Trouble In My Mouth

This part of dentistry is all hand/eye coordination. He found the roots and began clean them with tiny hand tools. You can see three of them in the photo.

geoff-in-dentistry.jpgYesterday afternoon I began to notice tenderness when I closed my mouth. A molar was acting up. Over time I’ve learned these are never self healing.

I hoped there was something caught in my gum or under a piece of earlier dental work. I flossed and probed. Nothing.

It was a dull pain. If I didn’t bite I could deal with it. That let me fall asleep. It’s also what woke me up.

I called my dentist, this morning. I’ve been seeing Dr. Ortman 22 years. This was not my first unscheduled call.

“How quickly can you get here?” he asked. Fifteen minutes later I was in the chair.

In a perfect world our story would end here. It didn’t! This wasn’t a cavity. I was off to the periodontist.

Dr. Evans looked at my x-rays (emailed from the dentist), probed a little and decided maybe an endodontist was who I needed to see. He’s down the hall.

It wasn’t long before I was back in the chair. In the name of science my tooth had already been probed and scraped and chilled twice. One more time!

It was becoming a little more difficult to answer, “Does this hurt?” It hurt constantly.

By this time the gas was flowing and I was slowly approaching a 1968 state of mind. My new found relaxed state allowed him to administer the novacaine (I think it’s actually xylocaine nowadays) and deaden the throb.

Dr. Cha is a high tech guy. I asked if I could use a mirror to watch what he was doing (Yes, I like to watch) and he reached for a remote control to turn on an LCD monitor mounted near the ceiling. I could see what he was seeing in his dental microscope.

The angry tooth was one that had been filled decades ago. Dr. Ortman saw it in his records from my first visit in 1987. Now Dr. Cha was opening a hole in the amalgam to expose the root canals.

This part of dentistry is all hand/eye coordination. He found the roots and began clean them with tiny hand tools. You can see three of them in the photo.

A little more dental housekeeping before he resealed the tooth. I’ll be back next week. In the meantime I’ve been given prescriptions for an antibiotic and pain reliever.

My mouth is still tender, but not when I bite on that molar. I’m on the comeback trail.

Root Canal on Tooth Five

It’s a good thing I haven’t named my teeth. Over the years I would have cried for some of them. They have been poked and prodded. Some have survived, some have died, others have gotten a makeover.

As it turns out, my teeth are numbered. I didn’t know that, but when the periodontist sent me to the endodontist, good old number five was getting the work. Number five is on the upper right (from my perspective) side of my mouth.

This all began when a pea sized bubble mysteriously appeared on my gum. I’ve had no pain, but I did have an infection. Within five seconds of seeing the x-ray, Barry the periodontist said root canal was in order. Different specialty – go down the hall to that other office.

My appointment was this morning at 10:00. A few days ago they called to ask me to be there fifteen minutes early to fill out the paperwork.

I am Geoff. However, when it comes to insurance, my drivers license, and my mom when she’s angry, it’s Geoffrey. So, Geoffrey filled out the forms.

I had met Bruce the endodontist before. He had previously renovated another sick tooth. I have no idea what he was doing in my mouth, but I had 100% confidence in him. This is the kind of thing, I suppose, you can sense in someone.

Originally from Korea, where he first became a dentist, he came to the United States and had to train again. He is bright, focused and unbelievably gentle. This is no small feat. Not every dentist is gentle – and it makes a huge difference.

I also like Bruce because he’s a techno guy. He might not admit to that, but it’s true. The last time he worked on me he took pictures of the result with a digital camera. Now his office had a digital x-ray machine with the results displayed on an LCD screen that also hosts the office’s business system.

Up high, where a patient lounging in the chair could see is a flat screen TV. Only in a dentist’s office is the remote control wrapped in clear plastic.

Much of this was wasted on me because the first thing I did was put on the mask and start breathing nitrous oxide. I don’t drink, so I can’t be sure, but this has to be a little bit of what being tipsy is all about.

As soon as the gas took hold, he gave me two injections on the upper gum. I hardly felt them. Certainly, I have never felt any injection less.

The entire root canal took a little over an hour – and that’s it. Two hours of no eating for the filling to set and I’m good to go. Well, not exactly. A root canal is always followed by a crown, so there’s more fun ahead, I suppose.

I drove home, still a little woozy from the gas. A few hours of rest and time for the anesthetic to wear off, and now there’s hardly any discomfort at all.

I am truly amazed.

Thrilled It’s an Infection

A few years ago I visited my family physician for something… I can’t even remember what it is now. He’s a great doctor and a good friend. I trust him with my life. Is there any greater endorsement?

After his examination, before anything else, he turned to me and said, “It’s not cancer.”

Cancer had never even entered my mind. This changed things. As of that moment, everything was cancer.

This weekend a pea sized lump formed on my upper gum. It didn’t hurt, it wasn’t bothering anyone. It just didn’t belong there.

I knew in my heart-of-hearts it was an infection – not good, but certainly commonplace. But all I could think of was, “It’s cancer.”

I know, this is ridiculous… and yet there’s nothing I can do. I see my own mortality. I don’t like the idea.

As soon as I woke up Monday I called my periodontist&#185. This morning I went for a visit.

Of course, it was just an infection. Unfortunately, that means I’ll need root canal… and as it turns out, I also have an endodontist. The fun begins early (for me) next Tuesday morning.

In the general scheme of things the prospect of root canal is a relief. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs?

&#185 – If you have a periodontist, life is already cruel. He’s a nice guy, but I’d rather see him socially than dentally.