During the third week of quarantine, my tooth started aching in the spot I’d had a root canal about six or seven years ago. Every moment that went by it got worse. A throbbing in my jaw that went into my ear with mind boggling pain. I couldn’t close my mouth like normal because every time my teeth clicked together, electricity shot through my body. So after four days of thinking, “Tomorrow it will feel better,” I finally called my dentist–on Saturday–because all emergencies happen on the weekend. Fortunately he gave me some pain meds and an antibiotic and told me to come for a visit on Monday. I’ve never been more excited to see him.
The pain pills did nothing. The only thing that made the throbbing subside for a couple hours was when I took a high dose of Ibuprofen. When it wore off in about four hours, I was certain my head would explode. And frankly, if it did that’d be okay. It would feel better than the pain I was experiencing every second of the day, into a very long couple of nights.
I made it to the dentist’s office on Monday afternoon with the notion he could fix me. I thought it would be as simple as adjusting my crown or whatever else he’d done before when it hurt. This time, before looking in my mouth, as I rested the left side of my jaw in my hand, Dr. Drake explained it was a failed root canal.
The tooth was most likely inflamed (due to an infection) which felt like a hundred bolts of electricity poured though my body when my jaws tapped together. All this before he even peeked in my mouth! Then upon further examination–Yep. I needed to see an endodontist the next day for a re-do of the failed root canal.
That’s it? I drove 83 miles for you to tell me that? My face turned white, my eyes drooped like a sad puppy.
“Isn’t there something you can do NOW? Wave your magic wand, make it better, something to make this pain go away until tomorrow? Put me out of my misery, please.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I can numb you up with Novocaine. It’ll give you some relief, but only for a few hours. In the mean time, get the painkillers in your system ’til you see the endodontist tomorrow. That’s all I can do.”
“Do it. Please. Now. Give me whatever you’ve got.” I’ve never pleaded with a dentist to give me AS MUCH NOVOCAINE AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. All I could think was, Shoot me up with the longest needle you can find. Overdose me, I don’t care. I was a junkie in need of a fix. I felt like the kid who showed up at the wrong lunch table in third grade, the peanut table (gasp!) who franticly rammed the EpiPen into her leg for survival. The needle that instills fear in some people was the remedy I so badly needed.
I looked him in the eyes. “Jam that needle into my tooth and no one will get hurt. NOW.”
If you’ve never had a toothache, you can’t fathom the pain. Down to the bottom of your jaw, like your tooth is in the InstaPot and it’s about to explode. You can’t escape it, you can’t sleep it off, you can’t take enough Ibuprofen to keep the pain gone. Deep, deep, so deep–because the infection has nowhere to go.
The second the needle hit my gum, Novocaine spread like a heated blanket over the left side of my face; instant relief. The problem? The remedy would be short lived–never intended to heal long term. Getting to the root of the matter (now that’s some funny dentist humor) would take more digging, poking, and attending to in order to fix the problem for good.
Thanks to the shot, the ride home was serene. Who cares that I drooled as I drank my half sweet-half unsweet tea from Chick-Fil-A; I hadn’t had this much relief in four days. When I got home, I felt like a new person with a painless lease on life. Until, just like the Doc said, the numbness wore off and I was back to square one and in the same predicament as when I’d started the day.
As I lay in bed that night, on the verge of tears and high on Advil, it hit me. I needed a remedy that was far greater than anything I could give myself. It would take a specialist, someone who was the best in his field. Someone with the experience to fix the long overdue problem. I let the tears flow and managed to cry myself to sleep.