Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Not for the Squeamish

Having rheumatoid arthritis isn’t just about having arthritis. Having arthritis has ripples. There are the ripples caused by medication – high blood pressure (courtesy of Vioxx), wrecked GI system (courtesy of every medication I’ve ever been on) – and then there’s things like teeth. The jaw being a joint, when it’s been partytime for the arthritis there, too, it affects how much you can open your mouth and for how long (not to mention affecting your diet by not being able to eat hard, crunchy things). Meaning it’s hard to take good care of your teeth.

Fifteen years ago, my previous dentist prognosticated I’d have dentures by age 40. I didn’t and I don’t and take some pride in that. However, I am unable to handle the procedures involved in getting crowns, so when my teeth reach the point of no return, they get yanked. It’s been a while since the last such joyful experience, but one of my molars has been living on borrowed time for almost 4 years and last week, it gave up. Got infected. And yesterday, off I went to the oral surgeon for aforementioned yanking and let me say right now that if you have dental “issues”, you might want to stop reading here and I'll see you on Friday instead.

At first, Den (his alias of choice, in case I should write about it and dude, I have a blog, of course I’m writing about it) told me very seriously that unfortunately, he couldn’t put me to sleep for the procedure (I forget why). I was stunned to realize that people - not just people with issues, all people - are indeed knocked out for getting a tiny tooth pulled and held forth for a while about the continuing wussification of the world, which gave me a focus other than the impending removal of a bodypart to which I was rather attached, both literally and figuratively. By the time I was winding down, Den was busy numbing the entire right side of my mouth, jaw, lips and tongue. This had the interesting effect of bringing out my Danish accent. Most of the time, I reportedly don't have much of an accent - it comes out when I’m tired or drunk and apparently also when I’m numbed well into next week (I’m having an association with the word ‘numbskull’ and maybe it’s the trauma, but am I the only one who thinks that’s hysterically funny?). And then he started. And it was noticeable. So he injected some more freezing and kept going, getting out the drill to “section” the tooth (which I translated to “drill into bits to be removed individually”). And then got distracted by my grimacing and the rather miraculous curling of my toes up under my heel - they haven’t been that flexible in years - and froze me up some more. And I could still feel it. He called it a rogue nerve.

I’ve heard of rogue waves. I’ve heard of rogue demon hunters. But rogue nerves?? In my head, there is an image of a nerve dressed in black leather and a bad attitude, defiantly getting on its minuscule Harley all "you're not the boss of me" and how can I not blog about that?

I’ll skip over the next bit, as I’m fuzzy on the details – I closed my eyes and went as far away as I could while various weird noises and sensations happened inside my head. That’s the part I hate the most about the yanking. The pain’s bearable, the days of swishing saltwater is fine, the looking like a lopsided chipmunk – well, whatever. It’s the bone-leaving-its-rightful-place sounds that freaks me out. Especially when they somehow continue to reverberate inside my skull for days.

TMI? Sorry.

So it’s out. As is usual when I'm nervous, my stomach had been rendered a black, cavernous void by the pre-yanking anxiety, which means I’m starving all the time and the minute the last bit of tooth clinks down on the metal tray, I ask when I can eat. Wait until the freezing’s worn off, they say. About four hours. And now my body’s really pissed – not only has bits of it been removed against its will, but NO EATING?!?? Which emotion might have helped move things along, as when Den is stitching me up, it very quickly becomes apparent that the pervasive numbness that rendered the entire right side of my face – exterior and interior – a blank space of nonexistence? Gone.

And then they charged me $290 for a “difficult extraction”. Quite frankly, I think I’m the one who should be paid.

1 comment:

Annette said...

I like the issue of compensation for pain. Would we be rich or what!
I just got a cap because I broke my tooth at the Sjogren's Conference of all places.
I told one of the dentists there about my plight and his dentist reflexes went into action. He pulled out his iPhone and took a picture of the broken tooth. Then he said "You'll need a cap" which, believe it or not, was a relief because he is a big implant dentist and they cost even more.
It's the sounds and feelings of body parts leaving or being altered that upsets me too

Hope you feel better now