Saturday, July 14, 2007

Molar Number 31

I spent most of the day yesterday and most of the day before in a delirious state brought about by pain killers. Today is my first day since Thursday morning that I am fully lucid.

I have – actually I had – a molar that has given me a lifetime of pain. I estimate I have had no fewer than thirteen dental visits due solely to the maintenance, care and eventual removal of this one tooth. During its history this tooth has; had cavities filled; split down the middle; been adorned with a crown; root canalled through the crown; split down one side of the crown; cracked below the surface and infected; been extracted in itty bitty pieces; re-infected when one itty bitty piece was left behind; and finally been the cause for oral surgery to remove said itty bitty piece.

The dentist who extracted the tooth told me he was leaving behind an itty bitty piece. As it turned out, the piece was not so itty bitty. No wonder the damn thing got infected.

The dentist who botched the extraction practices in California where I happened to be last January and February. My dentist here at home told me this California doc didn’t botch the extraction. He said dentists often have to decide when extracting brittle teeth (which they become as a result of root canals) whether to go for the gold and possibly cause nerve damage or whether to leave well enough alone and hope bone will subsume the pieces left behind. He also told me that he no longer performs extractions for that very reason. He always refers to an oral surgeon, which is what he referred me to, and whom I was under the care of two days ago.

When the California quack (I don’t care how my dentist defends him) incompletely pulled the tooth last January he spent at least an hour pushing, prodding, saying “you may feel a little pressure,” pulling, hammering, and generally making me wish I was in hell for a break. One other thing a dentist’s office lacks, besides surgical expertise, is anesthesiology. You have two choices; local or none. So any extraction comes with you living in constant fear of this buffoon slipping and gashing the inside of your mouth, and it comes with increasing pain in your jaw as you try to open it even wider for the dentist’s pleasure.

The oral surgeon, on the other hand, offers the wonderful bliss of la-la land. You get to go to sleep during the procedure. Going to sleep under the care of an anesthesiologist is one of life’s great pleasures. This is perhaps the fourth time in my life I have had such an experience and I tell you it’s just about the best way to go. First of all a good anesthesiologist practically hypnotizes you to begin with, what with his or her gentle persuasions regarding how comfortable you will shortly be becoming. Then not long after, and this I have found on each occasion, you ask how much longer until you will be asleep, and without fail you are informed that it’s all over and you are waking up. I have never had any sense of some missing time in the interim. Just starting to feel wonderful and then being told you’re done.

Now I know some people don’t like this. Who knows after all what they could have done to you while you were out? They could have given you an anal probe or implanted an alien spore in you. You may have been provided with post hypnotic suggestions to murder your mailman. You might have had a GPS receiver implanted in your abdomen. You ask me; I don’t care. As long as I get to forgo the experience of the surgery I don’t care if they make me confess to Princess Di’s murder.

But too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing. The oral surgeon prescribed some pain killers – three types really: Regular, Extra Strong, and Mild. I had the Regular prescription filled prior to the surgery and that’s what I started on once Bonnie got me home following the slice and dice session. These put me to sleep immediately and I woke up briefly only every few hours just in time to take another pain killer. But that first evening things started getting pretty sore so Bonnie (sweet woman that she is) went and got the Extra Strong prescription filled for me. Those did the job very nicely for me for the next couple of doses.

But now I’m tired of sleeping (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?). The pain is manageable at this point without anything, or with just a couple of ibuprofen. Should I get the Mild prescription filled? You know, just to have them around? I find painkillers are nice to have in the cabinet for those times you get a bad muscle ache or just can’t sleep or whatever. But I’m not an abuser of scrips and so I probably won’t get this one filled unless I find ibuprofen insufficient for the pain. Because I won’t go back to the pills that make me sleep for now. My back hurts from too much time in bed.

And I really get the feeling this one is a keeper. I think this will truly be the end of dentist office visits for molar number 31. Ta ta.

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