Viewing entries tagged
The Dentist

Pearly Whites

I kind of hate to be one of those people that talks about their medical problems, but I'm going to have to do it. The world needs to know. My misery needs company--plus on a scale of one to pus bubble, this isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me. It was terrible, but not that terrible. So here's what happened. As we all know by now, my teeth are rotten. Don't let that Colgate enhanced exterior fool you--they are the worst. My smile might be dazzling, but lurking just beyond the surface is a snake's den of problems. Actually the snake's den starts with the surface--I lack a key component of healthy teeth, and that's enamel on my molars. I'll be the first to admit that you can't, in fact, win them all. But some days I really wish I had won the enamel fight.  I really do. Also my parents do too. Please see the post Million Dollar Mouth as a fun little piece of supporting evidence.

In the latest part of the ongoing saga of my teeth, I had to go to the dentist to actually have one removed. They threw their hands up in disgust and said somebody had to go. The somebody was tooth number 3, or C3, if we want to get technical. Sidenote: I actually have spent enough time in the chair to know a significant amount about teeth. It constantly surprises my hygienists. Sometimes they make the mistake of not reading my file before I get there, and they get the full barrage of horrific dental history when they ask me if I've had any problems, and when they try and argue with me, I like to have them pull up my slides and show them. Amateurs.

Anyway, the tooth had to go. So I went in, I'm there, I've got my ipod all cued up and ready to go, I'm mentally prepared. The Novocaine  however, will not work. Why? Because infected gum tissue doesn't respond normally to numbing agents, so they have to pump about a half gallon into me before it starts holding. Finally, after the very weird experience of having someone massage my cheek into non-feeling, it sets. I look vaguely like the joker on the right half of my face. Very curious. Then the doctor comes in and helpfully lets me know that if I hear a cracking, grinding noise, don't worry. That's just the tooth breaking in half--very likely, but nothing to be worried about. I look at him in disbelief. Please ignore the man behind the curtain? Sure. Please ignore the sound of your body breaking? Not so much.

I was sort of hoping it would be a rip the band-aid scenario, where it was just one clean yank and I'd be out of there. I think generally that's what happens, but naturally, I was a special case--because of the crown I have on the tooth, the ceramic was going to have to break off and then there was some partitioning of the tooth that was necessary, so there was nothing clean or fun about it. I don't really know. All I know is that I'm in the chair, and I'm very uncomfortable, very, very quickly. I'm listening to Layla at 11 and I can still hear them grinding. I try not to think about how my mouth tastes like burned rice chex. I thank the good Lord for the music that's drowning out their conversation and the worst of the noise, although it's mostly unavoidable. The last time I went in for surgery I didn't have my ipod, and it was horrible. Honest to God I cried my eyes out as soon as it was over because it was so stressful. There are only so many ways the brain can handle that kind of torture---my coping strategy was sinking down into my memory, to the calmest, quietest place I could think of. I must have mentally walked the road from the cabin to the fish pond at the ranch a hundred times, heard the gravel crunching, felt the sun, smelled the grass, watched the field for little deer heads. Of course, intermittently would be thoughts of complete and utter panic before I'd have to start the walk over--that fight or flight response is not to be trifled with. But it worked for a little while. At least having headphones in gives something concrete to focus on outside of yourself, although I will admit that my inner monologue becomes very dark and twisty during the dentist times. I come up with fantastically horrible ways to swear. Some really awful vitriol. Creative, but awful. Generally it's misdirected towards the hygienist, whom I always find incompetent and patronizing. She kept spraying me in the face with her little hose. I hated her with an unnerving ferocity.

Anyway, the real problem is that although they numb you, you can still feel pressure. I had a lot of pressure going on. They had pliers clamped onto that tooth and were pulling back and forth for so long that I ultimately had to rule out spy as a possible career path because I would never, ever be able to last through an involuntary tooth extraction. I’d be giving out national secrets right and left if that was even a remote possibility. I also considered what people did before Novocaine.  I mean could you even imagine what that would be like? Horrific. So even though I was incredibly unhappy, I had to give a little prayer of thanks for things like modern medicine and dental insurance because otherwise I just would not be playing that game. I’d have crooked teeth, burst sinuses, mouth rot in several different places, all kinds of problems. Eventually, untreated, I wouldn't be surprised if it was through my teeth that I met my ultimate demise.

About three quarters of the way through the extraction, the doctor gets up. We’d been in there for an hour, and throughout I kept feeling phantom holes, thinking, OK  now it’s out. And then they’d start yanking again. But now I was sure. It’s out. It’s gotta be out.

It still wasn't  as evidenced by the x-ray they took. The doctor is on the phone. Something is wrong. The doctor comes back. I’m going to try one more thing, he says, but if it doesn't work, it’s beyond me. I’m going to have to send you over to a specialist right away. I just placed the call.

I laugh. Of course you do. You’ve never seen this before.

He eventually gets it out, whatever he tried worked. He tells me after that the side of my jaw was so weak it blew out as soon as they started pulling. Moth-eaten. He tells me it was moth-eaten which is why it was so difficult. They had no leverage. There are a few things in life I think you never want to hear about yourself, and one of them is that your bone is moth eaten. Chilling. Anyway, it’s healing nicely. The good news is that I still have the immune system of a twenty year old, even if I have the teeth of an eighty five year old. So we can all be happy about that. And, as an added bonus, since I’ve been on a soft food diet, I guess I can forget about adding on those extra holiday pounds! A Christmas miracle! It’s all said and done now, so that’s good. And I’m grateful to have had it done. It’s better this way. And now I will no longer talk about my medical issues, unless you ask. Because the pus bubble really is a horrific story but one a lot of people find weirdly fascinating. Perhaps another day.

xoxo, Lauren

Million Dollar Mouth

The other day I went to the dentist. This isn’t that unusual in and of itself. I am the proud owner of teeth that range from bad to worse so I go a lot. Don’t let my white, straight, shiny, picture-perfect smile deceive you. If my teeth aren’t already rotten to the core, they will be soon.
As much as I would like to ignore the various aches and pains and intermittent crumbling that come with a mouth like mine, I’ve heard how much grumbling my family does when my Grandma refuses to put her big girl panties on and let the dentist fit her for dentures. I mean if they can talk about a sweet (if exceedingly irrational) old lady like that, Lord only knows what they would say about me. Also, my dad always recalls that scene from the Grinch where he has cockroaches in his smile, like he brings it up a lot. And if that doesn’t scare you straight to the nearest toothbrush, nothing will.
So I go drive over and park in the awkward parking lot, knowing that when I leave I’ll consider it a good day if I only have a few near-misses backing out, and I always pull open the door to the foyer too hard so it makes a lot of noise and all the old people in the waiting room look at me and glare. Then I check in with the evil receptionist Marilyn, and I tell her “I’m Lauren” and she says, “I know“, because I’ve been here at least 25 times in the last 3 years. But I tell her anyway, because she needs to earn her keep. Then I wait in the waiting room and pray that I don’t get the hygienist who always forgets to wipe up all the drool my overactive salivary glands inevitably produce.
That day my prayers were answered though because lo and behold, I didn’t get the forgetful hygienist! This hygienist was young and new, and when I rattled off the laundry list of all the new irritated spots I had and exactly which tooth was sensitive to what, she looked mildly taken aback.
Amateur hour is over, lady. You’re in the big leagues now.
So she gets in there and starts scratching all the plaque off my teeth, which I hate, but I could also hear the unmistakable sounds of someone getting the drill the room over, so at this point I’m thanking my lucky stars. Then she finds a burn which I didn’t even know I had by poking the roof of my mouth so hard I almost throw up. I almost start wishing for the drool-bucket hygienist.
Luckily her time was up and she leaves me to wait for the Dr. to come in. It’s not too bad waiting though, because right in front of the dentist chair in these rooms are big picture windows that used to face a dump but now face a nice lawn and pond and island. I’m sitting there surveying the nature scene when there’s rapid movement at the bottom of the window that my eye is drawn to--it’s a moth flapping viciously against the glass. I leaned forward out of the chair to try and see better what it was and why it was so intent on getting into the room, and it made me think of the famous short story about the moth and the candle, and my junior year English teacher telling our class that the greatest ruminations of life and death can come from something as mundane as a moth and a candle. And I’m wracking my brain, thinking, come on Hobs, think of what this could mean! I was in and he was out, but he wanted in and I wanted out! What could it be? But then it floated away, and before I could finish or even develop a real thought, the Dr. came in and told me my x-rays looked great and that molar wasn’t going to need a root canal after all. I could come back in December for another cleaning, but that was it, other than that I was free for 6 blissfully dentist less months.
It wasn’t until I had already backed out of the difficult parking lot, narrowly avoiding a Chevrolet Coupe, and I was sitting at a stop light that I thought about the moth again. Maybe he just liked the light over the chair. He was probably just doing his moth thing, what moths have been doing forever. A moth flapping and not meaning anything at all. What a relief. Just a moth. Then it occurred to me that I probably just had a dentist appointment. At last, a normal day at the dentist. So much time spent thinking about a dentist appointment that was just a dentist appointment, dreading the parking lot, and the door, the old people, the receptionist, the hygienists, and even the Dr., who would of course, tell me they had never seen that before. That day it was just a normal moth and I had a normal mouth.
But don’t even get me started on my haircut appointment.
xoxo, Lauren