Say Goodbye to Number 29

I had a tooth removed Monday morning. No saving this one. It came out in two pieces. Three stitches followed.

Number 29 was a second premolar, lower right and toward the back. It was heavily involved in chewing before its untimely demise.

Before she did her work, the periodontist injected some ‘caine’ into the nearby gum. That allowed her to do things no human would willingly tolerate. Once the shots wear off you feel the full effect!

Pain pills made me ditzy. They didn’t help my pain, which was continuous and intense.

Advil was the answer. Finally starting to feel better.

This is a three procedure event. One down, two to go.

I Am Minus One Tooth

“See the difference,” she asked? No, but I knew where this was going.

Back when I was a kid I used to watch Soupy Sales on TV. He would often say, “Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you.” Soupy, why didn’t I listen?

I started feeling pain in a left lower molar a few days ago. Tooth pain seldom gets better with time.

I called my periodontist Tuesday and got an appointment for today. I was hoping some seed or other hard bit had become wedged between my tooth and gum. A little expert poking with a sharp instrument to dislodge it and I’d be on my way.

No such luck.

A dental assistant took an x-ray then displayed it and one from last year side-by-side on a monitor mounted on the ceiling.

“See the difference,” she asked?

No, but I knew where this was going.

My poor woobly tooth with its pre-existing root canal and cap was sitting atop an infection. We put it on the DNR list!

I helped pull the nitrous mask over my nose. If I was going to be in pain the least they could do was allow me to relive the sixties!

Brian the periodontist came at me with a syringe full of some sort of ‘caine’ (not co-, not nova-, possibly lyda-). He poked my gum a few times, reloaded and poked again.

The tooth didn’t put up much of a fight. A few seconds of tugging and it was out.

I went home with a mouthful of gauze and clotted blood. This called for a quick nap.

I’m mostly OK now. There’s a little soreness–not much. It was weird to shave while my left cheek was mostly numb.

I’ll miss that tooth. It’s not like we had a great relationship, but I did have a lot invested in it. Chewing won’t be the same without it!

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.

Note To Steffie: Inherit Your Mom’s Teeth

Last Thursday I started feeling some tenderness when I bit down on my farthest back lower molar on the left side. It’s probably not the same molar you have back there, because I’m not fully ‘toothed’ anymore.

Since the problem could be intensified on the gum line, I left a message with the periodontist I see. The next morning they called and by Friday afternoon I was in the chair and soon out of pain.

They hadn’t fixed what was wrong, but had freed me for the short term. I returned this morning at 9:30 AM.

Going for dental work under these circumstances is a great leap of faith. I was in no pain when I got there. I would certainly leave in pain. I knew that going in.

I sat in the chair as the dentist fired up the gas. Nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office is as close as you can get to a 60s simulator! It almost makes the dentistry worthwhile… almost.

I’m not sure what he did after the gas took effect, except I do know I was injected a few times with Novocaine (which really isn’t Novocaine, but some modern day offshoot).

When it was all over, I felt thread near my gums, so I know I’ve been stitched. I’ve got a little discomfort right now and I’m taking the horse pill sized Motrin.

Have I mentioned, Helaine has had one cavity in her life – one! And we’re pretty much convinced that decades ago, her dentist needed to pay for a vacation or an unforeseen car repair and… well, the rest is history.

I’m sure my dental hygiene as a child enters into this. I’m also afraid I inherited my dental problems from my mom. I have a lifetime of memories of my mom dealing with dental surgery.

So far, when given half a chance, Steffie has inherited some of my worst traits. Maybe she can inherit her mother’s teeth?

That Damned Tooth

I was only able to get 3-4 hours of sleep through Friday morning. I woke up in lots of pain. What ever was going on in my tooth was getting worse and it wanted me to know it.

I had taken codeine twice in the preceding 9 hours, so along with the pain I was woozy – unable to muster all my thought processes at the same time. I was a mess. I was shuffling, not walking, not lifting my feet very far off the carpet.

Iris, the receptionist (retiring today) picked up the phone at the periodontist’s office. She could get me in at 11:15. I thought to myself how I didn’t want to wait three hours, but knew I’d have to.

I got back into bed and closed my eyes.

This was a different kind of pain than a headache or bruise. It was an all encompassing pain. Yes, it emanated from my tooth and gum but it was more powerful than anything else I had going. I was in no position to reason. All I could think about was the pain – and that it was still there.

It wasn’t long before Helaine was in the bedroom. Iris had called back. Could I get there now?

I don’t remember much about the trip there but I do remember the periodontist telling me it didn’t look good. I haven’t gone to dental school, but I knew that already.

We talked about the tooth, the prospect of root canal and crown and then it would probably only be useful for a few years before it had to come out anyway. The second option was extraction – and that’s what he did&#185.

By the time I got home, the shots were wearing off and the pain was ramping up again. I took another codeine laced Tylenol and headed to bed. By later this afternoon the pain had mostly subsided, except my gum feels swollen and hurts if touched. That’s probably from the injections.

Over this weekend, I should start to feel as I did before this episode. The gum will come down and, hopefully, I’ll get this cream cheesy feeling out of my head.

When I was a kid, codeine was sold over-the-counter with a prescription. What were they thinking?

Right now my thought process is somewhat akin to thinking through gauze.

&#185 – The tooth itself is in my shirt pocket as I type this entry.

The Tooth That Keeps On Giving

When I saw the periodontist this afternoon, both he and I assumed what he had done would get me out of pain. For a while (after the injections wore off) everything was basically as it had been. Then, it started to get worse.

I’m blogging now because I know trying to go to sleep would be futile.

Through the evening I used Advil and ice. An icepack is very under rated and usually works well to deaden an area. My pain has broken through the ice.

At about 1:00 AM, Helaine and I went scrounging to see if there was anything in our stash of medication that might work. I found some Tylenol with Codeine (at least its generic equivalent) and took one. Though two and a half years old, I had hope. And, amaziingly, it had been prescribed for dental pain.

The pills worked for a few hours, but here we are approaching 4:00 AM and I’m just not in a good way. It’s much too soon to take any more. I’ve left a message on their answering machine, hoping to get a callback when they open at 8:00 AM.

I am paying now for the sins I committed when I was a kid. Ouch.

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.