Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Aching Tooth

Every family has stories. Some more colorful than others. The family I come from is pretty small and at first blush doesn’t have much to put in the shocking category. My divorce seemed to be the “biggest scandal” in recent history, and even that, my family took in a supportive stride. Today I am thinking about the stories of gory death in our family background and making a connection to one of my biggest fears that I am in the throes of right now.

This is not related to the legend of a Quaker ancestor who had to leave his family on their Sunday trek by foot to church because he had forgotten the family Bible at home. When he returned to catch up to the family he found his wife and all his children had been scalped by the Indians native to the area.

Nor is this related to the men who went to war and never came back, leaving mothers to raise their children in poverty, eeking out livings as seamstresses and church organ players.

This is related to a great, great, great, great grandmother, who, legend has it, died as a result of complications from having all of her teeth removed. I am a dental weenie. I do know that the way my nerves are wired, traditional shots of Novocain do little to calm the nerves in my teeth. As a child who had to have lots of orthodontia and had lots of permanent teeth pulled to make room in my small jaw I have historically had lots of time in a dentist chair. It wasn’t until I was an adult that a very kind, careful and patient dentist realized that the nerves in my teeth do not run in a traditional direction. Therefore when I was getting a shot to numb the part of my mouth needing attention, it was actually another part of my mouth that was getting numb.

This probably explains why one time, after administering 12 shots of Novocain to me, a dentist threw up his arms and stomped out to my mother in the waiting room and declared me too unreasonable to work with. It probably also explains the actual imprint of a shoe, my shoe, in the ceiling tile of one dentists office, as a result of my literal knee jerk reaction to having a nerve hit with a drill. This also explains why I am not very good at going consistently to a dentist, and why now, the dentist that has finally taken me on treats me like a priceless Stradivarius violin. I have my own nitro mask always in my glove compartment and a prescription of nerve pills to take before I come in for anything. They allow double time to work with me and shoot me all over with Novocain before they even look at me. I know it is both a mental and physical battle that I take on in that chair.

Yesterday I majorly injured a tooth. I chomped into an olive in my Greek salad only to find out, too late, the olives were not pitted. I really came down on it, and like Julie and her experience on the side of the hill, I knew I had broken myself before I hit ground. It was not just one of those cracks you can limp along with for a while. Immediately I knew there were nerves and roots involved. Fortunately the gals at the desk at my dentist’s office understood the gravity of the situation and squeezed me in at the end of the day. By the time I was in the chair I had been at a pain level of 8 on a 10 scale for several hours. A gentle tap from the dentist sent that to a level 20 on a 10 scale and she knew I was in trouble. So they began the numbing game and after giving me a horse’s dose of Novocain were able to explore the crack, pull out a major section of tooth that broke off well below the jaw line and determine that I should be scheduled for oral surgery to remove the rest ASAP. They packed something over the opening which is supposed to protect it until the surgery can be done and gave me a scrip for strong pain meds and sent me home.

The earliest I can schedule an appointment for extraction and planting the titanium peg for an implant is next Wednesday. My timing sucked. All the dentists and surgeons are booked with taking care of things for kids before they head back to school. I’m on the standby list for several surgeons in case anything opens up. In the meantime I get to try to function with pain or under the influence of pain pills, and more significantly the angst of knowing I have major dental work on the horizon.

Knowing I am going to have an adult tooth extracted got me to thinking about the legend of my grandmother who DIED from teeth extractions. I wonder if, subconsciously, knowing of that family legend has built on my fears of the dentist. That and the fact that I can’t be numbed. Do you think? At least I don’t fear being scalped on my way to church! I am also learning that my cost for the implant, even with insurance coverage, may force me, like my single mother ancestors, to take up sewing or playing organ at the church to help pay for the implant. You wouldn’t believe how much those suckers cost. My tears as I checked out of the dentist yesterday I think were equally caused by my pain, my fear of the upcoming work, and having to come up with a bucket load of money for one measly tooth. That was an expensive Greek salad for sure.

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