Dental Disasters

I have been waiting to write this post until a time when I could see through the haze of the Vicodin I've been taking.  Or perhaps until I could at least pause from the general writhing in pain that I've been doing the past week or so.

But apparently that's not going to happen anytime soon, so instead I'm sucking it up, pulling it together, and telling the world why I am definitely one of those people that hate dentists.

A couple of weeks ago I went for my regular six month check-up/cleaning.  At that time - like she does every time - the dentist hygienist commented profusely on how much my gums bled.  "Yes, I know," I responded, "When I got my flu shot they debated whether or not I would need stitches to stop the bleeding."

Ok, so that's not totally true, but I do bleed profusely whenever I get a cut or shot or anything that punctures my apparently delicate skin.

I'm so good at getting off of the subject.  I've barely started this post and it's already off subject.


Turns out that my dental x-rays showed that one of my old fillings wasn't looking so hot, so they wanted to remove the filling and simply replace it.  Sounded easy enough, so I agreed.  I went back the next week, and the dentist removed and replaced the filling.  Easy peasy.

Except that when I got back to work my face was so numb that I had to shut the door.  I couldn't drink water because some of the Novocaine had dripped down my throat and it took over 3 hours for the numbness to go away.  I was miserable.

Once I could finally make my face function again, I noticed that I was now experiencing a lot of pain associated with that tooth.  Very strange, considering that I hadn't been experiencing ANY pain prior to the "replacing" of this "deteriorating filling."  Now I couldn't even chew on the left side of my mouth.

Fast forward two days later and I am STILL hurting.  Sometimes the pain would be intense that I would literally see stars and my entire jaw would ache from the pain.  I was also experiencing headaches.  After a particularly bad shot of pain when I tried to chew a piece of gum, I called the dentists office and went there 10 minutes later.

The dentist could not figure out what was causing the pain, so he decided that he was going to remove the filling and then refill it.. AGAIN.  And he wanted to do it this time without Novocaine to try to determine the spot that was generating all of the pain.  His theory was that maybe there was a pocket of air in there causing the pain.

I know that drilling and fillings without Novocaine sounds awful, but I assure you that it wasn't so bad.  I felt fine actually (proof that I am NOT actually a wimp, like this story might make me sound.)  When he was done he filed it down and then asked me to try to chew on a piece of gum.  I put the piece of gum in my mouth, chomped down and nearly jumped out of my skin.  It. Hurt. So. Bad.

Holy shit.

At this point I couldn't control myself - tears started streaming down my face. I couldn't stop them.  And believe me when I say I am NOT a crier.  But it hurt so bad and it was so frustrating not being able to know what the problem was and not knowing if there was a solution in sight. It took me awhile to calm down - I may not be a crier, but once I get started it's like a flood that's hard to stop.   The dentist asked permission to start poking around again to see if he could identify the source of the pain and eventually - through a LOT more tears - we figured out that there was a particularly sensitive spot under my gums and between the two teeth.  Every time he poked that spot with his little poker thing I screamed, or jumped, or jerked... and of course, I cried.  My shirt was soaked from tears.

I could tell that the dentist felt horrible about causing me so much pain, and he still wasn't sure what was causing me such excruciating pain. He took another x-ray, but even that looked fine, even in the spot where I was experiencing the intense pain.  So I had to make a decision - try to get through the weekend and see if the pain went away, or allow him to drill out the filing for a THIRD TIME and try to take the filling lower, to below the gum line, to hopefully cover the spot that was causing me so much trouble.

After much thoughtful internal debate I decided to give him one last chance. There was no way that I could get through the weekend and enjoy myself (we were going to a wedding!) with the pain that I was experiencing.

So he drilled again, this time with Novocaine, and although he was fairly certain that he had gotten the filling sufficiently low enough since I was numb now it was impossible for me to tell if I was still going to be in pain or not.   He wrote me two prescriptions - one for 800 mg ibuprofen and one for Vicodin.  On a whim, I decided to get them both filled "just in case" even though I was hopeful that my problem was solved.

But there is no happy ending to this story - at least not yet. 

My pain still varies from mild to nearly unbearable, although not quite as excruciating as it was initially. It's more like a dull ache that gradually encompasses my entire left jaw near the end of the day.  On Monday night it hurt so bad I had to take two Vicodin just to fall asleep.  I can't chew on that side of my mouth at all without some pain, and there's now a huge gap between the two teeth, and food is constantly getting stuck.  I have also had to more or less quit chewing gum, one of my all time favorite snacks during the day.  Now, if I'm really craving gum, I chew it on my left side a little, and then I just suck on it for flavor.  Yum....

The is not the first time that I've had dental problems.  I've had no less than half a dozen dentists, and in almost every instance I left them due to a traumatic dental experience such as this one.  I have hyperactive nerve sensitivity, and in this case, it seems like it became inflamed when they removed the original filling the first time.  Now I'm not sure that it will ever stop hurting until I have the nerve removed through a root canal.  I am only 29 years old and I have had 4 root canals.  I do not want another. 

This problem is quite possible related to the fact that I took tetracycline for acne as a teenager.  Back then they didn't know that tetracycline basically destroys your teeth.  (Oh to think of all of the thinks I'm probably doing right now that will similarly come back and haunt me 15 years down the road...)

So what's a girl to do???  At the risk of sounding dramatic, I am seriously traumatized, and right now I'm pretty sure that I would rather continue taking pain killers for the rest of my life versus having to have another root canal on a severely hyperactive nerve. But obviously that's not a viable long term solution. 

For now I'm going to wait it out for hopefully a few more weeks, until I can work up the nerve to once again go and visit a dentist.  And although I know it's not my dentists fault, I'm not sure if I will be able to go back to him after this ordeal.


Corinne said...

Oh my gosh you poor thing! WOW! I think I would be curled up in my bed under MANY covers if I were you! (oh and probably taking pain meds every 6-8 hours). I'm very scared of the dentist-whenever I have an appointment set up I'll have so much anxiety leading up to it - and then once I actually step into the office I'm on the brink of passing out.
But your story trumps anything I've ever gone through! I hope some miracle occurs where this nerve will decide to lay low for the rest of your life - sounds like it's caused enough trouble already!

BeeKayRoot said...

Hey, Lisa... been awhile since I've been on your blog.

I had a similar incident. A year and a half ago, a dentist put a cap on one of my teeth. Well, 9 months later after I moved out of state, that tooth became severely irritated. Turns out I had to have my new dentist do a root canal because the roots were inflamed and all sorts of things. I was so mad that my previous dentist would cap the tooth when there were larger issues at hand.

The only way I could get the pain to go away was to have the root canal.

I, too, hate dentists. Horrible, horrible, horrible!

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