Monday, December 12, 2011

My Tooth Is Killing...You

by Ben Small

Why do serious toothaches always seem to strike when no dentist is available?

It began so innocently, a bit of grit on my tongue. Probing with a pinky, I pulled out a bit of something that looked like metal. I'd gone shooting that day and wondered if somehow I'd injected a piece of torn cartridge. But I'd been shooting rifles, not pistols, and all my rifle cartridges are made of brass. Besides, I hadn't felt anything, and torn cartridges are rare, a sign of catastrophic failure -- the kind that kills people. There'd been no pool of blood in the dirt.

That was Thursday. Friday, about Noon, my tongue found a new edge on a molar. As it rolled over its ivory neighbors, savoring last vestiges of double cheeseburger, my tongue caught a snag.

Had I lost a filling? Goodness, I've only had three and all are over fifty years old. I'd forgotten I had them.

I found a magnifying mirror and opened my mouth. Perfect pearlies on the upper, the Grand Canyon on a lower.

Uh oh.

But no pain whatsoever. Nada.

So I'd worry about it later. My toofers are so good, I haven't seen a dentist in years, two states away. Gum disease? Not me. Why have a dentist when I can do whitening myself? Indeed, the only dentist I know these days is my brother in law, who's actually a periodontist, and he's three thousand miles away. He once opened my mouth, hopeful of a windfall, then closed it again with a frustrated obscenity, telling me to go away.

So I blew it off, figured I'd worry about it sometime next week...or month. What harm could it do? To my knowledge, I hadn't swallowed any of that metal. Besides, I had more important things to do. Indiana was playing arch-rival and No.1 ranked Kentucky the next day. Why worry about teeth? Kentuckians don't have any.

So, at 4 P.M. on Friday, the pain began, at first subtle as I sipped some cold pop. But then it grew. In an hour, I'd transformed from a genial giant to a raging Cujo. The pain moved from my tooth, now raised by swelling underneath, to my head. Even my eyes hurt. And a lump stood out on the side of my face.

A friend called, to make sure the game's invite was still on. I growled at him, said he'd best wear Kevlar.

Frantically, I pulled out the yellow pages, turned to the Ds. Scanned ad after ad. Discovered dentists don't work on Saturdays. Heck, most didn't work on Fridays.

I called my doctor, desperate for a pain-killer. Maybe Demerol, something strong. He'd closed up for the weekend.

Then I remembered I had some Hydrocodone somewhere. I went searching, pulling out drawers, overturning furniture like the FBI conducting a search warrant on a serial killer's residence. I found the container under a chair, covered in dust-bunnies. Two pills left, I guzzled them without water, because water's cold and cold was my enemy. Hell, even breathing sent cold shock waves through my jaw, eyes  and head.

That damn tooth.

I eyed my Culver saber, wondered if I could wedge it under my tooth and pop it out. Decided to defer. Too much collateral damage for first choice.

How could I last until Monday, when I could make an appointment? And could I get an appointment? I don't know any dentists in Tucson.

So I called a friend, asked him for the name of his dentist. Asked what he thought it would cost me to bribe that guy to come in NOW.  He gave me the name and number, then asked me how much money I have.

I snapped at him, warned him, too, to wear Kevlar.

You don't piss off Cujo.

I called the dentist, and surprise! his recorded message offered an emergency number. I dialed it. Actually got him on the phone.

About then, the Hydrocodone hit, like a blast-wave of ahhhhh. Yeah, I still felt the pain, but I no longer cared. I could cut off my arm and wave it around laughing.

Slurring my words now, I told the dentist my problem. He asked a few questions, to ensure, I guess, that I wasn't just some drunk pulling a tease, then told me he'd take care of me right away...on Monday.


I had no more painkillers. How would I last that long? Hell, by Monday, I'd be on a tower somewhere, shooting at anything that moved. Or I'd have turned to that saber after all.

He said my biggest worry was infection, that he'd prescribe some antibiotics.

I corrected him. No, my biggest problem was the pain.
Do not forget the pain.

The dentist laughed. He actually laughed. I wondered how funny he'd find my AR-15 stuck in his mouth.

He told me he was skiing in Colorado, wouldn't be back until Monday. I think I offered to charter a jet, but I'm not sure. The Hydrocodone, remember.

He told me I likely had both an exposed root and an infection. He said the antibiotic would handle the infection, and that I could buy some temporary filling material at the pharmacy that would cover the root. The pain would magically disappear. He'd see me Monday.

While I can't exactly remember, I think I said something about his mother around then. Temporary filling? Yeah, sure, that'll work. Y'or momma!

But it did work. And the pain disappeared, sparing the lives of many. And the Hoosiers beat No. 1 Kentucky, no teeth and all.

Cujo is at rest.

Now all I gotta worry about is how much that mother insult will cost me...


Jean Henry Mead said...

I hope you got it taken care of and the dentist didn't hear your slur. :)

Chester Campbell said...

Tough, Cujo. I hate people with good teeth. I've probably spent as much time in a dentist's chair as a barber's chair. I recently had surgery by my periodontist to add bone above a gap so he can do an implant in February. Last May I had my four lower front teeth pulled and a fixed bridge put in. That matches the four uppers where I've had a bridge since I was a teen. You're right about one thing--toothaches always come on weekends when you can't get to a dentist. I've enjoyed that experience numerous times.

Unknown said...

Arf, arf, arf, Chester. I'll bite your leg.

Mark W. Danielson said...

You always make me laugh, Ben. OF COURSE IT HAPPENED ON FRIDAY! Don't ALL bad things happen on Fridays? If you'd grown up with cavities like the rest of us, you'd know to visit the dentist. :)

Unknown said...

Well, the dentist thought I was funny, too. But I don't think a laughing dentist, his hands shaking ala Parkinson's is such a good thing. Luckily, all he did was stuff something in my Grand Canyon, tell me the tooth would survive even though I might not, and then make a follow-up appointment for a month.

So I got off easy. Good thing, too. Nobody, except maybe Chester and midgets, likes seeing a giant cry, especially when he hasn't been touched yet. If Painless had reached for his Black & Decker set, I'd be in the Psych Ward now.

Mark W. Danielson said...

"Is it safe? . . ."

Unknown said...

Man, that brings back memories...

Chester Campbell said...

You gotta watch those Black & Decker guys. They come after you like you were grinning through a rock pile. I had to demur once. When I got out of the Army at the end of World War II, I went to a VA clinic to get my teeth checked. The dentist said he needed to bore a hole into my sinus. I said thanks but no thanks. Fortunately Obama wasn't president back then so I could refuse the government's help with my healthcare.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Chester. Now, I'll NEVER go back. :-)

Jaden Terrell said...

This may be the best toothache story I've ever read. Glad you got it taken care of, Ben. Hurting teeth are a misery.

Doc F said...

Really very good, Ben.... I "posterized" your blog and put it out in my office reception area for the emergency patients (especially for the ones walking in with a flattop black in .308 !)

Your Brother In The Bond,
Dick (DDS)

Unknown said...

Thank you, Dick! What a compliment! As for the flattop .308, good thought. Kevlar won't protect you against that round. Maybe you need to stock up on plates (pun intended) on a Molle vest. :-)

Thanks for tuning in. Stay awhile. You'll enjoy what you find here. And if you travel to Nashville, look up Chester. Sounds like he could be a dental gold mine.