Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to perform Dentistry 101: Emergency Edition

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

The nice hygienist who held my hand and tried to help me as I wept like a small wet child in the dentist chair and called her ugly names said that she’d been taught in Teeth School that a major Tooth Ache Pain Situation – or “TAPS,” a fitting acronym for it -- rates the same on the pain scale as labor.

Anyone who ever eats or smiles can see why people would need teeth, would even enjoy teeth. Teeth are good.

But if labor pains are on the same level as a bonafide toothache, no one who’s ever had a rebel tooth will be able to figure out why women continue to have babies.

Who even HAS a toothache in the 21st Century? Nobody, is what I thought. Those went out with scurvy, beri beri, polio and George Washington, famous for his teeth made of wood. And for being on the one dollar bill. (When he paid his dentist for his fake teeth, did he pay in all $1 bills? And sort of wink? That zany George …)

But modern toothaches are, “for reals,” a “thing.” It was a recent Sunday afternoon when it started hurting. Sore in the gum. Ended up being – again, appropriately – tooth number 13. If you go to your front top teeth and, counting to your left three or four back, that’s it. It’s one of your main teeth. If you eat.

So I’m telling you this in case a loved one says to you they have a toothache. Even though you don’t see a bone sticking out or blood, believe them. One day, it could be you. So don’t ask for who the tooth hurts: it hurts for thee.

It will pass, you think, except it doesn’t. It gets more sore. The numbing medicine Anbesol is good for a bit, but after a couple of hours, your tooth laughs at Anbesol. Warm salt water helps a little. It helped me. An open dentist office would have helped even more, but it was Sunday.

So I prayed too.

Have you ever had something hurt and you suspect it will quit hurting – most things quit hurting – but it doesn’t? That was the deal with this tooth. On Sunday. That’s where the panic began. No one to help. My family was gone. It was just me and my dog, who has healthy teeth. She was zero help. I needed Lassie.

I actually called and texted the dentist’s emergency number. Hours passes. No call back. I’d have to make it through the night. Unless …

Desperate times call for needle nose pliers. Had to do it. Because you figure if you make it to the dentist’s office, which is a fat chance, they’ll have to pull it anyway.

So with a paper towel and the needle nose and in front of the mirror, I “went in.” Grip issues stymied me. And tears. My screams scared me a little bit. Man desperate. Man hurting. Wait: man thinking he’ll try the flathead pliers!

That didn’t work either. Grip problems. Courage problems. Shaky hand issue. Man panicky. Man defeated.

The hours were long after that. At 8, the receptionist over the phone, probably before she’d sat down good, said they could see me at 10:30. Man weeping.

But there was the eventual visit, The Altercation With The Nice Lady, then some calming medicines for a solid week until the Heavy Duty Dentist could see me and “fix” what was ‘dead pulp,” which causes pressure, which makes you curse and cry and not eat or sleep. But when it’s fixed, well, Glory, and Hallelujah.  

The moral? I don’t want to waste your time. I’m just saying swallow your pride if your tooth hurts and get to the dentist. It won’t heal itself. If you try to walk the lonely enamel-bricked road alone, you’ll end up bloodying your tool box, pulling out all your teeth, and probably most of your hair.