Saturday, September 27, 2008

A visit to the Dentist

A few days ago I went to the dentist. I had to. I had no choice at all. I was in pain. Actually, that’s wrong - I was in agony. The top right hand molar, second from the end was giving me so much pain that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Eating was a nightmare. I was also grumpy, though trying not to be. I was living on pain killers. I had so many pain killers that my kidneys went into overtime mode. I kept waking up in the middle of the night absolutely busting for a pee. After so many pees, I must have been getting dehydrated as my urine changed in colour to a not-quite-right orangeade .

Now the particular tooth in question was one I could live without. After all, I still had my upper right end molar, and my lower right end molar was still intact, so chewing and grinding or even gnashing would still be within my dental capabilities. Also, I just knew that this would be no simple filling job, but a root canal job. Root canal jobs, as we all know mean only two things. The first is no immediate relief from the pain. The second is several trips back to the dentist and a sudden emptying of the bank account. There was only one thing for it. No beating about the bush. No messing. No hesitation. It had to come out.

After the obligatory questions such as “are you sure you want me to take it out”, and “are you really sure you want it out”, and “you could have root canal treatment and keep the tooth” - the dentist finally conceded that in the “to extract or not to extract” department, I was the boss.

I settled back into the chair, relaxing in its warm embrace. The dentist’s mouth lamp stared at me like some bug eyed creature from a science fiction movie.

The dentist decided to take an x-ray before beginning the extraction. He showed me the resulting image and there it was - two long roots projecting deep into the gum.

I felt a deep sense of joy as the needle penetrated my gum - several times. It didn’t matter that it hurt. It didn’t matter that my gums swelled up with the sheer volume of the anaesthetic which was being pumped in. What mattered was that this bloody tooth which was causing me so much agony was about to meet its maker - but not without a fight, as I was about to find out!

After the standard wait of about five minutes for my mouth to “numb up”, the stage was finally set for the dentist to pick up the extraction forceps and pull the critter out.

Now at this point I should say that my expectation was that this would be a very quick affair and that I should be out the door after a total of about 15 minutes. My appointment was for 9 ‘o clock and I had a work planning meeting to attend which started at 10’ o clock. No problem.

The dentist grabbed my tooth and began to yank it about from side to side, and front to back to compress the bone in which the tooth was set and create an enlarged cavity thus loosening the tooth for the final pull of extraction. The “final pull of extraction” began. He pulled. He yanked. He pulled again. He pulled hard. He pulled really hard. I pulled back in a vain effort to assist. The first attempt a failure he picked up a levering implement and poked it down the cavity beside the tooth and began to lever away. Back to the forceps, he resumed the pulling and yanking once again.

At around this point, the realization set in with me that this was one tooth which was not going to budge. Although the anaesthetic worked well, I could still detect pressure and the feeling I was getting was that the roots of the tooth were firmly welded into the bone. It felt as if it was necessary for my whole bottom jaw to be pulled out if the tooth was going to be budged. In fact, all sorts of gory visions started to flood my mind, and it was clear that as extractions went, I was in for the long haul - or should I say pull. The dentist, whilst doing a very good job of keeping cool and concealing any emotions of panic, kept assuring me that everything was okay, and asking if I was alright. Of course I was all right, in a near death experience sort of way.

Just to reassure me further and put me more at ease he told me that his next move was to drill vertically through the tooth to cut it in half and take it out one root at a time. He then proceeded to drill. And drill. And drill. At this point I realised the anaesthetic was starting to wear off - I had been in the chair for three days now - and suddenly I felt the drill searing into the nerve. My hand shot up and I began to make a combination of bovine lowing and velociraptor screeching noises. Thankfully, he stopped the drilling and injected yet more anaesthetic into my already swollen gum which was gradually performing an imitation of the Hindenburg airship and taking up most of the remaining space in my mouth.

After a further 5 minutes of “numbing up” time, the yanking was resumed - to no avail. It was now time to bring in the heavy artillery.

The door opened and in walked the receptionist. I could tell the situation was getting serious. She positioned herself behind me and put both hands around my head to steady me for the final “push”- well, pull really. He pulled. Nothing happened. He pulled harder. Nothing happened. He pulled astonishingly hard. Something snapped and the vibration rattled through my skull. Part of the tooth had come away, but both the roots were still firmly implanted. He switched to instruments with hooks and levers and much pulling, pushing and levering ensued. I could taste blood.

Suddenly, I felt a root come out with a sudden snap. “Yes”! the dental nurse cried out with an air of triumph. The root was placed into the tray. The dentist resumed with more pulling, pushing and levering. I could feel an increase of blood in my mouth and the whole of the right side of my face was starting to throb. There was a further snapping sound as more tooth broke away.

At this point the dentist decided enough was enough. I could have told him that myself but for the mouth full of blood. I had a good rinse and was given a gauze pad to bite on and a bill for £65. I was told the other root was still in my jaw and I should leave it a couple of weeks before deciding whether to come back again. I was advised that if I did, it might be a hospital job. I was starting to feel as if I belonged in hospital anyway.

I dragged myself out to the reception where a girl was sat in the waiting area awaiting her appointment. She went white on seeing me as I seemed unable to stop saliva mixed with blood dribbling from my mouth and dropping to the floor. Her mother cooed reassurance into her ear. I dribbled more gore onto the floor. “Don’t worry about that” said the receptionist, and proceeded to clean up my mess. I paid my bill. The receptionist advised me not to go to work, but to go to bed instead. I didn’t argue and complied in full.

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