Thursday, January 22, 2009

Going to the Dentist

I am re-attempting the chili today. This time I will remember that it is not necessary to add water to the chili at the beginning; the chili can make its own just fine. So now the kitchen is a productive mess of opened cans and dishes waiting to be washed and starting to smell really, really good. (Thank you, guys, for your tips and tricks regarding chili! Also, one of these days, I'm going to try Libby's recipe for buttermilk corn bread, because just saying the name makes me hungry.)

I went to the dentist this morning. I went, as usual, with dread. The last time I went to the dentist it was to have five tooth extractions. It did not go well. One knows it is not going well when one hears the dentist begin to swear under his breath and hear the tremor of dismay in his assistant's voice.

At my request I was inhaling laughing gas and as high as I was on this, I was not above horror. Apparently, as is not uncommon, my wisdom teeth had grown down into the jaw and the dentist was having a hard time getting them out. When I say having a hard time, I mean his forehead was beading up with sweat. I could feel him slicing through the gums, I could feel the bits of tooth shatter, I could taste the bitterness of bone and blood.

He gave up after the second one, several hours later. He explained to me that I would have to have an oral surgeon do the rest of the extractions and then left. I stood, groggy and unsure and another dentist in the office saw me. A look of horror, pity and anger shot across his face.

"Somebody clean her up!" he shot out. Apparently, I looked like some sort of dental nightmare. To this day I wonder what my face looked like.

I was cleaned up and then sat through the consult about insurance with a very snotty lady. I was having a very hard time thinking. Then I went to Walgreens to pick up my prescriptions and waited, mouth full of gauze, in a welter of pain, for the prescription to be filled.

At home I leaned over the sink while long strings of blood came trailing out my mouth, wracked with pain and sobbing from the feeling of sheer helplessness. I was afraid to swallow the pain pill, what if it got stuck in one of the two gaping holes I now had far back in my mouth, and that I could hear make loud, squelching noises any time I moved my jaw? I was afraid to put the rolled up gauze that I had into the holes and press down, as the assistant had instructed me to do, wouldn't that be excruciatingly painful?

The next few days passed with me lying carefully on my left side, measuring each moment in terms of how the pain was peaking. The vicodin did nothing for me, I took it with Ibuprofen and waited for the pain medication to sink in. It was as though I could feel the chemicals released in a slow wash over my system, could feel it blanket the pain the way oil quiets a high sea.

I went back over the next couple weeks, as the pain was not receding and I was worried that it was infected. Also, all along the right side of my jaw and the right side of my tongue I experienced a burning, numbing sensation and it wasn't going away either.

It turned out they hadn't given me antibiotics in the first place. And because of the pain, I was unable to even open my mouth wide enough for anyone to look into the sockets and I never saw a dentist, or the dentist that had done the surgery. They said he was on vacation. When I came in there, people looked away; they hastily wrote out new prescriptions for drugs and sent me on my way.

Finally, I was recommended to an oral surgeon. When I called, the receptionist was extremely irritable over the phone and told me angrily that the surgeon didn't take on cases already begun by another dentist, I would have to go back to the original office for follow through. I carefully, in my now slurred and deliberate voice, explained to her the situation. Then she got angry again, but not at me.

"Can you come down right now?" she demanded, and despite the vicodin, I did. I drove down into the city and they had one of those rotating x-ray machines that the previous office hadn't. I was quickly x-rayed and consulted with and then the oral surgeon came in and was able to inspect the damage without hurting me.

He explained that I had been through a brutal surgery (his own words) and that I had experienced nerve damage to my right jaw which would take months to heal properly. There was no infection. He gave me a little squirty thing to rinse out the sockets.

For weeks afterwards my pleasures in life were luke warm salty water and Ibuprofen. I was also very found of pudding and spaghettio's. I went back to work and answered my phones with a accent as though I were drooling. I developed a habit of walking around with my right hand against my jaw, as though I were constantly appalled at something.

I never went back. The company was Comfort Dental; I highly do not recommend them.

However, this time around it was incredibly different. The dental assistant was very kind, especially when it became clear very quickly that I was utterly terrified. He found a sizable piece of tooth that had been left in the socket and got it out. I was thoroughly x-rayed and then the dentist came over.

There was much hushed consultation. I could hear the restrained excitement and alarm that my dental history caused in them. There was a lot of large words exchanged that I couldn't understand and that sounded dire.

"That all sounds so terrifying," I interjected, from my reclining position. There is something about being at the dentist that makes me regress into childhood; perhaps the disposable bib or the feeling of helplessness.

The dentist immediately wheeled herself over to where I could see her. I liked her at once, she had a kind and straightforward gaze and offered me her hand to shake.

"It's not," she assured me.

So now I have clean and polished teeth, a consult with an oral surgeon and another with a nerve specialist and kind and competent people over seeing my teeth reconstruction and I feel so incredibly grateful for it.

And the chili turned out much better this time around, I think I'm getting the hang of it. Now I need a new recipe for the crockpot. Any ideas?


Abbie said...

No wonder you're terrified of going to the dentist! I can't even imagine going through an ordeal like that. When I had my wisdom teeth extracted (my bottom two were impacted into the jaw bone as yours were) my dentist was amazing and 4 days after the surgery I was as good as new. I'm glad that your experience today was much better!

Libby said...

Oh my goodness! What a terrible story! After reading that, I seriously do not blame you for being apprehensive about future dental visits. I had to get all of my wisdom teeth out in 2007 because they were impacted also. It took me 2 weeks to heal after that surgery! The surgery went well but the recovery was just horrible. I am very glad that your visit today went very well and was not like your previous experience. BTW, I have some crockpot recipes to share if you would like. Just let me know what you are looking for :)

Annie said...

I'm still reeling in horror from your dental story. I've been told I need to get my wisdom teeth removed (this was years ago), and haven't had the opportunity yet. ;P

T said...

Ouchie!! I had all 4 wisdom teeth removed 20 years ago and I hated it. Still, its wasn't "brutal"... dang girl.

Enjoy your chili and the weekend!

lala said...

holy CRAP. this is the worst story i've ever heard. i'm canceling my dentist appointment.