Friday, November 13, 2015

Things My Dental Pain Taught Me

Maybe it was dino dentistry that killed the dinosaurs.
Some theories of pain management would have us figure out what our pain is trying to tell us. Learn the lesson, and the pain lessens. Allegedly.

I guess what my pain was trying to tell me was that one checkup with no cavities is no reason to not bother with the dentist for two years. Even when you have way too many migraines to deal with much else.

But I learned many other things.

We had popcorn Friday night and a while later, I noticed that I had some tooth pain. I looked in the mirror and saw a dark patch on one tooth near my gum.

Since I hadn't noticed it before, I assumed something was stuck in there and made with the dental floss and toothbrush. Nope. Still there. Either something was really stuck in there or my tooth was disintegrating all of a sudden.

So I turned to the google.

Lesson #1: Whatever you do, do NOT go a google image search for dental problems. You can't unsee that shit and oh dear God, you will see stuff that no one should. I saw some pretty gross stuff as an EMT, but nothing compares to what dentists deal with.

Lesson #2: There are few things funnier than forums on bodybuilding websites. 


"You need to see your dentist, brah."
"Brah, I don't want to go to the dentist if I don't have to."
And so on.

Saturday morning, I called my most recent dentist. Who doesn't work weekends. Just as well since we have dental insurance and he's not in network. The dentist the insurance company assigned to us had horrible online reviews, so I kept looking. I got through to one place and was told "we're not open for emergencies today" and I should come in on Monday. I explained that he and I seemed to be working with different definitions of "emergency."

I googled "emergency dentist Brooklyn" and called the first dentist listed. And was told that "we're not taking any more walk-ins today," even though it wasn't even 10:30. 

Lesson #3: Emergency dentistry is for morning people. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.

We went to the drug store to buy some Orajel to numb the pain. Note that not one dentist or receptionist I spoke to suggested using Orajel to stave off infection and make the pain go away until normal office hours. Because, see lesson #3.

Lesson #4: Orajel and the like is in the same aisle as the toothpaste, and not with the first aid supplies as I'd thought for some stupid reason.

Lesson #5: Orajel is pretty damn effective. Use that first before trying to find a new dentist in a hurry.

I was starting to get a migraine, and I wasn't sure if it was from the tooth pain or from the phone calls. I got lucky, and the headache pain went away with the tooth pain.

His Awesomeness googled the problem and learns that popcorn hulls are notoriously hard to remove because they're curved and conform to the tooth. He gets me some chewing gum to help it work loose, but no luck there.

Sunday morning I got a call from one of the dentist offices I'd called without leaving a message. They checked my insurance and discovered that my coverage is terminated. Which, OK fine. I'm not feeling the love with the in-network dentists anyway. (We got a new credit card with a chip in it, which means we had a new expiration date, which messed with the automatic billing. Oh well.)

But my old dentist doesn't work weekends, so I go see this other dentist. Because I just want this foreign object out of my gums and I have a doctor's appointment on Monday and actual work, so let's just do this before it gets worse, gets infected or whatever.

I pay him $60 so he can stick a sharp metal thing in between my teeth where I can reach with dental floss. He asks how I feel and I say I don't feel much of anything because of the Orajel. So I look in the mirror and the dark thing is still there. 

I point it out to the dentist, who says in a thick Russian accent. "That? That cavity."
Apparently, he didn't think that was the source of my dental pain.

Lesson #6: Russian sentence structure is just like Cookie Monster's. Seriously. Imagine, "That? That cavity." In Cookie Monster's voice. See?

He doesn't want to fill the cavity because filling a cavity on the front of a tooth near the gum can lead to a filling that keeps falling out. He tells me to just brush it more diligently than usual and it won't get worse.

I didn't believe him, and wondered if I'm just spoiled. We get our insurance through Obamacare, which is awesome, but also means that we see a lot of doctors who accept Medicaid and don't offer the same level of service as doctors who don't. Maybe in poor people dentistry, you let cavities go for a while. (Possibly until you need a root canal, which the dentist can charge a fortune for.)

So I made an appointment with my other dentist (the one whose office is closed on weekends) for a cleaning. He agrees with me - that cavity needs to be filled. It's not am emergency (especially now that my gums aren't inflamed from me trying to remove an imaginary foreign object) and he prefers not to fillings right after cleanings, so I'm going back in a few weeks.


Lesson #7: Dentists are like hairdressers. Once you've found one you like and trust, stick with them.

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