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Monday, May 9, 2011

The root canal that wasn't

Today was the day I've been looking forward to for the past two and a half weeks. Today was root canal day! Ordinarily, I wouldn't be so happy about a root canal, but over the course of the wait, my tooth had gone from bad to worse, so much that 600 mg of ibuprofen every four hours was not enough to keep the pain in check.

My appointment was scheduled for 1:40pm, but I got a call asking if I could come in earlier. You betcha! So by about 12:45pm, I was sitting in the chair, Facebooking a few last remarks about the occasion.

The dental assistant asked if I wanted nitrous oxide or just local anesthesia. Have I mentioned how much I dislike dental procedures. My legs get all tense and I feel like I could climb right out of the chair. So, yes, nitrous oxide, please. In fact, make it a double.

The endodontist came in to talk to me. He wasn't sure if he could save the tooth, but he was going to try. I didn't hear much of that because I was busy trying not to look at the booger hanging from his right nostril. Fortunately, when he returned to start working on my tooth, he had a mask on so I didn't have to worry about looking at the booger or about whether it was going to fall out of his nose onto my face. 

Soon, I was lying under the warm and fuzzy "blanket" of nitrous oxide and I didn't even seem to care that they had jammed something in my mouth to keep it open or that the endodontist was drilling away on what was left of my broken tooth. Instead, I was enjoying the feeling that my legs were floating in the air. I was distinctly aware of my back and my rear end being up against the chair, but my legs looked and felt like they were loose, noodly appendages waving in the wind.

It wasn't all fun and games though. At one point, I became aware that I wasn't breathing. I tried to breathe through my mouth with no luck. Calmly told myself to breathe through my nose and couldn't come up with the air then either. Mild panic swept through me, which I must have indicated in some way because the dentist asked if I was ok. Suddenly, the air returned and all was well.

After what seemed like 10 minutes, but was in reality about 90 minutes, the dentist said "Amy" and I popped back into reality. Bad news. He wasn't able to save the tooth, but he had the nerve all exposed and thought it would be in my best interest to go have it extracted right away.

I had immediate commiseration for my friend Valerie, who when in labor with her first child, pushed for 3 hours only to finally be taken to the OR for a c-section. An hour and a half of drilling and poking and the dang tooth had to come out anyway.

Within 10 minutes, I had the referral to the oral surgery group, a copy of my x-ray and the endodontist's wishes for good luck.

Now, they will tell you that nitrous oxide wears off in about 3 minutes. I will tell you that nobody should think about driving anywhere if they've been under the laughing gas for an hour or more. I creepy crawled my way home -- thankfully the office is located across from my neighborhood -- and had my friend Jane drive me to the oral surgeon's office.

They informed me that my insurance wouldn't cover IV sedation. I could have the extraction done under local anesthetic, pay $75 for nitrous oxide, or pay $495 for the IV. The $75 hit of nitrous sounded good to me.

So the assistant got me set up and the surgeon came in to get started. He numbed the area around the tooth with a couple of shots, which I didn't mind because I was already starting to get that wonderful floaty leg feeling. He said he'd be back in a few minutes to do the extraction.

"Ok," I said, " But first, who are you?"  He hadn't introduced himself to me yet.

That's when things got interesting. He told me his name, which I recognized right away. He was the ex-husband of a friend of mine from church. I'd never met him, but I'd heard plenty about him. Given that he was going to performing a potentially painful procedure on me momentarily, I didn't really think I should share that information.

Instead I said, "Can I tell you a secret?" (That was the nitrous talking.)

"Sure," he said.

"My daughter babysits for your kids." I breathed a sigh of relief that my relaxed state did not induce me into mouthing off and I think he breathed one that my "secret" wasn't anything scandalous.

We talked a bit about what we should do with the gaping hole that would be left in my mouth once the tooth was gone. He suggested a titanium implant screwed into the bone (triple nitrous, please). I asked about whether my insurance would cover it and he said he would check and we could work something out. I suggested perhaps I would qualify for the "favorite babysitter discount." He laughed and said that might be possible.

Things were great from there. He knew Annie and talked about how much his kids like her. I talked about how cute the kids are and how much Annie enjoys babysitting for them. And then it was showtime.

PhotobucketDo you know how they extract a tooth? Basically, they take a pair of fancy pliers and pull and pull until the darn thing pops out of your head. It wasn't painful, but I certainly felt a ton of pressure as he yanked and yanked on my tooth. In my altered mental state, I could see my head detached from my body, rolling from left to right. It kind of looked in my mind's eye like one of those PBS Kids characters. 

In addition to literally pulling, I recall him banging on my tooth with some kind of hammer and I just envisioned the thing cracking off right inside my mouth. Just after he asked the assistant to prepare the hand blade -- they really should come up with a much less scary name than that -- so he could cut the tooth out, the stubborn thing popped out under the force of the pliers. Thank goodness for small favors.

Mike picked me up from the appointment, got me a Frosty, which was actually written on the post-op instructions -- and picked up my pain medicine, which I am now overdue for but I was trying to hold off so I could get this post written.

My new-friend-the-oral-surgeon told me to expect to feel pretty sore tomorrow. The fact that I was lying in a chair with my mouth open for 3-1/2 hours, plus all the tugging and pulling on my tooth, will make me especially thankful for the pain meds. Since coming home, I've slept in fits and starts and expect the night will bring more of the same. Too bad I don't have any nitrous oxide to take at home.

Getting double-duty out of this post by linking up to Once a Upon a Miracle's True Story Tuesday. Click on over for more wild, weird, wacky...and true...tales.


kimybeee said...

first, i did nitrous at my last regular dentist appt for some fillings and it did NOTHING for me! i did enjoy the thingy on my nose because it helped me breathe through my nose instead of gasping and gagging for air. and the nose thingy smelled like vanilla.

second, i have had 10 teeth extractd since march 11th and i would never let them do that without anesthesia!! are you insane!!!! i can't believe you did that - and i think your dentist should have known that tooth was a goner, and now you pay the reg dentist and an oral surgeon when you could have done it all in one visit!!

i really hope the convo with the surgeon happened like you think it did, if not, annie won't be getting a call from them anymore lol

i hope you feel back to normal soon - take your meds around the clock through day 3 and you should be fine. late day 2 into day 3 is usually the worst. and be careful with your jaws since you were pried open so long. alternate ice packs and a heating pad if you are sore. i slept on a heating pad a lot for pain in the last 6 months or so!

just let me know if you have any questions, i am an expert now - 10 down and 6 more to go...

Rachel said...

Ouch ouch ouch ouch! And the pain just continued as I read your comments section! I am so sorry about the tooth drama... that is just no fun!

But had to laugh at Kimybeee's comment that she hoped your conversation with the surgeon went like you think it did, ha ha!

Hoping the rest of this goes quick and painless and you can get back to a full set of ivories!

Thanks for linking up!

Momza said...

ouch! is right!
I have a love-hate thing with our their care, hate their bill.
Hope the meds help the days go by and you heal quickly!

Ellen aka Ellie said...

As I read this, I swear, I kept thinking, "Oh Amy!" What a day! What a bill.

(Love the favorite baby-sitter discount line!)

Take care today, Ouch Day.

I hate nitrous, it puts me into panic mode. You're a trooper!

Cathy said...

Made me laugh out loud at the booger in the nose part...I hate that when the dentist or hygienist has something there and you know you can't say anything. Hope you are doing better soon! If no one is around and you need anything, let me know; I will be glad to help you out! Cathy

Kelly said...

Dont you just love the N2O???

I had that done not to long ago (well back before Christmas) and it's something I will not forget soon enough! I too had the N2O instead of the IV, and the pressure....I thought maybe that back tooth was conneted to my eyeball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hope you get to feeling better soon!

Beth Zimmerman said...

I HATE dentists! And this post made me all squirmy! Hope you're feeling better!

General Dentistry Green Bay said...

Wow, you seem to have gone through a lot. But after bearing so much pain, hope you will get better now. This is the reason why no one likes to go to a dentist. One thing I would like to say in the end, I really liked your blog.