Thursday, February 24, 2011

Going to the dentist scares me

The title of this post is a huge understatement. I would rather actually shit a brick than have a tooth removed. Unfortunately for me today, I didn't get that choice.

It all started about 2 weeks ago when I was vigorously (and perhaps overzealously) cleaning my teeth with a dental scraper. One of my molars started to feel a little achy, but I chalked it up to the cleaning I did. As time passed, the gum surrounding that molar started to ache a little bit, but the only time I noticed was when I washed my face and ran my hand over that site.

This morning, I woke up with a swollen, pinkish-white mass on my gum where the molar plugs in. I applied a mixture of baking soda and salt, in an attempt to drain the abscess. It came to a head, but I was too chicken to pop it. So, I called around trying to find a dentist -- hard to do when you've moved to a new city and none of the dentists have taken new patients in years. After getting chewed out by one bitch of a receptionist who said I was rude to her (I asked if she was able to look up insurance information on her computer; surely people in the 21st century have access to such things) and threatened to call the cops on me because I was "harassing her" (!). Finally, I found a sympathetic receptionist who said, "Well, we can't have you waiting over the weekend to see a dentist! Let's see... we can get you in with one of the dentists at 3:15 this afternoon." My savior!

I sat in the waiting room and read a whole issue of Reader's Digest before the dental assistant escorted me back through a long, dark hallway. It reminded me of a horror movie that takes place in a 1950s-style insane asylum -- dismal and forboding, where something could pop out at any time from behind one of the myriad identical doors. She sat me down, took an X-ray of the molar, developed it, and said, "Hmm, this doesn't look good." She showed me the X-ray -- it looked like the whole area under the tooth had been hollowed out!

The dentist came in, took a look, and immediately suggested extraction. After much pleading on my part ("Are you sure there's nothing else you can do?"), I finally caved. He swabbed my gum with benzocaine and injected my gums with Novocaine. He left for a few minutes to check on another patient and left me to chat with the dental assistant until he returned. I looked and sounded like a stroke patient, with the whole right side of my puss insensitive and immobile.

When the dentist finally returned to rip my molar from my head, he took a pair of pliers (well, that's what they looked like!) and started to jiggle my tooth around. I could still feel pain and pressure coming from within the tooth, so he gave me another injection. After a few minutes, he went back in with his Giant Pliers of Doom, grasped my molar, and started wiggling it around. When I got teeth extracted as a kid, they never took this kind of maneuvering to remove! This time, it HURT LIKE HELL. I was hyperventilating, in spite of the assistant's efforts to direct me, like a Lamaze class instructor, to JUST BREATHE. My knuckles turned white as I clutched the cuffs of my sweater and shook like a chihuahua on caffeine. Tears poured down the sides of my face. I am not a good dental patient.

Finally -- CRACK -- he wrested my tooth from its gummy prison. The reason it was so hard to extract was that the roots are flared to the sides like a pair of bellbottoms instead of pointing down like they're supposed to. The dentist let me keep my tooth afterwards (he even said it was a very nice looking tooth, in spite of the fact that it was no longer in my head). He told me the reason for the infection was not that I have poor dental hygiene, but that the roots were so short on one side that bacteria seeped under the tooth and caused the infection.

Now, I'm sitting here with a big, gaping hole in my jaw, the acrid taste of blood in my mouth, and lips so dry you could plane a board with them. My husband reassures me that the gap is barely noticeable when I smile, but I feel gross. I even have my own emoticon now: :-F

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