A sneaky oral surgeon – or, adventures with the dentally anxious
I’m hardly the only person who dislikes going to the dentist. I usually spend the entire time I’m in the chair gripping the arms tight, my eyes closed, and fighting with all my might not to run away. Couple that with the fact that I almost never feel pain in my teeth, no matter how badly they are abcessed, has usually meant that when I would see a dentist, there were always a lot of teeth that needed some work. So there rest of this post is going to be about the procedure I had this week, along with a lead-up to how I got there. If reading about dental stuff isn’t your thing, don’t click through…
A few years ago I was munching on a granola bar at work and an entire incisor broke off. I hadn’t been to see a dentist in a few years that time in part because the doctor I had been seeing (who was the first dentist I’d had who didn’t fill me with terror–I still didn’t enjoy the visits, but the anxiety level was much lower) had suddenly closed up his business and left the state. So I had to log into my insurance provider’s web page to find a doctor covered by the plan who was nearby. Three candidates seemed to meet the bill, and I called the offices. There was one who’s office was a few blocks from where we lived and was open until 6pm that night and his 5 o’clock patient had cancelled.
And that’s how I met the second dentist who didn’t terrify me.
Anyway, there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done in my mouth, and we spread that work out over the next few years. The doctor’s wife also ran his office, and she was amazing at figuring out what my insurance would cover in a given year.
There was on tooth, a molar in the very back, with problems which made a simple extraction impossible It would require an oral surgeon. But it wasn’t hurting me at all, and the other teeth were a higher priority, so I’ve been putting it off. The last few times I went in to cleaning and periodic checkups have not required any fillings or other work, and the dentist would offer referrals to surgeons who could do the job.
Then last time I saw him, I told me that the night before I had noticed that the tooth was moving. When he looked inside, he said a piece was nearly broken off and flapping around. He expressed once again disbelief that it didn’t hurt. He said, “You know, that piece is exactly the right size for you to no just swallow it, but accidently inhale it. Then you’ll wind up in an E.R. I think I should try to break of that piece.”
He did. It didn’t hurt at all.
When I went to the front desk to see if I had a co-pay and to set my next appointment, she handed me a post-it with information for the oral surgeon down the hall. “When I heard him say he was going to break off the loose piece, I called and made you an appointment for an evaluation.”
The surgeon was just as incredulous that I wasn’t feeling pain once he’d looked it over. He explained how the extraction would work, and how I’d have several months while we waited for it to heal before I needed to decide whether to get an implant. And we made the appointment.
So earlier this week I was laying in the chair, having endured to really long slow injections of anesthesia. After several minute he checked to see if I was numb enough yet by poking at the gum around the tooth with an instrument. I felt the sharp pain, so we had to wait a few more minutes.
When he checked the second time, I could tell me was touching my, but I couldn’t actually feel the sharp point of the instrument. And then there was a jerk and I said, “Oh, I felt something there.”
And he said, “The tooth’s out, so we’re nearly done.”
Unfortunately we weren’t quite done, because there was an abcess under the tooth, and he spent more time cleaning out the hole where the tooth was than he’d spent prepping me or sneakily pulling the tooth, itself.
I realize if he had said, “I’m going to pull it out now,” I would have tensed up and gripped the seat even harder and probably flinched, so maybe telling me he was just checking again was the right thing to do.
Still it was over a lot quicker than I expected. And having a surgeon scraping on my jawbone wasn’t even the worse thing that happened that day.
So maybe I should just take it as a win?