Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dentist Woes

A couple of blog buddies have had a rough go at it recently with tooth-related issues so I thought I'd take the time to write about my own previous experiences with the dentist.

First off, I hate going to the dentist. I just despise having all those tools and instruments so close to me. I mean, you can turn the other way when you go to the doctor for other procedures (I'm not a fan of needles at all, for instance, but I can look away, grin and bear the pain) but when you have fingers and drills and mirrors and that vacuum thing that sucks out the saliva from your mouth, what can you do then? You're trapped.

Now, I hardly ever went to the dentist growing up. We were poor growing up (we didn't have a phone until I was in the eighth grade and five of us slept in one room) and didn't have medical insurance. Trips to the doctor and dentist, then, were rare. So rare that I don't remember any trip to the dentist. At all. I remember my older brother going to the dentist a few times when we were young. Maybe I blocked those trips out of my mind, who knows? My parents went to the dentist, but they did it old school style - they would cruise down to Tijuana for dental work. That's old school Mexican-style right there, go down to TJ for medical/dental work and medicine. FDA regulations? Ha!

Anyway, when I got married then, I wasn't exactly in a hurry to go to the dentist. When you've never been, why bother going? Until one day I was driving home from work (back when I had a real day job, ugh) and noticed that there was a hole in a tooth of mine. Yeah, Mr. I Don't Need No Stinkin' Dentist had to have a root canal. That was my introduction to the dentist, and it was not a pleasant meeting. Actually, four meetings: the initial diagnosis, the drilling, the replacement cap and the crown. I actually had my replacement cap come clean off once (more than once actually) because I was eating Skittles or something, and it got stuck to whatever horrible crap I put in my mouth. Hey, there were many reasons why I used to weigh what I weighed, and candy was one of them.

I went on to have three root canals but luckily my years of tooth neglect only resulted in three. Even though they were painful, excruciating and miserable, I "only" had three root canals. And I do not want a fourth. I think the last one was in '05, not sure.

Still, hands down the worst tooth experience was when I had to have my wisdom teeth pulled. I didn't exactly realize that you probably should have them pulled more as a preventive measure, because to go through the pain I went through is not fun. That pain, that horrible and excruciating pain.

I believe it was around May of '01, and I'd just gotten to my parents' house. I was going to watch a soccer game with my dad and maybe throw back a few beers when all of the sudden I felt something. I felt a twinge coming from my molar region. It was a twinge at first, but rapidly and without warning it became a tsunami of pain. Unbearable, incomparable, relentless pain. I'd never felt physical pain like that before and I still have not. It was a jolt of needles, an ice pick jamming at my gums, a knife digging deep into the back of my mouth.

And it would not stop.

I cried. That's how much it hurt. I cried, although I think part of that was frustration, in that it would not go away. I left the house, screw the soccer game and beers. Mrs. LB was with me so she drove and we went to her parents house for something, I think to try and find some medicine. Aspirin was going to do nothing, but they didn't have anything. While Mrs. LB was inside looking for something, I paced around their driveway. It was at least 30 minutes now of constant horrible throbbing burning piercing pain, and I didn't know what to do.

We went to the emergency room finally as it was our best option, and I think I was given a shot of some pain reliever. It was a Sunday afternoon, so the next morning I was going to see the dentist. I had some Vicodin at home (we lived about 45 minutes away so I had to get attended to here in Riverside) so that night I popped a couple of those things. That wasn't great either because I broke out in cold sweats after awhile.

At this point, I didn't think it was my wisdom teeth. I'd just gone to the dentist recently and they didn't see anything really wrong with them, but did recommend I get them removed. But the next morning, they saw what was wrong with me. A fresh set of x-rays revealed nerve damage, though I can't recall if it was damage within the tooth or if the tooth was rubbing against a nerve. Regardless, it was tucked in far behind and out of sight.

They helped alleviate the pain but I was referred to an oral surgeon to have my wisdom teeth removed. My insurance then was such that I could only afford to have two teeth pulled at once - actually, let me rephrase that. I could have had all four teeth pulled without going under but to be knocked out during the procedure plus having my four wisdom teeth removed would have meant a lot of money out of my pocket. So I had two done then, and two more at a later time, as soon as the insurance cycle started over, or however that works. Anyway, it wasn't that much time.

I wasn't too scared of getting my teeth pulled and in fact was looking forward to it. I'd never been knocked out so I was anxious to feel what that was like. Plus the pain had subsided but wasn't completely gone. I remember feeling a tiny bit strange when the medicine started to take effect just before they took my teeth out, then asking for more since I was supposed to have been out by then. And then, all I remember was coming to, with a bunch of stuff in my mouth. My teeth were gone and I had some sort of material in my mouth to protect the wounds. Then, a week of jello, pudding and yogurt ensued and I constantly felt the void where my wisdom teeth had been with my tongue. It felt strange, like there was suddenly room there.

Aside from recalling a nearly decade-old memory, I guess the point of this is to both sympathize with my blog buddies as they recover from their own oral procedures and to also let you know that wisdom teeth really, really suck, and that if you (or your children if they are of the appropriate age) have not gotten them pulled, do it now!


anne said...

ugh! tooth pain is not fun. i have every single one of my teeth, wisdom included. i recently went to a different dentist than the one i went to as a child due to distance reasons and they were shocked at all my teeth :o) i tell my husband that is the reason why i eat faster than him -- i have more teeth. oh, and please retract that statement you made about Skittles....they are my biggest downfall, especially as of late :o) damn colorful things.

Julie Schuler said...

Boo! to tooth pain. I had a root canal and crown, then a few years later I had to have a root canal again on the same tooth, so they broke off my expensive crown. Something about my having very long and narrow roots that were hard to get at. Then I had a temporary filling for a while, but my tooth hurt again. In the middle of my third root canal on the same freakin' tooth, I told the dentist to yank it. So he did. It's in the back, no one can see I'm missing it.

Chicago Mom said...

I had my wisdom teeth pulled when I was 22 and I definitely suggest being knocked out for the procedure! I woke up looking like a vampire after a feeding frenzy, but I didn't feel a thing. I also had a root canal once and the tooth ended up having to be pulled a year later anyway. Tooth problems suck!

Willoughby said...

When I was a teenager, we switched from the nice dentist in the upscale office building to a guy who got his training and his equipment from the Spanish Inquisition School of Dentistry. He applied cosmetic bonding to some of my teeth where my braces had left marks and did it incorrectly. He drilled away too much of the actual tooth (without numbing any part of my mouth) which hurt like hell and basically ruined my teeth. I have a ton of dental work in my future to make up for the shoddy job he did. Oh joy.

Anne said...

I wanted to let you know that I read your marathon recap from a couple of days ago...Great job on completing and very cool pics!! I can't wait to run my own first race...a half-marathon in May :)