August 13, 2014

My Trip to the Dentist: A (Lazy) Visual Narrative

I went to the dentist for the first time in a couple years. I was scheduled for simple cleaning and x-rays. No biggie, right?

I learned rather quickly that this particular dentist has a fancy digital robotic x-ray machine that can practically see cavities before they form. Naturally, they discovered I had NINE cavities. Three of them were super-scary looking jerks that needed to be eliminated and filled immediately. The others could be spread out throughout the summer. I made the appointments and spent the rest of that day sulking in bed.

Well, I sucked it up and had managed to get six cavities filled without any issue. The first were the scary jerks, and I had mad TMJ-related pain for a week, but the next three were a breeze.

My last appointment was yesterday. There is a bottle of Advil in front of me and a piece of half-eaten toast that I've found too painful to finish. I can't bite down too hard and so I eat about as slow as my grandmother, who I've seen take about 45 minutes to consume a slice of pumpkin pie before.

Here's how it went down:

So I'm at the dentist. The assistant comes in and does something a little weird. She applies a topical anesthetic to my bottom gum line. This hasn't happened in the six previous fillings, but I don't find cause to be alarmed just yet. 

I have major anxiety when it comes to any kind of clinical environment, but with this being my seventh, eighth, and ninth filling in the last two months, I'd managed to calm my nerves just enough to not develop clammy palms during the procedure. Which is big, for me. So at this point, I'm telling myself, don't worry, it'll be a breeze, (even though you had two nightmares about it last night but whatever-- it will be over soon).

Then this happens:

Anxiety sets in immediately. My internal interrogation begins:

Why do we need to try a new method? The normal one works just fine. I was seriously impressed with this dentist's ability to inject me with enough anesthetic the last six times, as I have a history of anesthetic not working for me. And now this? Why didn't he ask me? Why only that tooth? WTF IS HAPPENING?!

Clammy hands commence.

He examines my teeth and finds that the third cavity isn't a cavity at all and so he's only going to do two fillings today. Yay. My lower tooth will be the home of the newfangled anesthetic method; and the top will feature the normal sort.

So he begins.

THAT'S why the assistant applied a topical anesthetic to my lower gums. To prepare them for what felt and looked like this. 

The topical anesthetic helped somewhat. I still totally felt the initial injection. It went really super deep. And it hurt. He sat there, probing my gums with this torture device, explaining that with this method, only the one tooth would get numb, instead of the whole right side of my face.

Which still doesn't make sense to me. Doesn't pain travel? Isn't there a reason that whole right sides of faces are numbed?

So he pumps the gum yet again, and this time when he tests I'm numb enough and then he gets a-drilling.

So I feel pain, not only on that lower tooth but it spreads throughout the lower jaw. It's fairly dull, however, and I can take it for a little while. Which I attempt because at that point, I didn't know what was worse: feeling the pain of them drilling me or him injecting me with the torture device that was supposed to stop me from feeling the filling in the first place.

Plus, for like, five minutes he kept insisting the end was nigh:

And basically when I can't take it anymore, it's over.

So they fill my teeth with composite filling. Or something, I'm not up to date on my dentistry terms. Jordan and I drive from there to the grocery store, and on the way there it feels as though all the anesthetic wears off immediately.

The pain was so intense the only thing I can compare it to is wisdom teeth extraction. 

It hurt too much to smile, talk, and even walking sent throbs of pain all over the area. As far as I could tell, the pain was localized at the injection site of the torture device. 

I walked around the store completely expressionless while holding the right side of my face, occasionally wincing then groaning from the pain the wincing caused. I'm sure I looked like I was having drug withdrawals or something. 

The top filling, the one that they used traditional anesthetic on, felt fine, by the way. As predicted.

As soon as we got home, I took Advil and ate my lunch: rice pudding. It felt better after a few hours but still hurt to bite down. 

And that's basically where I am today. It hurts to bite down, this time it's at the spot they drilled on the tooth. It hurts to touch my entire cheek-- from the top of my cheekbone down to the jawline. Also, I can't really open my mouth, but that's certainly a TMJ thing. 

I'm sure it needs time to heal from the various injuries, but damn. I can't help but feel that 90% of this pain was entirely preventable, were I not randomly chosen for some sort of anesthesia experiment.

I haven't told the dentist of the results of his newfangled method yet. He called to check on me last night, but I didn't hear my phone. I'm thinking about emailing him a link to this with the subject line: Whatever you did to my gums yesterday, please for the love of humanity don't ever do to anyone ever again EVER.


  1. i think you should email the link to this -- it might help him understand if he sees the pictures. ;)

    in my experience, male medical personnel -- whether they be doctors, veterinarians or dentists -- have a very limited ability to comprehend pain and pain tolerance. which is ironic, as they tend to be the world's biggest babies themselves.

    but he should probably know that his experiment was an utter bust. in every way.

    hope you're feeling better soon - - just reading about dental experiences makes me want to curl up in a ball and rock gently in a corner.


    1. grr I want to punch blogger in the guts. WTF is WRONG with their COMMENTING SECTION AS OF LATE??

    2. oh, freaking FINALLY something posts! Anyway. Mel. Your description of male medical personnel describes my last dentist exactly-- someone I knew a little through friends outside the office, and yes, he was an ENORMOUS baby regarding any kind of discomfort. I don't know this guy well enough, but I do wish he'd asked first. Especially since I get super nonassertive while anxious. Things are much better today, maybe I can chew on that side by tomorrow!

  2. I am afraid of dentists. I go, because I have to, but it is always a white knuckle ride. Including check-ups. And anaesthesia doesn't usually work for me. There is pain, there is fear, there are noises and smells I don't like, there is invasion of my personal space. There is expense.
    A dentist once asked me what I found difficult about coming to see her - and was appalled at my response(s).
    I hope your pain eases quickly. And yes, tell him. Tell him clearly. Please.

    1. It's amazing how some medical professionals can be so un-empathetic. Honestly, that trait should be a job requirement. Not to any extreme of course, but no dentist should ever be appalled at a patient's anxiety! That never helps! So I'm sorry you went through that. I have been through something similar, and that event marked the beginning of my anxiety. It's awful. And I am telling him- have already drafted an email I'm sending today (after some more coffee and I read it through again).

  3. Definitely email the link. They NEED to know what a disaster this was.

    And I'm so sorry you endured it :( I hate dentists too. I used to be okay, weirdly but I haven't been for a long time and I find very good reasons not to go! Mind you , I don't eat refined sugars and I take vitamin K and D as a precaution :)

    This all sounds truly horrible - Dave had pain for over a week after a filling recently and once years ago I was given an injection so deep that the shot itself was agonising and I went into post operative shock after it :( not good.

    On another note - even if they present it as an absolute : 'we are going to do this' you can still say no. They cannot force you to have something you don't want. Mind you, I know it is hard to think on your feet when you are already anxious.

    I think too if this were me, I would be writing to them and explaining at length the issues :)

    1. Hmm, I just started taking K and D in a multi, hopefully this helps! Ugh, so sorry to hear about your and Dave's experiences. I wish now that I had said no, but I certainly will should any assistant start to prep me with topical anesthesia from now on! I kept thinking, it'll be fine, he knows what he's doing, he's a professional right? Plus I'd just gotten back the night before from a long road trip for an emotionally draining visit to my family- I was already exhausted, almost too exhausted to be anxious, and it didn't help with my thinking coherently and quickly and thoroughly. I certainly hope there are no more cavities to be filled, but I will be much more prepared to discuss this things next time, especially armed with this experience.

  4. Well that's just weird. Suddenly I can comment from within Bloglovin with no trouble at all!

    1. Good news! I didn't know you could comment from w/in bl, maybe I should try that since blogger totally sucks lately.

  5. Hi Raquel.
    First off, I LOVE the profile pic.
    What a horrific experience!!! You should DEFINITELY mail a link to your dentist...
    Wait, I have a better idea.
    Better still, advise him that if he ever requires dental anaesthesia, he MUST ask for the wonderful new anaesthetic method... it works like a charm!

    1. Perfect idea, Michelle. And thanks so much for the compliment!

  6. That sounds really stressful, I hope your mouth is better now! Having had infections with all 4 wisdom teeth I can sympathize, only thing that kept me going was morphine, as they could not dig/hammer them out until the antibiotics kicked in - couldn't even open my mouth to eat for two weeks. Crossing my fingers you won't be repeating this performance and stay cavity free from now on.

    1. I'm crossing my fingers, too! Ugh, your experience sounds horrible. Morphine! That must've been soo frickin painful. Yes, things are better now... I've just begun chewing on that side without pain. Woo!

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  8. My Torrance dentist and his staff understand the patients' situation, and always manage to complete their job of making the patients' teeth healthier and looking better while being gentle about it.


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