Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Open wide!

"If suffering brought wisdom, the dentist’s office would be full of luminous ideas"
Mason Cooley

I have always prided myself in having really good teeth. I kid you not, the Osmond's would be quite jealous. It's not all been just good fortune, I have looked after them well. I floss and swirl with Listerine every morning and night ( the family name for this is a "noddy". Don't ask, it's just a tradition that both my sister and I have continued with our own children). Even during my heady and often erratic youth I never once went to bed without cleaning my teeth. Not very rock 'n roll but there we go. My mum did a good job on brainwashing me about “the little men who came with their pick axes during the night” which absolutely terrified me as a child. But I thank my mum for it now because that story saved me from a heap of pain and expense. So imagine my horror when last Friday my bottom right molar started to crumble right before my eyes. I have that dream all the time - you know the one where all your teeth are falling out. It’s a classic anxiety dream apparently. But here it was actually happening and I was wide awake! I phoned the dentist immediately and they gave me an emergency appointment for today and a number to phone if the pain got unbearable. Fortunately it didn't come to that.
When I arrived at the dentist I was already in agony with a pulled muscle in my back. I was so doped up on painkillers that I reckoned I’d get away without having the shot of Lidocaine from the dentist. I paced around the waiting room because it hurt too much to sit down. The dentist was running late so I had plenty of time to watch the images of sadistic oral surgery on the massive plasma television that hung from the wall. The graphic computer animation depicting the latest advances in dental treatment did little to calm my nerves. Why not just put the torture scene from 'Marathon Man' on loop and be done with it, I thought. Is it safe? I had managed to build myself up into a right old frenzy by the time it was my turn to sit in Mr Chisolm's chair. I say 'Mr Chisolm' but really he was about 12.
First I got some x-rays taken (not very reassuring when everyone left me on my own with big metal plates sticking out of my mouth) but the picture clearly showed that the decay had reached all the way down to the root of the crumbling molar. According to Mr Chisolm it was a miracle that I hadn’t been writhing around in agony for the last four days. I guess I should feel grateful for that small mercy. There was nothing else he could do but drill all the way down to the nerve and fill the hole. He proceeded to try and explain what was going to happen but I could only concentrate on the 10" injection that he was waving around in front of my face. As he punctured my gum with the tip of the needle and started moving it around I desperately tried to distract myself.
"Mmm, that lamp is filthy, I would use some Windolene on that"
"Why do dentists always have the worst halitosis?"
"River City is on tonight"
"I've had a baby for goodness sake, this should be a walk in the park!!!"
Looking back the jag was probably the worst part of the whole experience. Relax and take deep breaths. Why do members of the medical profession always say that at times when it is impossible to do either???
We’re running a bit late today..” Mr Chisolm informed me “ ..so if you could just take a seat in the waiting room for 10 minutes, we’ll call you back when the anaesthetic takes effect
Now that, I was not expecting. I had only just managed to get a comfortable position for my back for goodness sake and now I was going to have to get up again!
Now, I have never had a filling before so this was all new territory for me. I had imagined just a mild loss of sensation in the affected tooth. That's what all my friends and family had told me would happen. I realise now they were just being kind! Next time guys, just give me the truth, however awful it is! Forewarned is forearmed. Very quickly I started to realise that my tongue did not belong to me and my bottom lip was four times its normal size. I had terrible pins and needles in my cheek and a hot, burning sensation in my lower jaw. The entire right hand side of my face felt numb. I started panicking that I was having some kind of terrible anaphylactic reaction to the Lidocaine and I would be the one in a million people who had some horrendous side effect to the drug. Suddenly I couldn’t breath or swallow. A really nice looking guy sat opposite to me folded his copy of Heat magazine and very kindly asked me if I was okay. I must have looked a bit odd tugging on my earlobe (which by now felt like it belonged to someone else) and doing Maori warrior facial expressions.
Yes, it’s just the first time I’ve ever had this done” I replied, although it came out more like,“Yeth, itch juss da firth ‘ime aff ad thish un
He nodded sympathetically. Embarrassed, I tried to smile demurely and I think a wee bit of dribble came out the side of my mouth. Oh God, beam me up! It felt like ages before the dental assistant came back to get me.
I didn’t feel a thing during the actual process of getting the filling, just lots of pushing, prodding and scraping. When the drill went on I just closed my eyes and drifted off to my safe place. It has taken years of practice to be able to do this but it's been well worth it for situations like this. The suction and air was a bit weird and I hated not being able to swallow when I wanted. But before I knew it the whole terrible ordeal was over. Apart from the numbness down the entire right hand side of my face - which lasted all afternoon. My bottom lip is still tingling now.
You have the best teeth I’ve seen in someone of 40” smiled my dentist.
I think he was trying to reassure me but I had to gently remind him that I was only 38! Talk about adding insult to injury. He nearly got a punch on the nose! The nice man from the waiting room was in front of me in the queue on the way out and I willed him not to ask me anything as I waited to make my next appointment. He must have read my mind because he just nodded his goodbye as I fumbled around for my purse. What are the chances of meeting the love of your life at the dentist, I pondered. I was never so glad to walk out of a place in my life. Well, hobble actually. Between my bad back and my dribble I really did feel old!
What was the first thing I did when I got home? No, not a cup of tea (although I was dying for one but I couldn’t risk getting second degree burns) Nope, no hot beverages. But I did tip the last remaining Kola Cubes from the sweetie jar into the bin. I think I’ve learned my lesson, don't you?

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