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Adventures in Pain

March 25, 2008

Tooth pain stinks. Let me tell you.

I went through labor and I’m pretty sure that labor was easier than having a root canal go south.

Back when I was young and silly and did not yet appreciate the thousands of dollars my folks spent on orthodontia for me, I did not have a regular dentist. I had a fear of dentists and decided that if I just did not go, I would not have to deal with the fear… or with the pain. So I didn’t go. I didn’t go to the hygienist every six months for a cleaning, I didn’t go to the dentist even annually to get things checked out. Worse, I didn’t go when things started to cause pain. I stubbornly refused to go when that upper right molar (#2) started to really bug. I figured it would eventually stop. I figured wrong.

I let it go for far longer than a few months. Those few months turned into a couple of years and I’m honestly a little surprised that I didn’t end up with an abscess or something. No abscess, but I did end up shelling out just over a grand to have a root canal and a nice porcelain crown put on it. That was when I first began to appreciate the thousands of dollars my folks had sunk into my dental health, and when I first began to actually try to take care of things on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve seen the hygienist faithfully every six months and the dentist has poked and prodded regularly. No more crowns required, thankfully, but I have had a few fillings. That one ugly crown, though, has caused me nothing but heartache since I invested in it so heavily. Every time I see the hygienist she clucks when she digs that sharp little measuring stick up into my gums so far I’m sure she’s hunting for grey matter.

“Nine, eight, nine,” she’ll say to the person doing the charting, in a disappointed, head-shaking, corners of her mouth turned down, kind of way.

Just ten days ago, at my last cleaning, we had another conversation about flossing (which I’m terrible at), and using my Water Pik regularly (which I’m great at).

“I would have thought the Water Pik would have caused significant improvement,” she said.

I nodded. You know how those conversations go when you have sharp instruments in your mouth. Nodding is about as interactive as I get.

Every cleaning, it’s the same. It never gets better. The gum tissue is inflamed, the tooth hurts occasionally. It’s just not good. And every visit the dentist tells me, “You’re not going to be able to hang onto that one forever. Don’t know how long, but not forever. See you in six months!” So I’ve been prepared that my tooth and I will not be lifelong friends. But they just checked it out again ten days ago. Ten! And the hygienist inserted some antibiotic stuff up under my gums around that tooth, in hopes of “stabilizing it”, whatever that means. Ten days ago…

On Saturday night, I started to feel like it hurt. It was that little twinge when I ate dinner, you know, like I had bitten down on an olive pit or something, and it just sent a shooting pain right up into my jaw. Only I wasn’t eating olives, I was eating mashed potatoes… the pitted kind.

By Sunday, I was popping Advil like candy, sure that I had something stuck in between my back teeth that was causing this pain. Perhaps I had a popcorn hull stuck in there from our family field trip on Easter morning to see Horton Hears a Who. No, it couldn’t be that. I distinctly remember chewing only on the left side because the pain was already bad when I put pressure on it. Maybe it was a potato skin. Or a piece of carrot. I went to work with the floss, flossing every 2.3 seconds, sure that the next round would dislodge whatever it was that was causing me such grief. It didn’t happen.

By yesterday morning, the entire right side of my face was swollen up like a chipmunk fresh from the nut farm, and my whole face was throbbing. I could tell what my resting heart rate was because every heartbeat caused some more searing pain to arc right up through the gum, through my sinus cavity, into my eye socket, around the back of my head, down behind my ear, and wrap right around into my lower jaw. It was bad.

I called the dentist first thing, hoping that they would have an immediate appointment. They didn’t. I had to wait until the afternoon, an eternity I tell you. When I finally got there, I laid in the chair, throbbing and miserable for almost a half hour, thinking of ways that I might be able to pry the tooth out myself. The dentist had an Easy button on her counter, I suppose to keep bored kids busy. I pressed it hopefully, but nothing happened. No computers fell out of the sky, no cell phones, no reams of paper, or anything else that Staples sells… and no improvement of the throbbing pain either. I contemplated getting someone to hit me as hard as possible on that side of my face. Maybe that would make it fall out. I looked for pliers, a claw hammer, a hockey stick, or any other dental or non-dental tool that might do the trick. Nothing.

Finally when the dentist made it in, I said, “Thank God. Can you just rip it out of my head please? I can’t take anymore!”

She smiled in response and said, “Well, we might just have to. But let me take a look first.”

She proceeded to poke and prod, say “Hmmmm” a lot, pull my lip so far out that I thought it might detach permanently from my mouth, and then tell me that it would be best to see an oral surgeon. “They’re really equipped for things like this,” she said.

“An oral surgeon?” I questioned. “How long will it take for me to get in? Because at this point, I’m considering finding a How-To video on YouTube or something.”

That made her laugh. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t aware of how serious I was.

“It won’t be long,” she said. “We already talked to them and they’re expecting your call. In the meantime, we’ll put you on some antibiotics to reduce the infection.”

The antibiotics are helping now, although I got about a millisecond of sleep last night despite copious amounts of Advil… far more than the recommended dosage! I have an appointment with the oral surgeon tomorrow morning to extract the tooth from my head. The dental assistant assured me that it would be no big deal. “It’s just a number two!” she chirped with a smile, as I walked out the door yesterday. Like everyone has had a number two extracted. “At least it’s not a bony growth that’s attached to your jaw bone or something!”

Love those people that can find joy and happiness in the most miserable of circumstances.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed that the oral surgeon can just use his pliers and yank that sucker out… that there’s nothing underlying… that the antibiotics work as designed… that I never have to have another crown or root canal that might possibly go south. Because this? Stinks!

And you? Don’t forget to brush and floss.

And see your dentist regularly.

Because I would hate for you to have to have a number two extracted later in life because you were too scared to go…

15 Comments leave one →
  1. lyndaspix permalink
    March 25, 2008 9:54 am

    Awwww, I’m sorry you’re in pain! That sucks, big time. You’re in my prayers for a quick, painless extraction and a fast, full recovery!

    I do have to say, though, that your dental exploits do make for entertaining blog fodder!! Hehehehe…Sorry, I’m not laughing at your pain, just your writing!

  2. March 25, 2008 10:29 am

    Oh Good Lord! Do doctors not know what an EMERGENCY is? For real, constant, excruciating pain, not acceptable. Methinks you need stronger drugs. Like those with codeine.

  3. itsalovething permalink
    March 25, 2008 11:54 am

    I hope you feel better soon!


  4. March 25, 2008 2:22 pm


    Poor Oldest Stepson had a molar that rotted when he was really little. They say this can happen from getting antibiotics for ear infections when you’re an infant. The first experience he ever had with the dentist was getting his tooth pulled. And let me tell you how nasty that tooth was! It literally stunk!

    As for me, the summer after I had Oldest Son, I decided to finally have my wisdom teeth pulled. One for sure had to go and I decided to get it all done in one fell swoop. It seriously sucked. I’m glad I got all four done at once—-they never would have gotten me back there!

    The way I look at it, tooth pain is like the end of a pregnancy. It’s really uncomfortable and that is mostly so you’ll go through whatever it takes (labor) to get it over with.

    I hope your “whatever” turns out to be nothing at all!


  5. March 25, 2008 2:38 pm

    Ohhh ouch! I’m so sorry for you! That must just suck royally.

    Good luck at the dentist, and when I see you, I’ll call you toothless. 😉

  6. March 25, 2008 3:54 pm

    Yeah, it’s only your back tooth. Right. It’s still a tooth.

    Your dentist didn’t give you much information about why the root canal isn’t working. Usually in cases like this a referral to a root canal specialist, an endodontist, is appropriate. Oh well.

    Hopefully the oral surgeon will be able to see you soon though. Once the tooth is out, you’ll be in a much better state!

  7. March 25, 2008 4:45 pm

    OW OW OW OW OW OW OW! I was cringing the whole time I read this. I second, third, and fourth every thing you said. EVERY SINGLE THING. Because I could’ve written this post myself. Since December I have had four root canals, a filling, and a tooth extracted. I am now in the process of getting a bridge for the missing tooth. What state do you live in? I’ll drop off some morphine.

  8. March 25, 2008 5:41 pm

    I am so glad you will be able to get that tooth taken care of tomorrow…

  9. March 26, 2008 5:30 am


    Get well, soon.

  10. March 26, 2008 8:49 am

    Tooth pain is the worst. I can handle broken bones, gaping wounds, mangled body parts…but not the dentist. I hope you are feeling better soon, and I will think of you while I brush my teeth from now on!

  11. March 26, 2008 10:16 am

    Ow. Major ow. Feel better soon!

  12. Daisy's Hubby permalink
    March 26, 2008 10:25 am

    Is the 9-8-9 related to the 7 – 10 split in bowling?

  13. Kelly permalink
    March 26, 2008 5:34 pm

    I really hope things are better Stephanie! I just about got queezy and lightheaded thinking about what you’re going through. Couldn’t even comment the first time I read it. I don’t handle any sort of medical procedure (dental or otherwise) very well. Seriously, the first time my oldest son ever had to have blood drawn and I was trying to get him to “brave his way through it” …. I ended up hyperventilating and down on the floor when he was all done. Not one of mommy’s prouder moments. I have only had two fillings, EVER, and get my teeth cleaned regularly. I floss all the time with the hope of having to avoid anything (or anyone) other than the hygenist. Here’s wishing you a speedy, and PAINFREE recovery!

  14. March 26, 2008 7:41 pm

    God bless the Dentist – and the Oral Surgeon too! We all cringe at the thought of them. What a thankless job. Then again, what an interesting job. You get to inflict pain and it’s totally legal and morally acceptible and to top it all off you get paid for doing it!

    Oh! I got side tracked. I hope things go very well for you tomorrow. Remember to ask for very strong drugs to ease the pain before, during, and after! Make sure you let us know how everyting comes out…err…goes.

  15. lucky13 permalink
    March 27, 2008 7:29 am

    ok, it’s been a few days of silence, i hope you are coming along well!!

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