This afternoon I went to a dentist appointment that I knew would be stressful, physically. The plan was that we would be “seating” my two crowns on the bottom left. Last week one of the temps fell off and I was told by the receptionist that even though I was in pain from the exposed bone/nerve that I had to wait until my appointment today because they had no time to see me. There was also a hole in the other temp that managed to stay on but obviously did not do a lick of good for the entire 26 days of its existence.
So when I sat down, the dentist and assistant said, “So how about we also get to the catastrophic crack on the right too?” That meant that my entire bottom jaw had to be numbed. The dentist started putting the numbing gel on the back left corner, but we both knew it was just for show. He was in a hurry and soon he was bracing his body to go for the stubborn juncture between my upper and lower jaw; I saw the trace of satisfaction on his face when I moaned, the tendon in my jaw yielded and the needle felt as if it went all the way through to my ear. After doing about a dozen injections along the inner and outer borders of my gum line on the left, he attacked the right, and decided he didn’t want to slow down to make me the least bit comfortable with numbing gel. This time I had tears running out of the corners of my eyes while the assistant shouted that I was doing great. Not a few times I thought to myself that this is either the office that they send patients who are super duper tough, or they send patients who they don’t give a damn about beating up.
Still, it’s important to keep your sense of humor as a patient, or so I think to myself. This is my reasoning every time when I am preparing to be pummeled by a member of the healthcare community. I always think that if I can somehow appeal to their humanity that they will see me not as a number or as cattle, but as a human with feelings and needs.
While we sat and waited for me to lose my ability to speak, some Michael Jackson came over the sound system. Just as the dentist came back in the room, we were practicing our “hee hee”‘s.
So that was our running joke until it was time to get serious about getting the temps off and the permanent crowns on. They didn’t numb me enough. I got a few more pokes. So he set off on the right side to take down the tooth with the catastrophic crack. I had warned him that I was not optimistic because I hadn’t been able to chew on that side of my face at all; the cracked portion would shift and cause me crazy pain. He was still hopeful.
While he was working on me, sometimes he would bark orders at me – “Left! Right!” More often than not, he would use the small mirror that he had hooked in the right side of my mouth to move my head around. I could feel my wig getting matted at the back of my head – not exactly ideal, since this piece costs $370, far from cheap, and once the fibers are ruined, there’s no going back. As the minutes dragged on and the dentist maneuvered my lips and tongue so that he could get at my tooth from all the best angles, even in my numbed state I could feel the corner of my mouth splitting. Out of impatience and frustration the dentist hooked two fingers under my top right lip and stretched it as far as it would go, and kept grinding my tooth down to a nub. Tears slipped out of the corner of my eye again. My fingers tensed; I focused on relaxing them, but after a few minutes, I would realize that they were back to being claws and my forearms were becoming sore.
Finally they were done with that tooth. I can’t remember how many songs passed, but we just happened to end at another Michael Jackson song. They took a mold of the right bite so I could get my temporary crown, and finished just in time for me to say with Michael, “You know I’m bad. Sha-mone.” That cracked them up again. They asked if that was really what he said, and I asked them if they had a better explanation.
By the time they were ready to put on the permanent crowns on the left, some of the Novocaine had worn off, so I had to get more shots. More cheerleading from the assistant. I swear that my nine lumbar punctures have been easier than this trip. More stretching of my mouth, pulling my face left and right as if I am a horse being led by a bridle and bit. Barking at me to open my mouth wider when all I want to do is close it to take away the deep ache.
Finally, finally, after 2.5 hours, I escaped the chair and we talked about the next appointment, which is on Friday. I’ll have to be numbed again but it shouldn’t be as traumatic or long.
WWMJD (What Would Michael Jackson Do)? Sadly, my plan to appear more than just a mouth full of broken teeth failed. I’m not giving up my sense of humor. It’s as much for me as it is for them.