September 22, 2008

Take care of your teeth. If you don't, you might end up like me.

Last Thursday I had my first ever root canal. Hopefully, it will be my only ever root canal. Leading up to d-day, my conversations went a lot like this:

Me: I need a root canal
Other person: Oooohhhh...

Naturally, I was not looking forward to it. Going into my root canal the only thing I knew about them was that the dentist performs a pulpotomy and then pulls out the nerve of the tooth. So I prayed as I sat in the waiting room and again as the anesthesia was being administered. That root canal had to have been the least uncomfortable dental procedure I've ever had (other than a teeth cleaning). Seriously. Dr. Pierson is awesome! I know it was a lot of work and it was really weird to have that humongous rubber thing stretched across half of my face, but it was not as bad as I was expecting - er, it really wasn't bad. Yeah, I had to take pain killers the rest of that day and yeah, it’s still tender, and yeah, I don’t really want to chew on that side very much until the crown is in place, but still, not bad for all that work.

Prior to having my braces installed, during the summer between 7th and 8th grade,I had to have surgery in Hawaii to attach a bracket and wire to a tooth that had never descended. The wire would then be adjusted every month to help slowly pull down my tooth. That surgery went well. I didn’t really feel anything, although it smelled like burning bone/flesh. I was given a selection of music to listen to through headphones. I chose Tony Bennett. I think I was twelve.

The surgery wasn’t as effective as we hoped. After a year or so of braces, the tooth had not descended. So…I had another surgery. On Saipan. With Dr. V. My orthodontist who came out to Saipan once a month to work on his Saipan patients. Dr. V also worked on my sister, who had the unfortunate displeasure of having two sets of braces. Count ‘em TWO! Dr. V drilled away more bone and changed the wire to a chain. The chain proved to be a much better decision than the wire because as the tooth began to descend, he could just snip off one link at a time. Anyway, back to that whole drilling away the bone thing….I think this was the most uncomfortable, painful dental experience EVER. I kept telling Dr. V that it hurt, but he kept telling me that it didn’t hurt – it was just bone. But he wasn’t the one in the chair. He did, however, continue to shoot me up with anesthetics until the entire left side of my face was numb...it helped. But to deal with this, I hummed (with my mouth wide open) during the rest of the surgery. I hummed Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. But I think what bothered me more than the pain was the crowd. Yes, people would gather around and watch. And not just other dental professionals, some patients stood around and watched too, and listened to my concert, my surgical orthodontic concert. Some months later someone at SDA Dental Clinic actually remembered me as the girl who was humming.

When my tooth finally descended, my braces came off. That was a whole other near suffocation drama on Guam.

In addition to fillings prior to getting braces, I’ve had two wisdom teeth removed and more fillings. After I gave birth to Katelyn, I had two cavities filled in one sitting. The dentist recommended it. But his assistant appeared less than pleased with me when I had a hard time keeping my mouth wide open long enough for her to polish the teeth after the fillings. Today I had three cavities filled. And as much as I try to be a good patient, it was very difficult for me to keep my mouth wide open the whole time, but Dr. Pierson wasn’t irked (at least he didn’t show it), he just inserted a bite thingie to keep my mouth open. Did you hear that other clinic on Saipan which won’t be named? He wasn’t irked at me. I have another appointment for three more fillings next Thursday. Then I’ll have another appointment for two more fillings. And finally a crown. And after that, hopefully nothing more than a cleaning ever again.

With a capable dentist who probably prayed while I did, these experiences, as bad as most would consider them, turned out really well.

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