Sunday, March 20, 2005

love canal

On Friday evening, I starting having pain in one of my molars. It was like that J. Lo song "Jenny From the Block," because first it hurt a little then it hurt a lot. On Saturday morning, I went to a local dentist who charged me $100 to tell me that I needed a root canal (which I had inferred on my own, even without the fancy dental degree), but that they couldn't do anything about it, because their Endodontist didn't work there except for Wednesdays and Fridays, and either way, he didn't accept my dental insurance. Gee, thanks a lot. Please, can I give you more money for being USELESS?

I was trying to hold out until regular business hours on Monday to book an appointment with an Endodontist on my plan, but after a very throbbingly miserable 24 hours of eating only soft solids and things I could drink through a straw, as well as putting an ice pack on the side of my face where my killer tooth was, like someone out of a damn cartoon, I decided that I couldn't wait anymore, and that the tooth needed to be fixed now.

The problem was finding a dentist that actually worked on Sundays. "Who the hell works on Sundays?" I asked myself. Then I looked within and found the answer to my own question. The Chinese. The hardest-working doctors in showbiz! I knew of a Chinese dentist on my plan (I had been her many years ago as a teenager), who didn't do root canals herself, but had an Endodontist alongside in her practice. And he worked all day Saturday and Sundays! And he just had a cancellation! And could I come down right now to be seen? I didn't have to be asked twice, and jumped into a cab postehaste, thus marking the first time in history that I was delighted about a dental appointment.

You see, I have a little bit of dental phobia. It's never like going to the regular doctor, where they just tell me I'm fine and send me on my way. Dentists only deliver bad news. Like that I have 12 cavities on the left side alone, or that I'm not brushing right, or that my wisdom teeth are growing in sideways, or like now, that I need a damn root canal. After all these years of pain, my conditioned response is to wish that I had no teeth at all, and sneakily avoid all interactions with the dental community. I know, I know, this viscious cycle just causes more problems in the long run, but it's hard to will yourself to regularly subject your body to something so unpleasant. Especially post-call, or on one of your rare days off. But save the lecture, I learned my lesson.

So anyway, the root canal. The whole thing actually took much less time than I thought. I was not thrilled with the idea of having to have a series of dental X-rays to get the job done, but I didn't really have any choice, and anyway, between the double lead shielding and my hands over my uterus (which probably didn't contribute anything additional behind the double layer of lead, but was more a function of my neurosis), we avoided turning Cletus into Radioactive Man. (But hey, what kid wouldn't want superpowers? Maybe we should have trained the beam right on him, give him a little leg up in life, you know?) Between the X-rays, the procedure, so far as I can glean, consisted of the following steps:

  1. The novocaine
  2. The drilling
  3. The filing out of the inside of the tooth with what looked like tiny little saws
  4. The poking with sticks (unsure what this part was, maybe to make sure they got all the pulp out)
  5. The bleaching (I guess this is to kill the wee germs within the nerve space--I don't know what the solution was exactly, but it smelled like a swimming pool)
  6. The poking with other sticks
  7. The drying of the inside of the space with little paper cones
  8. The filling with dentist goo
  9. The packing with other dentist goo
  10. The fitting of the temporary cap
  11. The old rinse and spit

Shockingly to me, all of this was done with a minimum of pain. I mean, the shot in the beginning kind of hurt, but my mouth was hurting even before the shot, and since the shot was filled with sweet, sweet local anesthetic, I was more than glad for him to jam that sucker into my gum. Come on baby, make it hurt so good.

The endodontist turned out to be a rather young guy who, coincidentally enough, went to dental school and did his residency up at [University Hospital]. This, I've found, is the best connection of all in the medical world, because everyone wants to help you out when they feel like they know you. We spent a good ten minutes shooting the breeze about the hospital and the neighborhood, until he put that dental dam in and all my conversational contributions got reduced to a "uh guh guh huh" or vehement thumbs up or wagging of the eyebrows. (After a while, he caught on and only asked me yes-no questions.)

"So you're going into anesthesia?" He said conversationally, before the yes-no rule was established. "What makes someone decide to go into anesthesia anyway?" I sat there blissfully, numbed up to the gills, in no pain where there once was excruciating pain, and thought, isn't it obvious?

Anyway, I'm going back to see General Dentistry on Thursday to get my permanant filling placed, and maybe to get my permanent crown fitted. Right now, even though the local has worn off my tooth is still a little sore but still one hundred times better than it was before the procedure. I love my new dead tooth!

Currently reading: "Persepolis 2" again. My tooth was hurting so much before that I couldn't concentrate on anything without pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, it's good to hear that you've found a good dentist even on a Sunday. Infected tooth can definitely cause so much pain to anyone. Basically, the dentist will be removing the source of the pain - the dead nerve. But after that, the patient will feel so much better.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Hope your next appointment will be as positive as this one.