Sunday, May 15, 2005

My friend, the dentist...

Lord, I never thought I'd be so happy to see a dentist as I was last week.

I must admit I put it off for over two years... this dentist thing. I've never really been one to rush to a dentist. I usually wait until the pain is unbearable then wait a bit longer before I go. It's not like I don't like them nor does it have anything to do with trust (or lack thereof). I really have nothing against them other than they represent pain... for the most part. So in my own sordid, irrational, sick sort of way I find myself waiting for the pain in my mouth to get to such a point that when I do go to the dentist the pain the dentist inflicts will be less than the pain I've been experiencing over time prior to going.

You see, several years ago I was involved in a very serious automobile accident. It was an early fall Sunday morning and I was summoned to work in a fairly remote area of the state. While enroute on one of those back country highways another car with three people in it "blew" a stop sign at one of those country road cross streets and nailed my work vehicle at over 65 mph. Thank God I was alone or I wouldn't be here writing this right now. The air bags employed, my seatbelt held and although I was flipped onto my vehicle's top and struck by another car in the oncoming lane I survived. Two of the three people in the other car didn't. They were dead at the scene. The driver of that car lost both of his legs and the driver of the oncoming vehicle that struck mine head on received a severe concussion. After it stopped spinning on it's top I escaped my vehicle through a very small opening that used to be the passenger window... my large body through such a small opening. I did this after smelling smoke and seeing sparks... the last thing I wanted was to be burned alive. I do remember doing a body survey on myself prior to moving in the vehicle though... somewhat disoriented and quite anxious to rid myself of the twisted metal that was moments before identified as a Ford Ranger pickup. After conducting the body survey I found little wrong with me... somehow... very few injuries to me! The bottom line, I got out of the vehicle and made my way to the other vehicle... the first one that struck mine... the cause of the accident. I remember checking the occupants for injuries, realizing two had no pulse and the third, the driver was in very serious condition. I cut his seatbelt but couldn't muster the strength to get the door open. His vehicle was smoking and sparking as well. I reached in and turned the keys to the "off" position then stayed with him until help arrived approximately fifteen minutes later.

Another motorist stopped... again, back country highway... very little traffic. He had a cell phone and, although the reception was rather poor managed to find a couple of "bars" on the phone and placed a call to 911.

I'm only telling you this to lead you into my bout with the dentist, bad teeth and pain. After the accident I was transported to one of the local hospitals and "checked out". J arrived shortly afterwards and we had a good cry together... realizing I cheated death once again. Death's gotta be pissed off with me by now but that's another story... several actually.

Well, in the end all they could find were minor internal injuries and a broken ankle that I had no idea was broken... adrenaline is a wonderful thing at times.

I was "fixed" and released to go home about 8 hours later. Physically, I healed. Or so I thought...

About a year later I noticed pieces of my teeth were falling out. In the past my teeth were in very good shape so this bothered me. I went to the dentist and after he looked me over he identified four teeth that had been "shattered" from some "blunt force trauma" in his words "some time ago. These are old injuries... within the past year or so". Of course he inquired what had happened over the past couple of years that could have done this to my teeth and we both identified "the accident" as the culprit. He had a grand plan... he wanted to fix the teeth... bridges, braces, porcelain, implants... over $6,000.00 worth of "fixing". I don't have that kind of money and besides, it's only four teeth. I have the rest of my teeth in my head and they're still in good repair so I opted not to let him go forward with his reconstruction.

Time does take it's toll. Over the next year those shattered teeth let me know they were there, alive and not so well. The pressures from the infections, the exposure to cold air, the inability to munch on "crunchy" foods, the cuts on my tongue and cheek caused by the teeth's jagged edges... all of these things made my life a living hell at first but I learned to cope with them. I had my own plan... stick it out as long as I could. I didn't say it was a good plan... but it was a plan and I was going to make it happen. I just didn't have a plan as to how long I was going to "stick it out" or what I was going to do after I couldn't bear to "stick it out" any longer.

For the next several months I ate aspirin like candy, avoided breathing through my mouth on cold, crisp days, drank warm water rather than cold tea or beer... literally avoided anything that would cause that sharp, unbearable, eye crossing pain one gets from the mother of all toothaches. I could put up with the constant throbbing, the building of pressure, the dull pain associated with the worst of the four teeth... I was accustomed to it by now... it had become a part of my day to day living. But that other pain... that spine tingling, toe curling pain brought about by the tooth's nerve being exposed to cold or heat or whatever changed my personality immediately. I was like a lion with a thorn in his paw when that pain would hit.

I decided it had to come out... that incorrigible tooth. The worst one of the lot! It had to come out and I wasn't going to pay thousands of dollars to get my mouth fixed in the process so I set about working on it myself. Over the next several months I worked it from side to side... a little bit each day, trying to get it to a point where I could pull it myself... literally wanting to remove it from my jaw to relieve the pain. J noticed I was "playing" with it several times. She's so damned practical... I'm not. Finally, after I'd suffered through a rather rugged couple of days J made an appointment for me to see another dentist... not our personal one but another one. I hesitated at first claiming "I almost have it" but she wouldn't give in.

Her words... "Either you go in and let her take it out or I'll knock it out of your head right now". She was serious... and she had the means to do it. I can't stay awake forever... had to sleep sometime and knew she'd make her move if I dropped my guard so I decided to follow through with her "dentist" idea. I have to say I've never been fond of dentists. Nothing personal, just that they seem to have a way to make things hurt like no other thing can hurt. Perhaps this is a throwback to my childhood days but it's a fact... I don't like the pain associated with dentists so I don't go to dentists.

Two days ago I did. The lady looked in my mouth and gasped.

"How long has this tooth been like that?" she asked as she poked around in my mouth.

"A couple of years" I answered.

"My God. Doesn't it hurt?"

I thought about my answer before I answered. After all, she was going to be working on my teeth...

"Yeah, but I got used to it for the most part."

"I don't think we can save it." She had already "numbed me up" so I could only feel her tapping it... no pain... yet.

"Take it out of my head then." I remember telling her.

"It's going to have to be a surgical removal but I can do it. When do you want me to do it?" She had to be kidding, right?

"Can you do it now?" I knew if I left I wouldn't come back.

Over the next half hour I was fed a drug cocktail of sorts... percoset, valium and whatever else she had in the mix, prepped and left to gather my thoughts. It didn't take long for me to gather my thoughts after the cocktail because I really didn't have any... that stuff was something else.

When she returned she announced she was "going in". I don't remember everything but remember her saying she was going to "try something first" before she actually broke out the scalpels, saws or whatever else she was going to use to cut into my jaw and remove that throbbing, jagged chunk of enamel.

Well, that something else she tried worked! She didn't have to split my jawbone and remove the tooth... evidently my working it from side to side over those several months prior had made it loose enough for her to latch onto the little jagged peaks of the exposed tooth and pull it from the jaw after some considerable effort. As soon as it came out I felt instant relief! The whole right side of my face... hell, my head felt like years of building pressure was let go. She held it up for me to see and announced "it's out. No operation today."

Wow, she was good! The best! My new best friend! If it weren't for J I'd have asked this elderly, plump, not so easy on the eyes dentist to come home with me so I could pamper her for the rest of her life.

It wasn't much longer afterwards that J arrived to take me home. I was just starting to get the full affects of that cocktail and they... J, the dentist, the receptionist, the aid... they were having fun making fun of me. Why not? I would have too if I were in their shoes.

Yep, I have a new friend... MY dentist. As for the other three teeth... she has a plan.

Life can be good.

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