Opioids and Looking Like Uncle Festus

  1. Steve says:

    Would you be willing to skate which opioid caused the severe dry mouth and which didn’t? I get bad dry mouth from dronabinol, but in also on oxymorphone and Duragesic. Actiq was an amazing medication, but the sugar bought my dentist a new car.

    Sadly, since stopping Actiq (actually, I was on the generic, OTFC), the tooth decay has WORSENED thanks to my pain being severely undertreated. I was diagnosed with undertreated intractable pain a while back and my pain improved (and the decay slowed) once they increased my dose. Unfortunately, they refused too reinstate the Actiq or low dose methadone.

    • Steve says:

      Correction:

      Would you be willing to share which opioid caused the severe dry mouth and which didn’t? I get bad dry mouth from dronabinol, but I’m also on oxymorphone and Duragesic. Actiq was an amazing medication, but the sugar bought my dentist a new car.

      Sadly, since stopping Actiq (actually, I was on the generic, OTFC), the tooth decay has WORSENED thanks to my pain being severely undertreated. I was diagnosed with undertreated intractable pain a while back and my pain improved (and the decay slowed) once they increased my dose. Unfortunately, they refused too reinstate the Actiq or low dose methadone.

    • left0089 says:

      Makes you want to scream doesn’t it. The med that caused me the most dental problems was Suboxone then Subutex. My teeth literally fell apart and I’m now spending thousands in repair.

  2. Mary Allen says:

    So sorry for what happened. I wish you had included if you are still on pain medication. My daily pain is from Fibromyalgia, RA, Hashimoto’s Thyroid & almost daily severe migraines. I am weaning myself off all pain medication. It barely works & I don’t want to end up in cycle of needing to increase the dose or switching medications. I will be with a new dr who uses a natural approach to healing.

    • left0089 says:

      Yes, I am still using an opioid pain med. I started using it at a much larger dose after a fall on the ice last winter that led to the worst pain of my life. After the surgery to remove all the hardware from extensive spinal surgery in ’99 and the spinal cord stimulator implanted in 05 I began to feel remarkably better. The tripling of the opioid dose has really dropped the pain from the other disease I’ve accumulated over my life. I was worried about going over 100 mgs of oxy but now am thankful for a provider who wasn’t.