I had my teeth cleaned on February 19th.

I had my teeth cleaned on February 19th.

 They took more X-rays of my mouth than I have ever had taken. That took almost an hour. I had asked if I couldn’t have my X-rays from my dentist in the Quad Cities sent and avoid having to have MORE X-rays. They agreed, but, when the X-rays arrived, they didn’t like them very much. It seems that this dental practice prides itself on being much more thorough and rigorous. 

By the end of February (10 days) I noticed that the cold bottle of water that I take into my bathroom at night to take my nighttime pills and to swish my mouth after brushing my teeth caused me to “twinge.” Our water here takes a long time to get hot; it takes a long time to get really cold, so I carry my bottle of refrigerated water into the bathroom at bedtime every night.

I noticed that the cold water, when it made contact with some sensitive areas of my metal-laden mouth (old silver fillings) hurt briefly and sporadically.

March began.

I continued to notice a “twinge” here and a ‘twinge” there, but the steady throbbing didn’t really set in until after Friday the 13th of March, which was the last time I went out into the world to go to a movie (“The Way Back,” with Ben Affleck. Very good movie. Stream it on Netflix). When the 19th of March arrived, it had been one solid month since my teeth were cleaned. By March 30, it was hurting more than  “normal.” I called the dentist’s office, got a recording, and learned that the dentist’s office will not re-open until April 22nd. There was, however, an “emergency” number.
Was I an “emergency”?  It hurts off and on, but can’t I make it through until April 22nd when the dentist re-opens his office?
Uh…that would be a no. I made it the entire month of March (31 days), 10 days in February, and another 13 days in April, for a total of 54 days, or approximately 8 weeks since the thorough tooth cleaning.

By the time I declared myself a “medical emergency” I was neither eating nor sleeping much. I was spending a lot of time holding cold things against my cheek and hoping that that would make it feel better. It did not.

I sent 2 e-mails to the dentist’s office, declaring myself an “emergency.” (*Note to self: do not declare yourself an “emergency” using e-mail. I have not yet received a response.)I ended up calling the dental emergency number and getting an appointment with an endodontist in a downtown building.

First problem: I have no idea where “the Marketplace” is and had great difficulty finding the building. I finally had to pull up in front of a large sign for a different dental group (Floss), which had a large address emblazoned on the sign, so I could tell the receptionist exactly where I was with a real address. She was able to guide me to an underground parking garage for the two building towers.
Most of the lower parking spots were reserved for physicians or dentists (no cars in them). I kept climbing in the ramp and parked, taking the elevator to the basement, as instructed (and then up to the 4th floor).

A kindly neighbor had given me a mask, so I started heading towards the building door without the mask and then remembered to go back and retrieve it. (I had not been wearing it while driving.) I put it on.

Immediately inside the door there was a table with 2 health care workers, wearing protective gear, issuing masks to anyone who planned to go into the building. An African American gentleman in front of me was trying to enter a floor that said it was the oncology floor.

I was heading to the tooth guy on the 4th floor. I entered the elevator with another mask-wearing rider, mumbled that I needed the number 4, and she pushed it with her cloth-covered elbow. I found the office and chatted with the receptionist for a short time—no longer than 5 minutes. They had me fill out some forms and  took my picture.

Now I was summoned to the back of the office for 3-D X-rays (MORE X-rays!)The endodontist shows me the X-ray of my abcessed, cracked tooth (last molar, back left), complete with a rather large pool of what he described as “infection.”
“How long have you been in pain?” he asks.

“Off and on for 8 weeks, but really bad since March 13th. I was trying to make it through until April 22nd when the dentist’s office re-opens. I was doing the Spartan thing. Mom would be proud.”
“Yikes! That’s heroic! That must really hurt!”

No comment from me, but, yes, that’s why I finally declared myself a “medical emergency” and made the decision to risk my life by going downtown to have what would turn out to be three and one-half hours of dental surgery. That is 3 and ½. Hours. In the dentist’s chair in one place. No bathroom breaks. No coughing. Mouth open the entire time.

I’ve been offered nitrous oxide once before, but, after seeing my daughter come out of oral surgery  laughing and loopy while blood dripped from her chin, I kept thinking of Steve Martin in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

It is explained to me that it might make the deadening and the anxiety more effective if I take the nitrous oxide.
 “Sure. Bring it on.”

A small mask is fitted to my nose, and I am instructed to “Breathe through your nose and breathe deeply.” Just before the mask goes on, the nurse asks me, in a conversational tone, “What kind of music do you like?”

“I had tickets for the Rolling Stones on May 24th.  I’ve seen them about 12 times. I like straight ahead rock-and-roll, but I’m not a rap fan or a heavy metal fan, necessarily. No reggae. No punk.”
I’m answering this question thinking that the nurse is just asking, conversationally.  Within seconds I have on headphones and I’m hearing the strains of “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC).Three and one-half hours later, I’m asked about my impression of root canals and nitrous oxide.

My response? “Whenever I think of root canal from now on, I’m going to think of ‘Highway to Hell.’”

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