Monday, March 31, 2008

An advertisement for good dental hygiene

I had my first root canal/crown back in November. I expected myself to be virtually fearless because I worked as a dental assistant for three summers in college. I know the routine and it typically does not bother me to get the shot and hear the drill. So, I had the root canal and experienced dental trepidation for the first time. I felt like my head was lower than my feet when they were working. It made me a bit light-headed. There was so much in my mouth like a wedge to "rest" my jaw on, a tent around the tooth, and a plethora of drills and equipment. I am a bit claustrophobic, so all of these made me nervous. And I found it hard to swallow with my mouth full and open. I remember blinking hard, taking deep breaths, and thinking, "Oh, this is what all the fuss is about!". But, of course, in the end I made it through the procedure.

Later that month I went to my dentist to get prepped for a crown. By now, this is my fourth dental visit over this little tooth. I had gone first to access the problem and they had treated it with a filling. Secondly, I went back with pain and they said I need the root canal. Then I had the root canal, of course. And now I am in for the fourth time. This was the smoothest visit. They work, give me a "temporary tooth", and they tell me to come back in two weeks for the "real crown". This is when it all goes down hill.

The fifth visit I go in to what I believed to be my final visit for this tooth. By now, I have shucked out $2500 from our meager budget and another $50 on all of the babysitters. I am ready to be done and move on! But...the "real crown" did not fit. So, they put the old temporary tooth back on and I make another appointment for three weeks later. By this time, it is January and I am still waiting for my tooth to be fixed.

I come back three weeks later (early February) and the tooth fits. Over the course of the next couple of weeks it begins to hurt more and more. I go back again for the seventh visit and they say my "bite" needs to be adjusted. This only took five minutes and I am done. Easy solution. I am very happy. But...the tooth continues to hurt. It hurts when I chew and when I tap my tooth. My cheek begins to hurt.

So I go back for my eighth visit, now to a new dentist. He tells me it is abscessed and there is bone damage. He wants me to see an oral surgeon. I will not even describe the procedure he recommended, but I will tell you it involved a long needle and made the root canal sound like a walk in the park. At this point, I am determined to see the dentist that performed the root canal. I am unwilling to spend one more penny on this silly tooth.

So, I go back to the root canal doctor and he agrees that the tooth is abscessed. He proceeds to redo the root canal. I can not tell you how nervous I was to have this procedure repeated! When he had given me four shots and drilled for thirty minutes he stops and tells me that he needs to order a new tool and I will have to come back in two weeks. Let me just say I LOST it! I took everything out of my mouth; the drill, the mirror, the ring and tent around the tooth, as well as the earphones and the sunglasses. I sat up and began sobbing. Once the first tear hit my cheek I was out of control. I sat there with my eyes closed, face numbed to just below each eye, nose dripping, tears rolling for a good ten minutes. It was SO embarrassing, but it felt good. The dentist had no idea what to do. There was some awkward back pats and reassurances. But they just made me more angry.

And that brings us up to now. Last Thursday I went in for my tenth trip to fix this tooth. The dentist finally completed the root canal and sent me on my way with an antibiotic. The tooth still hurts, but I think I have decided to let them pull it if this doesn't work. Ten dental trips, one tiny tooth. Am I being ungracious, or do you agree with me that teeth are not rocket science? They are bones and nerves. It's not like working on the brain. Really, y'all, don't you think this story is the craziest thing? What in the world could the Lord being trying to teach me through all of this chaos? And at what point do you let grace and patience fly out the window and allow yourself to be demanding and insistant and, well, throw a fit?


terriblespeller said...

you are making me nervous.

throw it girl!

I HATE the dentist.

RHB said...

I'm rolling on the floor- not without sympathy of course- it does sound like a terrible ordeal! But I'm glad to hear that you threw a good fit!

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely ridiculous. Absolutely. I think you need to cut your losses and find someone who knows what they are doing before some serious damage is done - abscesses can be VERY serious!

John had a root canal a few years ago. The tooth wasn't even bothering him, but it had a filling in it and the dentist said there was decay under it. You know, you do what they say. Or we used to, anyway.

So, he goes back. Come to find out, back teeth are terribly difficult to do root canals on, particularly top ones. And John's had an extra root, too. This dentist does not believe in laughing gas, so... none of that. John came home DRENCHED in sweat - he had been in pain the entire time.
And guess what. The dentist broke off the tip of his tool in the canal. He explained it, said he sealed it, it was fine.

Continued pain for a year.

FINALLY John writes a letter on his own legal letterhead and requests a second opinion, paid for BY THE ORIGINAL DENTIST. The dentist ends up saying if John will see this one particular oral surgeon, he will cover it himself.

So we go to the oral surgeon. You would not believe the difference - it was like night and day. The oral surgeon had the right tools, for goodness' sake! It was a walk in the park, and he was so nice, called us that night, etc...

John has a permanent crown in now, but it has never been the same. To this day we shake our heads over it. My advice to anyone regarding dental work: don't fix it if it doesn't hurt. And if it's anything more than a cavity to be filled, GO TO AN ORAL SURGEON!

Can you tell I'm still extremely "passionate" about this? If you can't get it how you like it, find a lawyer friend and request a "free" second opinion at least. I'm not saying to sue or threaten to sue, but he is obligated (I think) to make it right, and you shouldn't feel badly about it. It's YOUR healthcare, after all.

But that's just my little opinion!

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a while now and haven't left a comment what with all the lurking I have been doing but I felt led to this time. I worked for a dentist for ten years before having children and can say this is one of those things that happen to less than some tiny percent of patients. I say tiny because it can happen and I have known where it did but not to everyone. This lesson is made just for you somehow, and why you?, because He chose you. There is something to be learned in all this pain and frustration. You seem to be a decent person, one I identify with (note reason for lurking) and always looking for the truth and the way He wants you to live your life. This my friend is why it is better not to question but lean. After reading the details of what happened through each one of your procedures I asked myself what I would do and it would be the same as you. I would keep on at this point, the worst has to be over and losing it after you have fought hard for it would just be sad.

You have encouraged me so many times through your posts. I hope my de-lurking offers some encouragement for you. Have a great day! ~ Sondra

Anonymous said...

ok. wow. i hate the dentist. i have a tooth that a crown needs to be done on and i'm scared! i can't believe you're on trip 10! wow. you are in my prayers.