Denture Drama

This afternoon I took Mom back to the dentist for the first time since her hospitalization. I was almost ready to throw in the towel on the upper dentures that she refused to keep in her mouth for more than ten minutes at a time, but Dr. K wasn’t giving in so easily. He made some adjustments based on where she said it hurt, but then he told her that she has to wear them for a few hours at a time for at least a couple of days before he can adjust it further. And he told me he wouldn’t do anything to repair her existing upper partial until she’s at least TRIED to get used to the new teeth because, if she has the old ones working well enough, she’ll never make the effort to adjust to the new ones. And the new ones WILL work better if she can just get through this adjustment phase. At the end of the visit, he put Fixodent on the upper denture and put it in her mouth and told her, “Wear it for as long as you can stand it, or until bedtime, and then take it out.” Her next appointment is on Tuesday, so she’s supposed to wear them all day on Monday. I’m not sure how I’m going to get her to do that. I know for sure she won’t put them in unless somebody stands there and makes her, and I have to be at work on Monday.

In the car she was grumbling about how weird they feel in her mouth. I talked about what it felt like getting braces on my teeth when I was thirteen, how I went home from the orthodontist and cried because it hurt so much, and how mad I was at her and dad for making me wear braces. But it wasn’t that bad once I got used to them. I told her maybe getting used to dentures is like getting used to braces. “Maybe,” she said.

There was half an hour until dinner time when we got back to her place, so she stretched out for a nap while I went down to the front desk to inquire about getting her a ride on Tuesday. I don’t have to be there for that appointment, really. And I need to prioritize what I take time off work to do for her. When I got to the front desk, the administrator asked if he could speak to me in his office. Uh oh…

It turns out her table mates, the Egyptian couple, are really bothered by her habit of taking her partials out at the table. They complained about it to their daughter, who complained to the administrator. I don’t blame them. It’s pretty disgusting, even to me. The administrator is concerned that F, the man, has a temper and might start yelling at my mom. His recommendation was to move her to a different table, a table with “lower functioning” residents who won’t be upset by lapses in dining room etiquette or other idiosyncrasies. There are two women and a man at the new table and they are all, to use the clinical definition, pretty much out to lunch. But the ladies are friendly and talkative, which will be an improvement over the taciturn, grumpy Egyptians – especially after Dominic leaves. They wanted to seat her at the new table for dinner today, but I said she’d had enough upheaval for one day and asked them to wait until tomorrow. I talked with the administrator for a while about my concerns regarding Mom’s depression symptoms and loss of cognitive function. He made a couple of helpful suggestions, including offering to have one of the caregivers escort her to the dance class (the one activity she had really shown interest in) every Monday.

I sat with Mom at dinner, so I could make sure she was managing OK with the new denture and stop her from taking her teeth out at the table. The Egyptians were more sullen and taciturn than usual, probably disappointed that she was still sitting with them even after they complained. Mom had a hard time eating with the new denture, so she only at a few bites of soup, a few bites of twice baked potato and a few bites of dessert. And two cups of coffee. She kept wanting to fool with the denture, or with her lower partial, and I had to keep gently reminding her to leave it alone for now – silently thanking Dr. K for gluing the new upper denture in place. I was also thankful for Dominic, who refilled Mom’s water glass and waved the server over to bring her coffee and kept some conversation going. And I felt just a little vindicated when F grumbled at him about something and Dom replied “I’ll be outta your hair soon. You’ll have somebody new to yell at.” I think it’s a good thing Mom won’t be left sitting with these grouchy, sour people after he leaves.

I left her after dinner, lying down in her room listening to a CD of Christian music, and went grocery shopping before going home to cook myself dinner. As I was writing this, it occurred to me to call and check on her. She’d just had her shower and was feeling perky. I asked her to please drink an Ensure, since she ate so little at dinner, and she got one from the fridge as we talked. Then I asked if she’d tried removing the new denture yet. She hadn’t, so she tried several times while we were on the phone. It’s stuck on good and proper, and though she could wiggle it a little, she couldn’t get it to budge. After about ten minutes, she said “I think I’ll just leave it in for tonight and deal with it in the morning.” This from the woman who, at the dentist’s office, didn’t think she could stand to leave that bulky denture in her mouth for even half an hour. She’s already getting used to it. Maybe this will work after all.

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