Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tooth 31 ...


I feel like I should comfort my dentist. He's got an X-ray on his computer screen and he looks crestfallen, defeated. Maybe even upset. Like he's got the sort of news no dentist wants to share.

"I don't know how this could happen," he says.
His assistant agrees.
I sit up and look at the screen.
"What is it?" I say.
He doesn't respond.
"Abscess," the woman says, still addressing the X-ray.
"It's a perfectly healthy tooth," he says. He's lost God.
He points to the shadow around the roots of Tooth 31.
I'm already Googling, with less than 10 percent of the juice left in my phone.
"You can't read that small print, can you?" he asks, finally looking at me.
"I can," I say. "But I can't read the sign on your wall."

I'm going to need to be on antibiotics, he tells me. A different kind than the ones I was prescribed when  I thought my face hurt because I'd joined the Society of People with Sinus Infection (SPSI). He tells me he needs the area around the tooth to settle down before he goes in.

"Wha wha wait a minute," I say. "Are you talking about a root canal here?"
He's been vague, describing the procedure rather than calling it by name.
"Oh. Would you prefer I call it that?" he says.
"I can take it," I say.

This day started at my doctor's office, where I'd gone to complain that the sinus infection I've been trying to kill since a week ago Monday is still waking me up in the middle of the night. My doctor, a good-humored sort but not nearly the comic genius that my dentist is, listened to my woes:

Face hurts all through here. Teeth are killing me. Occasional ear vibrations. I think this gland is swollen. 

He takes my blood pressure (perfect) and my temperature (normal), looks in my ears and up my nose. He sticks a tongue depressor in my mouth and studies my throat.

"This might be your teeth," he says. "When was your last trip to the dentist?"
"Four months ago," I say.
"What happened to the tooth that's missing?" he asked, referencing the space that once held Tooth 30.
"It's in a little tooth holder in my bathroom cupboard," I say.
He tilts his head.
"It was damaged beyond repair," I say, suspecting this is what he really means. "Blah blah Sour Dough Pretzels. Honey mustard, I think."

Again with the tongue depressor. He asks me to bite down, while pushing on different teeth.
"Does that hurt?"
"No."
"Does that hurt?"
"Yes."
"This is a tooth thing," he says. "You're going to want to call your dentist. You might have another tooth to add to the collection in your cupboard."

I thank him and grab my bag. On the way out I bemoan the shitty fate of my teeth.
"Why do I have the worst teeth in the world?" I ask him.
"It's your mom's fault," he says.

He explains that when we are born, it's our mother's saliva that dictates the bacterial makeup of our own mouth. She's the one pre-tasting the food or wetting a pacifier.

My dentist sneaks me in late in the day and since I can't pinpoint my own trouble zone, has to poke around my mouth pushing on things until I finally yelp. Which leads to the X-Ray, which leads to his hung head.

"I've had a root canal," I tell him. "I can take it."
Still, he seems so disappointed.

The last time I had a root canal was in the early 2000s. My mom drove up from Rochester to assist me, probably assuming I'd be all eyeballs dilated, hopped up on the root canal juice, unable to feed my own quarters into the payment slot on the bus. So she took me to my appointment and picked me up afterward. I was fine. We went to the mall and for dinner at the New Scenic. She found the menu hilarious in its lack of recognizable entrees and assumed everyone else in the restaurant felt the same way. I had a Tempeh Reuben. She ate the first thing she saw that looked like it might have noodles. Later that night I put her to bed with a copy of essays by David Sedaris and then I went out a'drinking. I drank until everyone at the Buena Vista (RIP) knew that I had just had a root canal.

So: Me. Root canal. Unfortunately I can't get in until the middle of next week when Chuck and I have vacation, so it's like: "Staycation! Wee!" (Early morning root canal) "More vacation! Wee!"

Disclaimer: I only write about inflamed body parts and whacky cats.


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