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

Really, I swear, this post should wrap it up.

After the extraction was over, Tim drove me to Chopstix where we picked up approximately two gallons of Miso soup to go, since I shouldn’t chew for at least a day, and Titi’s mom gave me some gelato to help my mouth pain because she is just the sweetest lady ever. Then on Friday, we went to the convention, where I had a good time all weekend although I couldn’t drink through a straw, which meant I was always hitting my face with ice. But at least I could open my mouth and wasn’t knocking food all over the place, and I could chew (although food did have a tendency to go into the cavity left behind by my broken tooth, so I had to rinse out a lot).

The next week I went back to the dentist to get a checkup on how the extraction site was looking, was given a cleaning and a clean bill of health, and made my appointment for the crown. Sigh. I mean, I might as well, right? And I might as well stick with these lovely people who have a therapy dog and are understanding of anxiety? Did I mention the TVs? Each chair has its own TV with headphones, so that if you would rather “check out” a bit, you can turn on the TV and set the volume to as loud as you want because there are headphones. And the large picture windows that look out over a green area, with birdfeeders and all sorts of plants and occasionally a dog wandering through, because a couple women who work there do rescue work and there’s almost always another dog in the office other than Gus, the therapy dog.

So now we’re at about… oh, three weeks past when my dentist at UF said I’d need an extraction. About two weeks past my actual extraction. AND GUESS WHO CALLED ME, Y’ALL? GUESS!!!

Did you guess what I think you guessed? If so, you’re right, it was the oral surgery department. They heard I needed an emergency extraction and had something open up in about another week… would that be a good time for me? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. She actually sounded surprised that I hadn’t waited for them, that I had done gone and found myself another dentist who could fit me in for an emergency extraction of a broken tooth that was causing me a lot of pain.

So, the last Tuesday of October (causing me to heartbreakingly miss my friend’s annual Halloween-inspired belly dance routine, wherein this year she dressed like a clown – so you know it’s important to me that I’m sorry I missed it!), I went in to get a millimeter of my root-canal’d tooth shaved off, to get fitted for a crown. I had been planning to go with porcelain since I’m not a rap star and have no need of gold teeth, but all the dentist had to say was “you can of course choose whatever you would like, but I just want to let you know that porcelain can sometimes break, and with your anxiety levels I’d hate to see you have to come back to get this tooth worked on a third time.”… so I went with gold.

It took a hair over two weeks for the gold crown to be made and mailed back to them, so the day after Tim’s sister Jenny got into town, I went and spent a couple hours getting the crown fitted. Put in, “how’s that feel”, take it out, shave part of it off, put it back in, “how’s that feel.” I actually did all this without anxiety medication, because I didn’t have anyone who could drive me, spend a couple hours there, and then also drive me to pick up a friend who needed a ride home from chemo that afternoon (busy day).

During the same visit, I also got fitted for a night guard. Did I mention the night guard? This was part of the reason I’d gone to the TMJ specialist at UF to begin with – both my chiropractor and my GP had recommended getting one, that it would help with my unconscious jaw clenching and overall help to cure my TMJ. I knew that was going to suck because I have a really strong gag reflex, and as a teenager I almost threw up on my orthodontist when I got fitted for a retainer; I was pretty sure it was the same process. It was. Sigh. The top half was the worst, because the goop squishes back and pretends like it’s trying to crawl down the back of your throat, and by the time it had set I was gagging and coughing and very close to projectile vomiting — the poor woman kept petting my head and telling me how sorry she was, she knew it was bad, she couldn’t take it out or they’d have to start over, I’d get through it soon.

The bottom half wasn’t nearly so bad.

It was going to take about ten days or so to get the guard made, and then I’d have to come in and as with the crown, try it on, “how does that feel”, take it out, shave it down in places (or build it up – they have stuff to do that, in fact had to use it to build a “saddle” out over my pulled tooth, so that the tooth above would have something to rest against for 8(ish) hours out of 24), put it back in, “how does that feel.”

I went back this last Monday to get it, and the appointment really wasn’t bad at all. If the company who made it had put the saddle on when making it, it would have been even less time; as it was it took about 45 minutes, tops, to get the guard fitted. It’s a lot like the bottom half of my retainer after braces, except about six times as thick and designed to last for years and years (and years) provided I don’t accidentally throw it away and/or one of the dogs eats it. So far I haven’t slept through the whole night with it, I find that I wake up in the middle of the night and take it out — but it is staying in longer each night so I guess it’s just something my body needs to become adjusted to.

While I was there, I made an appointment for a cleaning, in April. So it sounds like I’m sticking with them as my dentists, rather than going back to the lovely but not-set-up-for-emergencies UF Faculty Practice. I stress again that I only ever got great and compassionate care there, and I would recommend them to anyone not in an emergency. I think that with them, it’s a combination of it being staffed by the teachers, who only work one day a week and thus have schedules that are booked months in advance, and due to that they’re not set up really to handle emergency cases. Now, not that I’m PLANNING another emergency any time soon, but… what if? I have two metal fillings, still — the other two were on the back molars, one of which now has a root canal and a crown, and the other of which is in a pretty pink box on my fireplace mantle — and while those fillings are much smaller, what if? What if they crack, or fall out, or those teeth crack? I mean, I’m not trying to look for trouble, but if trouble finds me I want to be better prepared to take care of it right away and not have a lot of drama about where the fuck I’m going for work I don’t want to have done in the first place.

Also, this new office has a therapy dog! How can I not love that? Instead of navigating campus and the parking garage and trying to remember to get a voucher, I pull up right in front, go three feet up some stairs, and then get to pet a ginormous black hairy friendly dog who really loves to have his belly rubbed and leans into me when scratching his chest just like Bridgett did.

And I have to admit it appeals to my feminist nature that this office is staffed entirely by women. Owned by women, run by women, and those women are compassionate and dog lovers and really, really, really love Halloween. Seriously, you should have seen the decorations.

ANYWAY. I will miss Mitzi, whom I went to UF specifically to be able to see (but we are friends on Facebook, so it’s not like I’m losing her completely) but it just feels right to stay now with where I can get in for emergency work if I need to. And thank the heavens this round of emergency work is done! I feel so much better. I can chew on my right side for the first time in about five years, without pain. Y’all don’t even know what that’s like! I can chew without an electric jolt of pain shocking me!

So let’s not have any more dental emergencies – or for fuck’s sake, any medical emergencies of any kind, for at least the rest of this and all of next year, mmmmkay?

3 Comments

  1. nakhira

    You’re in good hands – anyone who really cares will be happy about that. They may be upset about losing a client, but really? what counts is are YOU happy?
    And boy howdy, does it sound like a practice you should support.

  2. I’m so glad that’s over. I’m exhausted and clenching my jaw just READING all of this. Hooray for you sticking with it and doing scary things in order to take care of yourself. And hooray for therapy dogs!

  3. Joe Haldeman

    Whew! What an ordeal. I also have the family gag reflex, and that horrible sensation of being trapped in the chair with goop dripping back into your throat — I’ll talk! I’ll talk!

    I’m glad we’ve both gotten that out of the way, and hopefully will get through this life without doing it again. Maybe next time they’ll have matter transmitters. Or just plain magic; Im not picky.

    love

    unca joe

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