One of the greatest joys in life, for me, anyway, is going to the dentist. Where else can you sit in a chair draped in plastic covering permanently damaging your jaw muscles from keeping your mouth open for an hour while a stranger shoves his hands in there causing pain that seriously rivals childbirth? Joyous. I love it.
I went to the dentist yesterday to get a cavity filled. I'm forty-four years old and for the life of me, I thought I was done with getting cavities. I brush at least twice a day, sometimes three times. I floss regularly. In fact, I'm sort of an obsessive flosser, so why do I still get an occasional cavity? What is this about?
Let me begin by telling you a bit about my history with dental procedures. This will help you understand the anxiety and pure, white hot fear I feel the minute I step into the chamber of torture referred to as the dentist office. In my twenties I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. I was nervous, but I had known friends who had to have theirs pulled, and their recoveries were quick and fairly painless. I figured I'd get through it just fine. Not the case. I developed something called "dry sockets" in all four holes after the teeth were extracted. It was the single worst pain of my life. I'm not kidding you.
Keep in mind that I have given birth twice, the first time to a huge, nearly ten pound boy with more hair than Don King, a head the size of a watermelon, and feet that were the same size as some five year olds I know. It was an incredibly painful birth, for sure, but even it did not compare to the misery I experienced after the wisdom tooth fiasco.
Dry sockets feel like, hmmmm... let's see... someone taking a small letter opener type device, heating it in a hot fire, and stabbing you with all their strength right into the empty holes you now have in your mouth. The pain never stops. All you can do is moan, cry, and hope that someone punches you in the face and knocks you unconscious so you no longer have to feel the pain. The treatment for the dry sockets consists of the Grim Reaper, I'm sorry, I mean dentist, using a small spoon-like instrument to basically dig out the holes in your mouth, causing them to bleed again. That's the point- they want blood. They need the holes to bleed again so they create a clot that will hopefully stay in the holes so that the nerve is no longer exposed. Oh- and did I mention they do this without any anesthesia because they do not want it to hinder the production of blood? Most. Fun. Ever.
Imagine me lying there, Reaper digging at the holes, blood pooling in my mouth, tears streaming down my face, while the dentist grabs some tweezers, picks up some cotton soaked in some horrible smelling liquid (I later found out it was clove liquid), and shoves the soaked cotton in each little hole. And that shit stays in there, people. You don't remove it until the next day, when the torture begins all over again. This went on for about four or five days (I lost count since each time I believe I lost consciousness as well as, I am certain, years off my life). Eventually I was healed, but the damage was done. I have since had a horrible fear of the men in white coats who delight in putting their hands in my mouth.
About ten years ago, I had a root canal. Some crazy woman who called herself a "specialist" (yep- a specialist in torture, pain, misery and stupidity), performed this procedure for me. It took days to complete, and day after day, while this "specialist" performed her own brand of mutilation on me, she seemed to become more angry. I lied there wondering why on earth this woman would be mad at me, when I was the one experiencing the hours of horror at her very hands. It turns out I have some very long roots or nerves or something long, anyway, and she was having a very hard time cleaning out whatever it was she was cleaning while performing the procedure. On the last day (I think we were on day number five), she became extremely frustrated and mumbled to her assistant that she was "just going to fill 'em up."
I wondered exactly what it was she was filling up. I really didn't understand what was going on, but something didn't seem right. However, I didn't question her. I had reached my limit. Five days in the chair having her stick tiny wires in my mouth had taken its toll. I was done. "Yep, fill 'em up!", I thought. Just get this over with.
To make a long story short, the root canal was not done properly and many years later the tooth became abscessed. The pain was excruciating and not unlike the pain I experienced after I had my wisdom teeth removed. After being sent to another specialist, he determined there was nothing that could be done. He apologized and told me that the tooth would need to be pulled.
"Uh, no. Nope. Never. Nu-uh. No way. Nopety. Not. Going. To. Happen. Ever", I said.
"Yes", he said.
"No", I said.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but yes."
Ma'am? I'm not sixty.
And then I cried. Not a quiet, sad, tiny cry, but a loud, snotty, tear-filled, sobbing cry. The specialist became nervous and I'm pretty sure he was considering calling in a psychiatrist. He assured me things would be fine, that all I would need to do is go back to my regular dentist and he would just "pop that tooth right out". No biggie. Smile.
I wanted to rip his eyeballs out.
I ended up going to an oral surgeon to have the tooth pulled. There was no way in hell that I was going to sit in my dentist's chair awake while he ripped out another one of my precious teeth with his pliers the size of hedge clippers. The surgeon explained that he would pull the tooth and create a place for the rod that they would later shove up in there to attach a fake tooth.
"How do you create a place for the rod to go? What do you use?", I asked.
"Cadaver bone", he replied.
"I'm sorry. Whaaaaaa?" Certainly I had misheard him.
"Yes, cadaver bone. We pack it up with cadaver bone so that the rod has a place to set and the artificial tooth stays in place." The surgeon's eyes were wide with pleasure. I could tell he enjoyed his job.
So I sit here now writing this blog post, mouth filled with a dead person's bones, tooth aching from the latest trip to my favorite place on earth, thankful I don't have worse mouth problems. Maybe one day I'll get over this irrational fear I have of going to the dentist, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon.