Saturday, January 22, 2011

Toothiness (Richmond, VA)

"Your teeth are so healthy and strong!" my dentists have told me. That may be true, but here's what I've discovered: Apparently, the only things that have the hardness, strength, power, capacity, and -- if you believe that evil can reside in inanimate objects -- the desire to hurt my teeth, are my other teeth. Or a sesame seed.

Whatever the nature or origin of the fracture one of my so-called healthy teeth suffered a while back, it was temporarily patched and proudly displayed in my smile. I went from grin to chagrin, however, when I received a painful wake-up call at 1:30 in the morning.

"Must be something stuck between my teeth," I groggily thought, envisioning the tiny bit of stray food that had firmly lodged itself in some unreachable crevice. As the pain became more throbbing and persistent, I began to imagine other possibilities: Was a squirrel trying to burrow into my head? Had I crashed into a brick wall while sleep-driving? Had I, unknowingly, joined the circus and been shot, head first, out of a canon and into a brick wall, on top of which an innocent squirrel had been twitching its nose and which (the whole squirrel, not just its nose) was now stuck inside my brain and trying to paw and claw and gnaw its way out?

I grabbed the floss. No squirrels, whole or in parts, stuck to the string. Nor did any food particles emerge, at least none that I could perceive through my grogginess. And, mercifully, the pounding pain dissipated within a couple of hours. Or I had passed out from too much grog. Either way, I got some sleep, got up on time, and got through the day -- pain free and believing that I had resolved the problem.

I retired at 11:00 that night and woke up, with a start and at my wit's end, at one a.m. My head was a Fourth of July fireworks display, a house on fire, an earthquake in progress. Floss didn't cut it, sleep didn't come, and as soon as I could crawl downstairs, I called my dentist's office, begging to re-instate the scheduled appointment that I had canceled the day before.

At work, I passed the day answering phones, translating letters and fliers, running from office to schools and back, interpreting at meetings, running a fever, hurting like the dickens (Charles?), and counting the minutes until I could arrive early at my dentist's office. By 3:40, I was stonily stationed in the waiting room, trying not to moan, wail, or yank out my aching tooth with my bare hands.

I will not bore or haunt you with the gory details, but you already know about my fear of needles. So, you might be able to imagine my desperate state of out-of-my mind that would drive me to beg for 152 injections of anesthesia. Actually, I couldn't really beg, because I couldn't really talk. What came out of my mouth was some kind of muffled noise that sounded like a screeching squirrel being tossed about and very slowly torn apart by a playful cat. I also death-gripped the dentist's arm in a vain attempt to make him understand that if I couldn't have more pain relief, as he scraped, twisted, drilled, and dynamited the inflamed nerve that wound, it seemed to me, from the top of my right ear to the tips of my tippy-toes (perhaps it was really a tape worm gone astray; I have been eating more than usual...), I would kill him. And I didn't really get 152 injections, but I'm sure that the dental assistant was forced to immediately replenish the supply of Novocaine or whatever the heck that namby pamby stuff that doesn't work at all is.

When the root canal was over, I looked like I had barely survived a canon firing, earthquake, and house fire. My mouth was resting, rather uncomfortably, on a diagonal to the rest of my face. I could produce a pretty convincing, pirate-like "Aargh," but whatever else I tried to say was pretty much unintelligible. The whole right side of my face was swollen. And I must confess that, although the swelling smoothed out my wrinkles, this was not an attractive look.

My dentist, calm as ever and clearly oblivious to the threat I had posed against his continued existence, assured me that I would start to feel better quickly; however, I decided to forgo dancing -- and even dinner out with my number-one-and-only son. The only thing I did manage to do was to fill a prescription for antibiotics and open my mouth enough to slide in the required first dosage, along with as much over-the-counter pain killer a person of my size or lack thereof can swallow without overdosing. After wishing my son a good night or, as I put it, "Aargh!" I went to sleep.

I awoke 12 hours later, feeling a heck of a lot better. The downside (and there almost always is at least one) is that I'm not exactly pain free. Relief came at quite a cost: my wallet is a lot lighter and my wrinkles are back.

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