Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dental Diatribe

My jaw started hurting on the left side the other day. The pain starts at the joint and then radiates down through both the upper and the lower jaw on the right side. I think I finally figured out what it is.

Only three of my wisdom teeth came in. The two bottoms, which are still impacted but seem to have stopped growing and hurting after about ten years of growing and hurting, and the top right. I had the top right tooth removed because it grew in far enough so that I couldn't shut my mouth all the way. That was a big deal because my old dentist is a total sadistic bastard. I was fretting over it. I mean worried sick, because I really really really hate having my teeth worked on. (I would rather have a baby every single day than have a check up every six months.) I asked the old bastard to give me a valium or something and he laughed mockingly and wouldn't even give me the courtesy of an answer! My friend's mom gave me one of her valium, and on the day I had the tooth taken out, he shot me full of novocaine and then, like usual, went immediately to work, not giving the novocaine time to take effect. This caused intense trauma and pain, and it was topped off with my entire head turning numb a half hour after I left his office.

He actually propped a leg on the dental chair and hoisted himself up over me so he'd have more leverage and then had his assistant hold my head down while he yanked. And this person is called "doctor?"

I thought maybe he was just a bad dentist (he is), so I have spent all of my adult life looking for a decent dentist and have met some very nice people, but it is not exactly a profession that lends itself to gentleness. So I stopped going.

The funny thing is, it seems that the number of cavities and dental problems I have has a direct relation to how often I go to the dentist. For a while when I was a kid I was averaging a couple cavities a visit, so that's three or four a year. My parents were diligent about taking care of our dental needs so we went every six months. We'd go for a check up, he'd find some cavities, and then we'd have to come back for another visit (or usually two visits) to fix the cavities.

Hmmm, "Doctor," commit fraud much? Of course, I have no proof. Just a feeling.

Since I have stopped going for regular checkups (about 12 years), I have had one cavity. Of course, how could I possibly get any more cavities when my mouth is already totally filled with metal? The only other dental problems I've had is a broken tooth caused by eating rock hard frozen chocolate chips when I was 7 months pregnant, wisdom teeth pain, and a deep pocket in my gums.

The tooth broke because what was left of the actual tooth chipped off the filling that was there. The dentist I went to for that was a very nice man, but by the time I was finished with the visit where he drilled my tooth down to a nub of nerves and fitted a metal crown over it, I was laying in a pool of my own sweat. I'm not even kidding. The chair was dripping wet from my neck to my ankles (embarrassing!) and my hands were sore the next day from clutching the arm rest.

I got the pocket in my gums from some other idiot who fitted a metal sheath over my tooth so he could drill out the old metal filling that broke and put in a new filling. He shoved that sheath down so far, my gums have never recovered in that area, and now after I eat anything, I have to have floss on hand to dig nauseatingly deep down into that pocket to get out the food that gets lodged in there.

That was the last straw. That was about 8 years ago and I have only had one checkup/cleaning since. That's when I had the x-ray to see what was going on with my wisdom teeth. It turns out that the upper left wisdom tooth is stuck behind the last molar on that side. I think it is finally starting to come in and it's moving all the teeth on that side over. I should go and get it looked at but now that I think I know what it is I figure, why bother. Can they do anything but make it worse?

The last time I went to the dentist to have this looked at he explained the situation and said, "You know what I think we should do?" and I said, "Is it drilling a hole in my head? Is it going deep into my mouth and digging out part of my skull? Because if it is either one of those things, then no."

Has dentistry come any further than drilling and digging since I last went? If it has, then maybe I'll go, but I don't think it has.


  1. I had my first root canal last Thanksgiving and my wisdom teeth removed in the military in about '95 (I was actually *ordered* to have them remove as part of my separation physical among other indignities).

    The two experiences could not have been more different.

    The wisdom tooth extraction could better be referred to as a mining expedition in my mouth (think "There Will Be Blood"). The Army just *loves* to conduct training on a large captive audience, and I believe my "dentist" was more than likely a student. There was a lot of blood, and some crying (the hygienist burst into tears at one point), followed by a lot of pain medication.
    The root canal, on the other hand, was very nearly a complete non-event. It was almost discomfort-free. There were a couple of times when the probe touched a "live" nerve, but that was about it. It was a very long procedure (two and a half hours or so), so I'd say the worst part was jaw soreness from having my face jacked open for that long.
    Before choosing the most recent dentist, I asked friends in the area, and checked reviews online. Ultimately, the guy I picked seems to have been the right choice, but the other difference since the last time I'd been to the dentist was probably in my attitude. Dentists are hellaciously expensive, and I'm not going to pay someone an obscene amount of money to inflict pain on me when it could be avoided, so I'm more likely to say something if I don't like their technique.
    Also, I recommend watching "Marathon Man" before each appointment. After that, any dentist looks like a pro.

  2. OK, I dislike dentists very much. I use nitrous for cleanings because my nerves kick into high gear. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE my dentist. He's gentle, nice, and kinda cute. If you want his name, let me know. However, I do believe that digging and drilling are here to stay. You're talking about things (teeth) that are embedded in your jaw bones, and there is only one way to get at them. If the offending part of the tooth is below the gum surface, you don't have many treatment options. As you know, I work in dental, and I've seen it all, heard it all, and can give you an opinion about just about every dentist in town, and every dental procedure known to man. Just ask!! hehe

  3. I loathe the dentist, even though I haven't had a bad experience. Lucky me, no wisdom teeth! Sorry to laugh so hard at your expense, but that is too funny!

  4. Did you know that I went to (1 year of) Dental School?! (By the way, it is a 4 year program :)) I left when we got to the classes about how to torture patients and ensuring they all need follow-up visits!
    Does this explain why I haven't seen you at the rink much?!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Marcie, I had no idea you were in dental school! You kid about the torture, but there must be some uniform training there.

  6. Dr. Buccholz was absolutely the best dentist ever. He always had a glut of Highlights issues in his waiting room and an overflowing trunk filled with crazy toys for after the visit.

    Now, that freak-show orthodontist that called teeth "toofers" and eventually got caught huffing gas in his dental office -- that dude ruined orthondtia for me. I think he looked like the freaky guy from Silence of the Lambs. "It puts the lotion on or it gets the hose." I swear to God he said that about my retainer once. (shudder) He didn't have a magical chest full of toys nor Highlights in his office.

    I think I've established scientifically valid criteria for selecting your next dentist:

    -> Stacks and stacks of Highlights in waiting room
    -> Trunk filled with toys to choose ONE at the end of your visit
    -> No funny talk about "toofers" or lotion.


I would love your comments.