Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back in the Dental Chair

This is going to be a summer to remember but for a few very wrong reasons. It all began on July 1 with a dental appointment that went very wrong for a broken tooth. I had not found a new dentist since moving so I went with a dentist I found in a list provided by my dental insurance company.

I called to make an appointment and learned that they had just had a cancelation and I found myself in their dental chair within the hour. If a movie were made from this tale it would be perfect to play the theme music from "Jaws" as I entered the dental practice. I was in extreme danger but I had no idea.

When the "Dentist" came into the room to introduce himself he was as cute as he could be. Cute as in little boy cute. I asked him how long he had been practicing and while his young assistant giggled he told me five years.  If you leave dental school with wet ears then he was still very wet behind the ears when I met him. I had trouble believing him.

As a mother, I remember thinking if this were my son right out of dental school I would want new patients to trust him. I also tried to convince myself that all dentists were new in their practices at one time and without "willing people like me" they would never gain the experience they need.

I ended up being in the young man's  dental chair for three and one half hours that day! He was prepping the tooth for a crown. In the dental school he went to they must have taught "Drill Baby Drill"! The drill was actually smoking.

The immediate hours to follow were those of bruising, extreme facial swelling, and pain. Ice packs, warm salt water rinses, soft food diet, pain medications and antibiotics became my new daily routine. It was the follow up care or the lack of that was the beginning of me seeing that "the willing person I was" had put me in harms way.  I was in extreme pain and it was getting worse by the day. I called the office to be seen. When I went in the dentist ordered an x ray and without looking in my mouth and said that I needed a root canal done on that tooth. Thankfully, this dentist could not do the root canal. He  told me he could but it would take him like 4 hours! HUM, Big ol' warning sign. He did however refill two pain meds!

A few days later I called the office again complaining of the pain I was in. Without seeing me they phoned me in another round of antibiotics. A few days later I entered the specialists office still in severe pain to have a root canal done. When the specialist entered the room I was in tears. After a quick look in my mouth he told me where my pain was coming from. I had told my previous dentist over and over that the tooth did not hurt it was the gums, my cheek, and my tongue. The temporary crown the original dentist had put in my mouth did not fit properly, in fact there was a gap between the crown and the tooth it was sitting on. The specialist was very careful in his selection of words and he told me that the temporary crown was causing the irritation in my mouth.

On that day I was actually very relieved to see the big needles entering my mourth that would be taking the pain away at least for a while. I put complete trust in this mature doctor and he was quick and very professional in performing the root canal. He told me that he was going to leave the temporary crown off so that my mouth could heal.

I followed up with a new office for another opinion on my condition within days. The new dentist (who was voted the best in my community the previous year) told me that the original crown prep looked like it had been done with a machete. The exposed tooth and the temporary crown had jagged and sharp edges which had been cutting up my mouth for over a month!

The news got worse (stream in more "Jaws" music) The young dentist had taken down 2/3 more tooth than what was needed for a crown! And, even worse he had prepped it at the wrong angle. I had been left with just a stub of a tooth. The new dentist said he could help me but it would require oral surgery first to create more tooth space.

With a few seconds of gentle grinding on very premium dental real estate he removed the razor sharp edges that had been cutting up my tongue and cheek for a month.  Within days of the root canal and my referral for surgery I found myself in another specialists office for gum and jaw bone surgery.

To make a long story short my gums were cut back, jaw bone was chiseled away,  my gums were trimmed and sewn back into place, and I went home in stitches for weeks months of recovery time.

Yesterday was five weeks since my gum and jaw surgery. My gums are still painful but it was crucial that the temporary crown work began so that the gums would continue healing with the crown in place. So, I found myself back in the dental chair for the same procedure that I had started nearly two months ago.

My new dentist is great. He has an enormous amount of empathy for my situation and for the dental pain that I have endured. He worked closely with the oral surgeon to get exactly what he felt he needed to save the tooth. Every effort was made to keep me comfortable during yesterday's procedure. He took the time to explain everything and he confirmed that the oral surgeon had done a great job to give him the foundation he needed to continue his work.

My new dentist was also a talented artist yesterday in using his amazing skills and today's technology to rebuild my tooth from the stub he started with.  I have a  new temporary crown that is beautiful and free of any razor sharp edges! My permanent crown is just a couple of weeks away.

Although, I still have months of healing time for the work done on my gums and jaw bone I know that the worst is behind me and that I have made the right choice to save the tooth. My father just turned 90 and is going strong. My mother is 87. I have a feeling I am going to need my teeth for quite some time!

So today, I am feeling very grateful for the dental chair, my new dentist's chair side manner, his empathy, and his amazing dental skills. And, to my new closest friends; my salt water mug, and my ice pack it's time to go hang out again!

1 comment:

  1. What horror! I'm so, so sorry for you. And I'm just amazed that through all this, you continue to post such happy, upbeat stories of the lovely times you provide your family, your grandchildren. You're one courageous grandma! I'm so glad the worst is over!