Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pinched, prodded and poked

I am officially a writer now, because I have struggled over a post for 10 days now and just set it aside to begin afresh. "Everything is better when it's a-fresh," said the produce man to the melon-squeezer. Just as I will drink no wine before its time, I shall publish no post before it's fully roas't. Somebody, please, stop me.

Any-hoo, four weeks ago yesterday, I had the worst dental experience of my life. Let me preface this by saying, I have good teeth. Only 2 fillings in my mid-to -late 40 year old mouth. Well, and a little bonding on one of my front teeth from an unfortunate diving incident at the Holidome in Cincinnati, Ohio during a fraternity formal event I attended in 1984. Never mind about that.

We recently got new dental insurance. The pickings were slim for dentists in our area. Basically, we had a choice of DDS in a box (Aspen Dental) or the guy I ended up with. I took the two girls to him first. I know, I know, it sounds bad, even canary-in-the-coal-mine-ish, but they did fine. Cleanings, exams, sealants and all was well. Curiously, I don't think he laid an instrument on them. It was all done by his babe-alicious assistants. All he did was look into their mouths and give me the names of several of his orthodontist cronies to contact, stat.

The same day, after a very brief, impromptu exam, he suggested that my 2 existing fillings, now more than 20 years old and causing me no trouble by the way, should be replaced because it appeared they were beginning to crack.

"Schedule an appointment and we'll take care of them. Plus, the bonding on your front tooth is worn and stained. It needs to be replaced. We can do that while we have you in here."  He was all smiles and charm.

"Okay", I said. Trust the man in white. I scheduled my appointment.

I arrived at the appointed hour a couple of weeks later. Following her rigorous cleaning,  Righteous Babe #1 applied a topical numbing agent to my upper and lower left gums, in anticipation of the Novocaine shots to come. I'd only had Novocaine twice before, and my recollection was that the injections were annoying more than painful; kind of like mosquito bites. "I've had two babies with no anesthesia, I can handle this",  I thought. I'd always prided myself on my non-chalance about medical procedures, shots and blood-draws.

Dr. De Sade (to which he shall hereinafter be referred) strutted into the room with Righteous Babe #2 at his side. He picked up an enormous metal syringe and with no bedside, rather chair side, chit-chat, plunged the infernal thing into my lower gum line. I felt a vibration run through my body and guttural noises came, unbidden, from my mouth, much as you might have heard emanate from convicts strapped to "Old Sparky", Ohio's now-retired electric chair.

As he continued to depress the plunger, Dr. De Sade asked with furrowed brow, "Does it feel like an electric charge? " I nodded. "That's okay, it takes effect really quickly when that happens." Abruptly and with no apology, he picked up a second syringe and injected it into my upper jaw, directly above the lower injection. He stood and announced that he'd be back in a few minutes. Righteous Babe #2 asked if I was okay. I widened my eyes and shrugged. Truthfully, I did not know.

De Sade returned very shortly, picked up the drill and it began to whine. I closed my eyes, imagining myself elsewhere. And then I jumped.

"She's not numb."

"Did you feel that?"

I nodded.  He picked up a syringe and said, "We'll give you a little more Novocaine," and the plunger once again depressed. I felt a cold sensation in my lower jaw and again in my upper.

"Be back in a minute," oozed De Sade.

Righteous Babe #2 patted my shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"I gueth tho."

She giggled and I stabbed her with my eyes.

"Thith ithn't muth fun."

De Sade returned once again, picked up the drill and began to probe. Again, I jumped, involuntarily.

"She's still not numb."

"Did you really feel that?"

"Yeth," I nodded.

He picked up the syringe. I widened my eyes. De Sade dug it into my lower jaw, sawing it in and out. It was like something from Little Shop of Horrors. I could see the end of the syringe in his hand outside my mouth; I could see the in-and-out motion although I couldn't feel it. Then he administered another shot to the upper jaw. He stood up and said, "Let's give it another couple of minutes."

De Sade announced that Righteous Babe #3 would remove the bonding from my front tooth, since it required no Novocaine and he would come back to do the rest.

Righteous Babe #3 drilled away at my front tooth, periodically squirting water into my mouth and stabbing me in the tonsils with the spit-sucking probe that hissed like an angry copperhead inside my cranium. I prayed silently for it to all be over soon.

When she was finished, Righteous Babe #3 asked how I was doing. I attempted to answer but the whole left side of my face was immobile

"Cah I geh a dink oh wah-eh?"

Righteous Babes #2 and #3 both nodded. I got up and went to the sink. I turned on the tap and filled a cup. I held it to my lips, as is customary, yet it trickled right out of my mouth. I attempted to swish. It was fruitless. Then I looked in the mirror. A good portion of my right front tooth was gone, giving me a jack-o-lantern-like look, but the left side of my face would not move. At all.  I could only laugh. Hysterically.

"I'm tho thaky," I said, as I climbed back into the chaise-du-torture.

Righteous Babe #2 said, "Oh, that's the epinephrine in the shots. It makes you shaky. It'll wear off."

For the last time, De Sade returned.

"You've got to be numb now!" he insisted.

He drilled. And drilled. And drilled. Above the whine of the instruments, I felt nothing. I briefly wondered if I was ingesting dangerous amounts of mercury from the amalgam fillings he was pulverizing, but I wasn't about to stop him and ask. It was obvious that he wanted this over with as much as I did. Plus, I was not at all confident in my ability to make myself understood, which to be honest, is not a concern I have ever had since I acquired the gift of gab well before age 2.

Righteous Babe #3 reappeared. "She'll do the fillings," De Sade announced as he hurried from the room.

She packed and poked while I held my mouth open. She sanded and polished. My jaws ached from holding them open for so long.

"How do they feel?"

"I haf no fucking ithea."

She giggled. "I guess not. Well, you're all done!" She handed me a mirror. I examined my lovely, newly bonded front tooth and the paralyzed left side of my face, along with the drool spilling over my lower lip.

"Any inthructhionth?"

"You probably shouldn't eat anything until the Novocaine wears off because you could bite your tongue."

"How lonh?"

She looked at her watch. "It's 4 o'clock now." She mused.

(I had been there 2 and a half hours.)

"Probably until 6 or so."

I got up to leave, feeling distinctly violated. I went to the front desk to "check out", only to discover how little my insurance actually covered for the expense of the afternoon's fun. As I wrote my check, De Sade passed by, well beyond the reception desk, in a hurry to somewhere else. He looked at me and smirked. "It'll probably be closer to 7 by the time it wears off."

Like hell. It's 4 weeks later and while my face is back to normal, my tongue is still numb. I still can't tell if the fillings are smooth, or how hot my coffee is until it hits the back of my throat. The numbness alternates with the pins-and-needles feeling you get as blood flow returns to a foot you've been sitting on.

I don't mean to complain. I know I'm lucky to even be able to afford regular dental care. I know it could be worse. It's not life-threatening. Rather, it's like having a pebble in your shoe. A pebble in your shoe every single hour of every single day. It won't kill you, but it will drive you stark. raving. mad. This is the theory behind Chinese water torture.

So yesterday I went to the dermatologist. After an embarrassingly thorough examination of the entire expanse of my pasty Midwestern skin, she announced that a spot on my right (facial) cheek should come off.

"It's a little suspicious. We should have it biopsied. It's no big deal, just a little scrape."

"Okay," I said. Family history being what it is, I'm taking no chances with the Big C.

Her nurse came in, bearing a tray.

"Okay", she chirped, "Let's numb you!"

"Topical?" I asked.

"Oh, no; you'll need a lidocaine injection. Why? Are you scared of needles?"

Not me. I'm not scared of needles. Not one little bit, Dammit.


  1. Yikes. We have stayed with the same dentist event though sometimes at work there are plan choices to pay less premiums and go to dentists in a network. Our dentist is of the thought that even though I may have old fillings that will one day break apart--he will leave it up to me to tell him when the time comes and then he will do a crown. I feel so bad for you with this experience. You should rate him accordingly on

  2. you don't even want to know about my year at the dentist.
    and thank you...your comment was kind and encouraging...and yes to the waterproof mascara :-)

    hang in there yourself....brighter days ahead...

  3. Holy Little Shop of Horrors! That he was so dispassionate is most striking about this tale...that your tongue is still numb is out-and-out horrifying.

    So, um, maybe it's good you have the diversion of that little spot on the cheek?

  4. Yikes! That can't be normal to be numb weeks later. I wonder if some nerve damage occurred? You might want to make the drive back to Dr. Orr!