}

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

I had to endure, toothfully

Dental surgery is, under the very best of circumstances, something to be endured. Maybe, if things go very, very well, it can be tolerated. Today was a bit more: It was a test of endurance.

Today I had what I hope is the last major periodontal procedure, more “soft tissue flap surgery”, this time on back teeth on my lower jaw. It began, as it always does, with injections of anaesthetic (as usual, I didn’t feel that). At the last minute, he gave me another injection to help reduce bleeding because by then my adrenalin levels were going up due to stress.

So, on he went, scraping, grinding, and scraping and grinding. Some of it hurt, and hurt a LOT. I had my hands folded, fingers meshed together, on top of my stomach. When the pain was most severe, I’d tighten my fingers against each other and concentrate on my breathing: Slow, steady, deep. I endured. Just like last week.

Generally speaking, when he was grinding away at the roots and moved to an area that hurt, I was better able to handle it than the couple times when he started straight in at a painful spot. In those cases, the surprise seemed to make the pain worse.

I didn’t ask for any more pain relief because I knew it wouldn’t last forever—though, since I couldn’t see the wall clock, I kept thinking to myself things like, “I wonder how much time has passed?” and “I wonder if it’s been at least a half hour yet?” and so on. It eventually did end, of course, and went well, though it was apparently a bit of a challenge for the periodontist.

Before I left, he had me take a couple Voltaren (a brand name of diclofenac) and a couple Panadeine (Panadol with codeine). I was a bit worried about the latter because I know it makes me feel a bit loopy, and I had to drive home. I also wanted to pick up a few things at the grocery store on the way, and I worried it might start to take effect before I got home.

So, I went to the grocery store nearest the house because I knew that if it did start to take effect while I was in the store, I’d feel safer knowing I was so close to home. In the end, it didn't take effect until well after I got home, and I didn’t feel loopy until a good hour after I’d taken them. In retrospect, this is pretty normal for me, but I’ve also never had to drive after taking it before, so my concern was understandable, I think.

I was originally supposed to have today’s procedure a week ago Friday, but I was sick at the time with the Terrible, Awful Cold: 2015 Edition and had to reschedule. I think this worked out better.

I’ll see him in a week for a check to make sure it’s healing well, and I’ll get a better idea of when I can see the dentist, and also what comes next. Among other things, he has something he can to so the front tooth that’s dropped down won’t get in my way as much. Which means, in a sense, that it will be the first step toward fixing my smile, which is where this whole journey began. Small steps.

Ironically, the last two procedures have been the most painful, but I’m proud of myself for enduring them, and for several reasons. First, I was always terrified of going to the dentist, but all these intense procedures have helped me find a way through that (basically, I adopt a certain mindset and go for it, not giving myself a chance to really think about what the hell I’m about to do). I’m even glad that I could endure the sometimes terrible pain, because the fear of pain was one of the main things that kept me from going to the dentist regularly. But most of all, I’m proud of myself for “feeling the fear and doing it anyway”, because I just may have found a way through it all (finally!).

So, these Tooth Tales posts have documented my journey through the wonders of periodontal medicine, but along the way, the whole thing has helped me move past some very real fears. Next, I’ll see if I can apply these lessons to other areas of my life. They’re unlikely to get their own series of blog posts, though.

At any rate, I passed the endurance test today.

The image above is a reproduction from the 20th US edition of Gray's Anatomy, and is in the public domain. It is available from Wikimedia Commons.

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