Dentistry


Medieval dentist removing tooth

Image via Wikipedia

It’s becoming a Dickensian serial novel with today’s installment to detail, among other things, the fact that my back molar is freakishly designed with “extra” nerve roots. Or whatever the dental terms for the root canals are.

The appointment was at nine, and so confident was I of getting in and out in the allotted hour and a half that I had a list of errands I planned to run before heading back home to meet up with a yoga friend I’m working with this fall.

But it was for naught.

Three hours I sat, or rather reclined, in the dentist’s chair with my mouth open most of the time to prevent the sharp pokey thing (another technical dental term) from stabbing my exposed tooth innards (today’s episode will swim in medical labels, so bear with me).

On a positive note, I am no longer a walking pus factory. The infection, between draining and a short eternity on antibiotics, is “cured”. Which is  no small thing, as I can recall only a handful of times in my entire life that I have felt that ill.

On the other hand, I have concrete proof that I am some sort of mutant. Well, okay, more proof.

I knew that I had just three wisdom teeth. Humanity is slowly giving rise to beings who lack all the quaint reminders of our early evolution – like wisdom teeth and the appendix. Eventually, in theory, humans will stop being born with these useless things at all.

In her excavations, the dentist discovered that my molar has four root canals instead of the normal three and that the fourth one is in the wrong place.

My friend was surprised to find me upright, having lunch (no great feat as it was soup) and eager to visit. The impression I get of root canals from others leads me to wonder why the Bush administration didn’t employ their widespread use at Gitmo.

While it was uncomfortable, and there were ouchy moments (forgive me for getting technical again), I haven’t been incapacitated with pain and really wasn’t dreading today’s appointment.

The key to good root canal is a dentist who isn’t stingy with Novocaine but is also not ham-fisted in the application. When ears and eyeballs go numb, the dentist clearly graduated in the bottom half of his/her class. Since that is not the norm, but certainly worth scouring a person’s portion of the earth for in my opinion, I have to wonder what happens to those who graduate dental college with honors. Alien abduction?

Unless lamenting the time suck and the fact that my only distraction was television count as horrors for anyone else, I have fared quite well.

No one should really be forced to watch The View.

But, barring anything unforeseen – and isn’t everything really? – I won’t have to go back until the beginning of October when the only awful thing that awaits is fitting for a crown.

So, it was not the best or the worst of times comparatively speaking though I hope to live a long time without revisiting anything of its like again.


An image from 1300s (A.D.) England depicting a...

Image via Wikipedia

Back in yore, rotten teeth killed people. Enamel cracked or was eaten away by food debris and lack of sufficient (or any) dental hygiene. Germs seeped into the root canal because dogs aren’t the only of God’s creatures with festering saliva, and infection blossomed.

Left alone long enough, pus oozes along the pathways hither and yon and before a person could scream for the local witch woman or butcher, sepsis and death.

Archeologists are forever digging up our bony ancestors who succumbed to the dreaded toothache. Many a mummy met his end for lack of root canal.

Last week, I could have been on track to become a freak statistic because people in the “modern” world do still die of the occasional tooth abscess gone horribly wrong.

Fortunately, I have Rob.

After messing about for close to two weeks with an infection that defied doctors, my own and in the ER, I noticed that my lower jaw hurt and suspected that a cavity filled at the end of July could have gone bad.

A call to the emergency number at the dentist’s practice on Sunday evening was less than helpful. Perhaps I am mistaken about the whole “dental emergency” thing, but I was expecting something other than “go to the ER and call us on Tuesday morning to schedule an appointment.”

Tuesday morning I was told that I could be squeezed in on Thursday afternoon for a 30 minute consult.

This was after I disclosed my saga and symptoms, which alarmed the receptionist enough to go to the cubicles herself and let the dentist know what was going on and ask for guidance.

His great wisdom? Sounds like a root canal was needed. Can’t do anything until the infection settles a bit. Stay on the antibiotics and come in next week. Tuesday. In the afternoon.

“Call my dentist,” Rob said. “I know it’s going to be awkward because you switched to someone new but she will probably see you today.”

I did switch to someone new. I wanted a better hygienist. The gentleman I was assigned to has huge fingers and is a very nervous fellow. My first experience with him was … painful … and though he improved, I dreaded going in.

And Dee did nothing but whine and wince.

So a friend suggested another practice and the hygienist was awesome and the Dentist does good check-up.

He sucks at cavities though. I had two done at the end of July. Horrific and then I ended up with the whole abscess thing …

“I’m not up for awkward at the moment, ” I told Rob.

But visions of dead mummies plagued me more than saving face did, so I called and I was worked in immediately – no questions.

She was concerned about the infection, the pain, the possibility that the infection was gaining strength. Changed my antibiotic. Actually found a pain med I could take without miserable side-effects and gave up some of her lunch hour to work me in the next day for a root canal.

The other guy had said that root canals can’t be performed until the antibiotics start to work.

Not true. Don’t ever buy that.

I spent about two hours on Wednesday in root canal mode. The worst thing about it is keeping your mouth open for so long that the jaw cramps. But the pain wasn’t bad. I’ve had two root canals now and never time did I suffer.

My opinion about suffering? Either the dentist isn’t skilled or you’ve had the misfortune of having a massive infection that simply couldn’t be effectively anesthetized. It happens.

Most of the time, the tooth drained. It was quite … ookie … that’s a professional medical term by the way.

The infection is still being subdued. I don’t feel great, but I am not hurting down my neck, across my chest and the pains in my ribs are mostly gone.

It was just the icing on several weeks worth of medical reckonings. My thyroid appears to be failing and I had two more eye swelling experiences, so the new doctor is sending me all over the greater Edmonton area to be tested for this and that.

“You can’t die until I am grown up,” Dee informed me last week as I tucked her in for the night.

“You can’t die at all,” Rob said later, “because that little girl simply couldn’t survive it.”

He didn’t have to add that it would suck a lot for him too.

I’m not dying, but I have been neglectful of some things that I would have jumped all over if I were back in the States and seeing my much missed Dr. C. I am simply going to have to bring the Canadian way of medicine into harmony with my own personal needs. How, I haven’t quite figured out, but I was told once that I am a force of nature, so Hurricane Annie will have to put her thinking cap on.