Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday the 13th at the Dentist

Note: Today's blog is a total departure from art and art-like things. Enjoy!

I had a dentist appointment to have a regular cleaning today. I look forward to getting my teeth cleaned. I have many, many terrible stories that happened in a dentist’s chair, but cleanings always make my teeth feel smooth and pearly.

I really like our dentists and the hygienist there. She’s a very nice woman who is easy to chat with, for as much chatting that you can do when someone has their hands in your mouth.

After I sit down, she tells me that it’s time for the annual bitewings. Oh joy. We get through that without too much issue, and that’s that.

It’s late spring and she starts talking about stopping by a U Pick strawberry patch on her way home from work. That led us to a discussion about blackberries growing wild and how she’s from Tucson and in Arizona, you don’t eat anything growing wild because it might kill you, and so on. This is going on while she’s getting the tray set up and the suction going, but the swing out arm is wonky and she says, “Well, we’ll get this going somehow.” And I mentioned that it’s Friday the 13th, in a joking sort of way. She says, “Oh, yeah. I never pay attention to that.” I say that I don’t think that Friday the 13th is any different than any other day, but it’s fun to tell people that it is Friday the 13th.

After that, the pump for the tool that spins or drills or whatever doesn’t seem to work. So she has to fiddle with that. Then the tray won’t lower correctly again. Finally she’s done and goes to get the dentist for the final ok.

He comes in and she pushes a rolling chair in for him to have a seat and the chair won’t roll straight.  Then she moves the tray around to his side of the exam chair and nearly hits me in the back of the head. He’s trying to put on gloves, but apparently the large size in one brand is not the same as the large size of another brand, and after trying to put on a glove that is labeled “large” and it is too small, nice hygienist hands him a pair of a different brand, and they fit. Now that he’s settled, he asks me is about a lower molar on the right side of my mouth, “So tell me about this crown and root canal.” I reply, “Gosh, there’s not much to tell. It’s really old.” And he proceeds to poke around in my mouth.

“Tell me if this hurts at all when I push on your tooth, “ he says. It doesn’t. Then he pushes on the gum underneath the tooth from one side, then the other, and asks the same question. I don’t know what they teach in dental school about how much pressure to use to determine if a tooth is sensitive, but I would think that if you used enough pressure to say, push a tack into corkboard, that should do it. But if you push as if you are trying to get a tack into   a cement block, well that ought to hurt even if the tooth isn’t sensitive. Anyway, then he takes the end of one of those pokey tools and taps on the top of the root canal tooth, and then on the tooth next to it, and asks if it feels any different when he taps on one, then the other. He taps on both four times, but that doesn’t bother me either.

At this point, he says, “Well let me show you why I’ve been pushing and tapping all over that tooth.” The hygienist gets an x-ray image up on the monitor, and he starts talking about the tooth. He points out what the healthy root canal looks like on another tooth, then how one of the filled canals on the root canal tooth goes completely to the end. The other, however, does not. There’s just a tiny bit of root that isn’t filled in. Then he shows me a dark shadow underneath the end of the root. That, he says, appears to be an abscess. 

Image from the internet

“Abscess!” I do NOT like the sound of that. He tells me that it’s been on watch and the image is from 2011. He continues on by saying that if I get a pimple-type bump on the cheek side of that tooth or it hurts to chew on that side of my mouth or becomes sensitive to heat or cold, I would need to take care of it ASAP.

Another image from the internet (Yikes)

The first thing I think is what the hell do you do about this? And I ask, “What would have to be done? Would you just pull it?” I think this tooth has been fussed over enough, but he says, “Oh, no.” (No dentist ever wants to pull a tooth anymore.) “You would need to go to an endodontist. They would come from the cheek side of the mouth, where there isn’t any bone to deal with, flip back the gum, and clean the abscess out.” Then he shows me how close the lower jaw nerve is to the root and says that the proximity makes it very tricky to not hit it. Again, in my head I’m thinking that this tooth isn’t worth all that.

And then it hits me. What does this horrible tooth look like now? Because I’m thinking that they’ve already looked at the x-ray from the bitewing and it must be the same or worse since we’re looking at an image from FIVE years ago.

“So what does it look like now?” I ask.

He says, “I guess we can do a P.A.” I don’t know what a P.A. is. Not then. I do now. It’s a periapical radiograph: an x-ray of one tooth. I’m all for this, but I’m a little confused as to why we didn’t do this already. If this thing looked like that and it’s been FIVE years, I would expect it to be rotten or worse.

Nice hygienist gets the lead blanket back out, and as she takes a few steps toward me, trips on a motor box just beside the chair and nearly falls on me. I laugh about it, and then laugh some more when she nearly hit herself in the head with the swing out camera. She laughs and says, “Really, this isn’t my first day.” Then we get the P.A. done.

Moments later, we look at it on the monitor. There isn’t a shadow. At all. No shadow. No abscess. The image isn’t at the same exact angle as the one from two thousand and eleven, but it is clear that it is not there. I have to ask, “What happened?” “It must have cleared up on it’s own,” he says. “But, this is a different angle, so it may still be there. We can keep a watch on it and just be aware of any changes in sensitivity or bumps in your mouth.”

I am SO relieved, and I have clean, smooth teeth. I like Friday the 13th.

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