Yesterday, I spent most of the day in a dental chair staring at a ceiling as a broken filling was drilled away, the roots of my tooth were removed, and a post was inserted in the remnants of what used to be my tooth for a crowning next week.
It all started with some discomfort in my lower left jaw over the past two weeks or so.
I thought I’d, perhaps, flossed too eagerly. My teeth are tight and even using a miracle product like Glide Floss still manages to cut me more often than not as the Glide string snaps between my teeth to slice up my unprotected gums below.
The pain was manageable, but it quickly became worse a couple of days ago when I treated myself to some “Vegan Almond Bark.” The massively good almonds demanded a proper crunching, and I willingly abided the inevitability of their crushed demise.
Those barky almonds were the beginning of my end as I soon began to feel my heartbeat in a couple of teeth. That’s never a good sign.
I finally did the unmanly thing and manned up and told my wife about the “slight discomfort” I was feeling in my jaw and she did her job and quietly excoriated my last bit of maligned pride and shamed me into calling the dentist in the morning.
Before I called the dentist, I decided to do my own self-doctoring — just to make sure I was really sick or if this discomfort would eventually heal in time.
I took up my Mag-Lite flashlight, a magnifying glass, a mirror, and a contorted body position to poke around my mouth — ever so gently — with the duller end of a wooden toothpick.
When I pressed the toothpick into a filling on one of my back teeth in the problem area, I could see the filling was not flat against the tooth. The filling was at an angle and had tipped inside the tooth.
That didn’t look right, and when I pressed a little harder on the filling to gauge the depth of the fracture, a spurt of blood spat forth from the tooth below the filling — it was then I knew I better call the dentist as my mouth filled with blood and pus.
The dentist told me I had fractured that filling a while ago and it had cut into my gumline and that, in turn, caused an infection that began to eat away at the tooth in decay.
The only way to fix the problem was to do an emergency root canal to kill the tooth and stop the decay and then put a crown atop the whole mess.
My last, and only, root canal was done decades ago. The dentist told me it would be much quicker this time. Technical advances in root canal work over the last five years made it a much more common, and safer, procedure.
The root canal didn’t seem any quicker or any more pleasant. There was still a lot of drilling and smoke and burning of things as they were embedded in what was once my beautiful, healthy, tooth.
I was most surprised by all the X-Rays that were taken during the procedure. I was told the insurance companies require that documentation as proof the root canal was actually performed. I liked that. Someone on the outside was looking out for me — and their money — and I can imagine how, in the past, the disingenuous dentist could easily claim a root canal was performed when it was not. Procedural X-Rays provide undeniable proof of performance.
The good news is everything went okay yesterday and in a week I return for my crowning. I’m on prescription strength Motrin for pain and Amoxicillin to speed the healing of my wounded gums. If I didn’t have the gum infection, everything would’ve been completed yesterday.
The bad news is there are a couple of other broken fillings that need to be replaced or, at worst, made right with more root canals and crownings.
My dentist warned me to stay away from gum and taffy and caramel and other sticky foods that will bind up your crowns. She also told me to be careful of hard foods that might shatter the other dental work.
Everything she said made sense and I realized that, from now on, I had to give up my love for the crunchy and the chewy and learn to be be satisfied with softer and slicker.