That time my broken tooth disguised itself as TMJ for five years (part two)

See? I told you I’d finish this!

When last we left our intrepid heroine

So at the advice of my dentist on my awakened/healing nerve, I popped Advil like bonbons all throughout the buying of the property saga, and the initial move. Then when I broke my finger and had both antibiotics and good pain drugs, EVERYTHING stopped hurting. But I noticed about mid-August that everything hurt… worse. I thought it was because of party planning – like, the stress of that was aggravating my TMJ, making everything worse. I called to make an appointment with the dentist to go ahead and get that night guard, but her schedule was pretty full and she couldn’t see me until the end of September.

Middle of September, Rhea and I went to Fiber-In. I had bought some OTC bite guards and was wearing them while I slept, and I was so happy about the sudden lack of pain! It was as if over the course of two or three days, things had changed. I spent the weekend eating nuts, and chewing on the right side of my face, and everything was awesome… until a few days later, when I felt like I had something between my teeth, and flossing didn’t help. I got a hand mirror and opened my mouth, and… I had something IN my tooth. A piece of food that needed to be pulled out, because it was wedged… wedged in a crack, in my tooth. A crack that after I got the food out, wiggled. A lot. That was maybe… the Wednesday after Fiber-In? Thursday I was in pain. Friday I was in a FUCK LOT OF PAIN. I was alternating Advil and Tyelnol and nothing was helping. I was taking an Advil on odd hours and Tylenol on even hours, ALL DAY LONG. The pain wasn’t even being touched. I could start to understand how someone could accidentally kill themselves trying to just shoot the jaw off of their face to get the pain to stop.

By Friday night, I couldn’t even sleep more than an hour or so at a time. Ice packs were helping as long as I stayed on them all the time. Heat didn’t help at all. Stopping the ice pack made it worse. By Saturday afternoon my face was starting to swell, and I was starting to weigh going to the ER versus waiting for my Monday morning dentist appointment because I was pretty sure I was getting an abscess, which meant that my tooth was broken (hence the large crack running down the middle of it I’d noticed earlier in the week). By dinner Saturday night I thought it would hurt too much to chew almost anything, so we made macaroni and cheese. I could hardly get my mouth open, and I kept bringing a fork up to my mouth to eat but knocking half the macaroni back on the plate because my mouth couldn’t open as much as I thought it could. This made Tim laugh, but he felt really bad about laughing, and was trying not to laugh. OK, it was pretty funny. And I started laughing. And then started crying, because the pain was excruciating… and then suddenly there was a really disgusting flavor that can best be described as “dead mouse” in my mouth. Which made me laugh. Which made it hurt more. Which made me cry. I CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP, Y’ALL!

I remembered that Mitzi had always said that saltwater rinses are the best for mouth problems, so I promptly stopped trying to eat and went to rinse. While rinsing, I googled “tooth abscess” on my phone and came up with information I kind of already knew; it hurts like a mother-fucker, it won’t stop hurting until it bursts, when it bursts you don’t want to swallow ANY of the pus, and salt water rinses are best. So I kept spitting and rinsing until the abscess had completely drained, and can I just tell you the freeing sensation of suddenly not being in pain?! Holy shit, I slept better that night than I had all week. Sunday was nothing, compared to Saturday. Then Monday rolled around and I went to the Dentist.

They could tell right away that I had something going on, but not what, because – and I love this part – the hairline fracture in the tooth still wasn’t showing up on the x-ray. “WIGGLE IT, GODDAMN IT” was what I was trying to say through my tears of frustration. They did, and, “Oh, that tooth is pretty broken! You’re going to need a root canal, if not a full extraction!”. Sigh. And you know what? I almost didn’t even mind being told I’d need either a root canal or an extraction, because it meant that someone didn’t think the pain was all in my head! They got a consult in from another part of the school (have I mentioned that this was at the UF Dental School? The Faculty Practice part, which means that I was always being worked on by people who were actually already dentists, not people going to school to be dentists) to verify root canal vs. extraction, and after a few quick tests and pokes and prods, she said “extraction” as the tooth was already dead, as was most of the nerve, so there was no saving it.

But wait, there’s more! They couldn’t just schedule me for an extraction later that week. Because they’re the dental school, my dentist only worked one day a week — she taught the rest of the week, and couldn’t see patients. And because she wanted me to get the best (most drugged) care I could, she wanted me to go to the endo-something department where they would give me good drugs, not just her pulling it in the office. So they’d pass on my name and number, with a note that it was an emergency extraction, and they sent me home with antibiotics so that I didn’t get another abscess.

That was Monday. I didn’t hear from the endo people Monday afternoon. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday morning. Finally I called them, and they said that it looked as if they could squeeze me in for an extraction… in early January. I ask you: WHAT. THE. FUCK.

And on that cliffhanger, would you believe that this is already at over 1000 words? AND I STILL HAVE MORE TO GO. Because wait! There’s more!

Stay tuned for Part Three, which I swear will wrap up the story, next Tuesday….


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  1. What the fuck is it with doctors and scheduling? You’re told by your primary, you need to see a specialist right away. You call the specialist, and their right away is always 6 – 8 weeks later!

    You poor thing. I can’t even imagine all of the pain.

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