Root canal treatment has taken up most of my spare thinking time in the last couple of weeks, When I wasn’t worrying about my tooth, I had a wonderful time at the Fringe World, Arts and Writing Festivals in Perth.
A sensitive molar close to where my tonsils should be caused me to submit meekly to the dentist. Pain, and the dismal thought of one day being permanently fed a diet of minced chicken, mashed pumpkin and pureed peas. Or mashed potato and gravy. I’ve worked in aged care facilities and I know that’s what happens if you don’t look after your teeth.
I’ve been mortally terrified of dentists most of my long life. But a couple of years ago I met the lovely, modern Colin. This young dentist made regular tooth care almost pleasant. I’ll amend that. What I should have said is, I no longer feel nauseated when I think the word ‘dentist’.
There was a time not all that long ago when I was so distressed that I asked for a rug to stop me shivering while a dentist completed a filling. They didn’t have a rug, but the nurse obligingly covered me in the lead apron they used to protect people from X-rays. Heavy, sure. But comforting.
After Colin poked around in my molar, he declared it too difficult. The tooth was too calcified for him to do the root canal treatment. He referred me to an endodentist – a specialist. This new dentist used a microscope to peer into the root canal and do what he needed to do. He took X-rays without a lead apron in sight. He even held the X-ray plate in my mouth.
‘Digital X-rays,’ he said in the laconic way dentists tell their patients stuff. ‘Minute amounts of radiation.’
I should know more about what happened in my mouth. But I didn’t want to know. I was frightened to ask. Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep while it was happening. It wasn’t easy. My mouth was jacked open and my neck contorted at an impossible angle. In my mouth, the man inserted a green plastic dam, fifteen different instruments and ten fingers. I did try to sleep.
Three visits and several massive doses of Penicillin later, I had three wonderfully defined and filled root canals and a temporary filling about the size of the new Fiona Stanley Hospital. Sadly, like at the FSH, something went wrong. The filling fell out when I was not eating. Not even mashed pumpkin or pureed peas.
Back i went to the endodentist. The second filling is now a mere smear in the cavity where once I had a tooth. The crater is surrounded by jagged edges that I suspect are bits of tooth. I asked mildly if he would smooth the edges, but he wasn’t keen.
‘Use an emery board and do it yourself,’ he advised. ‘That way you’ll get the rough bits better.’
The next morning, the sharp-edged tooth had practically shredded the side of my tongue. Eating hurt. My ear hurt. Talking hurt. My diction was so distorted that people asked me to repeat everything I said. That hurt!
I frantically filed away with an emery board, pausing only to spit bits of coarse grit into a tissue. The edge of the tooth is still serrated.
Colin’s minder said he couldn’t see me until next Tuesday, after the Public Holiday. I pleaded, but she was adamant. The endodentist wasn’t at work.
I’ve resorted to using dental wax like the kids use to protect their mouths from sharp edges in their braces. I love it. I carefully mold little bits of the greenish substance and pack my tooth with it. About twenty times an hour. Already the ulcers on my tongue have begun to feel better. I can swallow without writing a strategic plan before I attempt it.
Next step? A three hour appointment with Colin in two weeks to have a crown inserted. It’s a pity the tooth is so far back. I’d like to put it on display for the world to see. In spite of my health benefits fund meeting costs half way, I might have to get a proper job to pay for my root canal treatment.
I’d welcome sympathetic comments!