Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dentistry in the 21st Century

Dentistry in the 21st Century

So there I was. Sitting, in the (I must say) extremely comfortable, plush chair. Trying not to fidget. Staring at a blown up x-ray of my tooth which showed, quite clearly and even to radiologically-impaired-me, the rather large-ish black hole around the roots of my tooth.

Which had already had a root canal. And also a surgical procedure done to cap the root the last time this infection erupted.

Uh, yeah. Sure. I, uh, I remember…

Well. I can tell you that I’ve had four root canals, but I don’t remember which one came first or last or whatever. I can tell you that I once had surgery to repair an issue with one of those root canals, and that one other root canal had to be ‘redone’ and that it hurt – a lot. And we will not discuss the time the tooth needing work was in such bad condition that he couldn’t get it really numb until after he got the top off the tooth.

So, I had not forgotten that I had oral surgery once to fix a…something-something that had done something blah blah infection something about root canals and oh yeah. I distinctly remember that it cost me $1,400.

This was fifteen years ago. $1,400 was about $1,399 more than I had to my name. I had to do installments for three years to pay it off. Ugh.

But, with the help of the (devilishly handsome, which doesn’t hurt a bit under these circumstances) endodontist, I managed to patch the holes in my memory around {dramatic music} Tooth #3.

Tooth #3 has been a problem child for some time. Twenty years ago, Tooth #3 became my very first root canal. Number 1 of 4 to date.

Tooth #3 had a root canal back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was a barbaric procedure and the first time I had ever had anything more than a cleaning done without any nitrous oxide to settle my irrationally-anxious self down. I left vowing I would never, ever and I don’t care HOW MUCH IT HURTS return to that office. Never! NEVER I TELL YOU!!!

A few years later, Tooth #3 again erupted into ludicrous pain and I immediately and without even a moment’s hesitation went back to the same man who did the original root canal demanding answers. Because to my mind, dammit, I had already done my time and should never, ever have heard from Tooth #3 again.


Dead to me. That’s what Tooth #3 should be.

Now, the x-rays at the time were not anything like the instant-digital-clarity thing we had today, but the answer was much the same.

Oh my god, look at that, you have a massive abscess at the root of that tooth – and spreading!

So back in the day, they did dental surgery (which is a lot like, you know, surgery-surgery, except that you don’t have to be put under for it) (but they did give me Valium) (which didn’t work), cleaned it out, capped the ‘problem root’ with that silver ‘white triangle’ plug, sewed me up and sent me on my way. Clutching the installment payment plan paperwork.

At this point, you would think that Tooth #3 would indeed be done. That I would never again have to hear from Tooth #3.

Yeah. You’d think that, wouldn’t you? But no. Here is the general idea, in pictures, of what is going on in there. First, what it should have looked like this nice, neat example of modern dentistry:


And then, there’s what I’ve actually got:


Apparently, Tooth #3 is that teenager who insists on inviting all the wrong people to party when mom’s out of the house. Because once again, bacteria have moved in around the base of that root and are throwing one heckuva party in there. They’ve eaten a bit of bone this time – apparently, the high doses of Tylenol I take for the arthritis did a dandy job keeping me unaware of a raging jaw infection.

Lovely, huh? Didn’t do much to help my sore joints, but by golly it did wonders for allowing a bacterial mess to get to the size of a Chapstick inside my jaw. Which has only just recently actually begun annoying me – when the discomfort has spread from my jaw up to the bottom of my eye socket. And it still doesn’t really hurt, it just feels…weird. Kind of like…hmm. Like there’s a string looped around from my jaw to my eye socket, and then somebody pulled the string so that everything is being drawn together like a purse? Kind of “puckery”?

I’m told if I stopped taking all my Tylenol / Motrin / Vicodin-at-night, it would really, really hurt. A lot.

This just in: Tama is not a particularly curious sort of human. You know, the type who will respond to someone saying, “Hey, if you touch that stove? It’ll burn you! Which will hurt!” by saying, “Really?!” and thrusting her bare hand onto the stovetop.

Nope. Not even a bit curious about how much exactly this would hurt in the absence of large doses of acetaminophen. I will cheerfully go to my grave without that knowledge, and not miss it even a little bit.

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this: I think I am going to loathe and despise aging. Not only am I just old enough to have medical professionals say things like, “Well, as we age…” to me, but apparently I am now old enough that ‘modern’ dentists look in my mouth and say, “OK, now, when did they do this? Uh-huh, I see, fifteen years ago makes sense because, see, that was how they did it back when dentists were trained by pterodactyls. These days, we don’t do things like that. It can actually lead to exactly what you’re experiencing right now.”

Dentists in the 21st Century use cement, not silver. Pshaw, silver! Whatever were those pterodactyls thinking?! We scoff at your silver!

Cement, that’s the modern-man’s ticket to tooth-root health.

However, it is only setting me back $1,200 to have this done, and he assures me I won’t need to have my crown replaced or even refinished because he won’t be touching the crown at all!

Only slicing open the gums and putzing around with the root of the tooth.

But the precious, lifeless porcelain will not be harmed in any way.


{Visualize an expression which says, “While I appreciate that this is saving me money and that I should be much happier about it, at this precise moment I am just not feelin’ the love.}

And by the way? Last night? This was me:

Drunken kitty

…not pretty, but at least my wallet stopped aching for a little while…


Cargo & Lene said...

Ooof... ooof.. ooohh.. ouch... You just made me fondle my root-canal-tooth...
I feel with you. I dont think I have ever felt such pain as in the three weeks I just let the tooth be because I thought it would retreat again... (It did not, and I started taking pain meds at the point where I was constantly drinking hard liquor to take the pain...)

You may not be as pragmatical as I, but I made the "Smile Test" (Tooth cannot be seen when smiling), and next time it hurts... it GOES!

Good luck with #3.

Anonymous said...

Ow, Tama, I'm sorry to hear about Tooth #3. May it behave way better in the future.

And no, you are not going to like aging..when you have to STOP ALL MEDICATIONS a week before something like a colonoscopy or some kind of surgery, you find out just what all hurts. And it's a lot of stuff.

Anonymous said...

What did I say--scotch for tooth pain.

Dysd Housewife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dysd Housewife said...

While I totally FEEL for your tooth dilema, I cracked up big time at the picture of the passed out cat. I have actually been at that point with dentistry muhself..

And um by the way..with that much tylenol in your system daily, are you also saving up for a liver transplant too? cuz um..that's WAY too much Acetaminophen for your poor lil' liver. That may hurt worse than the tooth..

Anonymous said...

As I recently learned after having surgery to repairs some torn ligaments in my thumb (long story), 4000mg of acetometaphin is the maximum daily dose for an adult, without damaging your liver.

Of course I found out about this when the pharmacist filling my Vicodin prescription mere minutes after the surgery (it comes with a couple of other painkillers mixed right in with the Vicodin) said "hey, the doctor says to take these every 3 hours. But if you do that your liver will be damaged and you'll die. So don't take more than 5 a day."

Anyway, you should probably check your dose and maybe take some ibuprofin based meds if you're pushing the line on tylenol.