After the root canal I went through last year turned out so much better than I had anticipated, I was kind of hoping that meant that my dental phobia was “cured”.
However, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
I developed an issue with another tooth after taking a bite of one of the greatest steaks I had ever eaten in my life. How you can break a tooth eating a piece of perfectly cooked medium rare ribeye is beyond me. But I managed to do it. The dentist said it would be a choice between a very expensive root canal that could fail, or a much cheaper tooth extraction.
If those weren’t the two crappiest choices I have ever had to decide between I don’t know what were. I might as well have been choosing whether I wanted to be strangled or stabbed. I went back and forth. I interviewed everybody I knew who had ever had a tooth pulled or a root canal and eventually, since this tooth was in an area that could not be seen and the dentist said I shouldn’t have any long-term ill effects from it, I decided to go with the tooth extraction.
4 stress filled, fear filled, tooth achy weeks later, I found myself in the oral surgeon’s chair waiting for him to come into the room.
This appointment was a combination of consultation and procedure – it was all done the same day – wham bam – and I was trying very hard to remember all the questions I wanted to ask.
Normally massive worry is how I try to control a situation, but not this time. This time I had concocted a very well thought out, strategic plan. I was going to take control of the room as soon as the oral surgeon walked in. I had some very specific questions that I would ask and I would press him until they were answered to my satisfaction. I would be strong and firm as I explained to him my concerns and I would not let him off the hook as he tried to gloss over them and give short, vague answers. Oh no. I was going to handle this MY way.
The doctor came in the room and introduced himself and said “So we are just going to take this tooth out, huh? Not going to try to save it?”
I said “No, I have decided it’s not worth the money and possible risk of root canal failure. Oh, and I would like to take the tooth home with me after its out. My kids will think its cool to see it.”
(That was a lie. I wanted to take it home and analyze it like a coroner.)
“Okay”, he said. “Sounds good.” And he started to put his gloves on.
My heart jumped.
“Oh!” I said. “Already? I did have some questions for you before we get going here. I am quite nervous about this.”
“Okaaay,” he says with questioning eyebrows, as he continued to put his gloves on. Why do they always have the questioning eyebrows? They must take a course on those in dental school.
I said “Well, I have a history of Bell’s Palsy and I have read that tooth extractions can bring that on. I definitely don’t want to go through that again.”
“Well, we really can’t guarantee anything about that,” he says. “But its pretty rare and I think you will probably be okay.”
Did that make me feel better? I wasn’t sure. No time to process though because now he had the numbing gel swab in his hand and he was inching closer.
I was really getting panicky now and I hurriedly said “Okay, um, I just have three more quick things.”
I felt like my small son as I held up my fingers one, two, then three as I blurted out “TMJ, infection, and I am terrified this is going to hurt!”
He looked slightly exasperated for a microsecond but he recovered well. An amateur patient might never have noticed.
He said in a very blasé tone, “We give you an antibiotic and a guard for your TMJ. And don’t worry – we numb you up really well. If you feel anything just let us know and we will numb you some more.”
I wanted to tell him “That’s what they all say – and the part where I realize I “feel anything” is the part of this whole thing I’d like to avoid altogether.”
But I just sighed and conceded defeat. He swabbed me with the numbing gel and a few moments later he gave me the injections.
On a side note, I know a lot of people are more afraid of the needles than any other part of a dental procedure. I am not afraid of needles because I have done 5 cycles of IVF and have probably had hundreds of injections in my lifetime. I am beyond desensitized to them and they don’t phase me. For those that do have needle issues, I will honestly say that I didn’t feel them at all. I received a total of three shots: one in the back of my mouth and two up around my gums and roof of my mouth. I seriously didn’t even know when the needle was in. That is how NOT painful it was.
The doctor told me to sit there for a few minutes while the numbing medicine kicked in and then he would be in to start the procedure.
I was very glad for the break in the action. I needed to slow this train down and take in everything that was going on. I had to re-group! I did some deep breathing exercises and kept telling myself it would all be fine.
Then I realized I had to go to the bathroom. Quite badly.
I was up about 3 feet high in the chair and drool was now coming out of the corner of my mouth so I contemplated just sitting there and waiting to go after the procedure was over. But then I decided that having a tooth extracted with a full bladder was probably not the greatest idea in the world so I jumped out of the chair and peeked my head out of the procedure room door. I heard a nurse call out “We’ve got a runner!”
(Everybody’s a comedian.)
She pointed me to the bathroom and as I was finishing up my business, I decided to check the mirror and make sure my outside didn’t look as frazzled as my insides felt.
To my complete horror, I noticed that I had huge perspiration circles under my arms. I mentally shook my fist at the sky.
(My Secret may have been strong enough for a man but apparently it was not strong enough for a tooth extraction.)
How long had those been there?? The entire time I had been in the office?
I remembered I held up my arm to do the counting of my three “very important things” and my heart sank. No way the circles weren’t front and center for everybody to see. I don’t embarrass easily – I have spent my life putting my foot in my mouth and saying the wrong thing. Its like the needle thing…I am totally desensitized. But sweat circles? No, no, no, no, no. Just no.
My one goal had been to get through this procedure like Jackie Kennedy would…with class, strength and courage. I was going to come home and blog about how great I did. But I knew it was time to abort that mission. I had already given up my sense of control, annoyed the doctor, and now I had underarm sweat circles. Great. Just great.
(Anxiety Pro Tip: Never wear a cotton spandex blended top when you are really nervous about something.)
I lowered my arms, determined to keep them tightly against my body until the end of the procedure, and walked back to the exam room. I could do this. I had to do this. It was all going to be just. fine.
I got back in the chair and the doctor and the two nurses came right back in as I sat down.
The numbing medication was working beautifully so at least there was that. My face had that glorious feeling of heaviness and my tooth did not hurt at all after hurting me every second for the last month, so I knew I must be good and numb.
“Okay, the hard part was the shots, “ the doctor says. “The rest is easy. You will feel some tugging and pulling but you shouldn’t feel any pain at all.”
I quickly and carefully pulled out the TMJ guard they just put in my mouth and said, “Okay, but baby steps, right? I am asking you to do the slowest baby steps you have ever done on a patient, so you can make sure I am really numb.”
“Yes, that is what I will do”, he said. And he put the mouth guard back in.
At that point I laid back and just gave it all up. There was nothing more I could do. He pushed in a few places and I felt nothing so he continued on and before I knew it, he was going full steam taking this tooth out of my mouth.
As my step son said, having your tooth pulled is a very odd “quasi violent” thing.
You don’t feel pain, but you literally feel like your face is breaking. You don’t just feel the tugging in your tooth area, you feel it throughout your whole head and it feels like the doctor is going to pull your skull out with your tooth. It does not hurt but it is very intense.
The worst part of it all was my TMJ. The guard helped a little but I still had to keep my mouth open so wide, for so long that it was just brutal on my jaw. It was so achy and I kept moaning from the exhaustion the joint was feeling. Finally the doctor stopped what he was doing and looked at me and said in his very blasé voice, “If you ever have this done again, I suggest you get put out.”
“I’m SO sorry!” I mumbled. (Why was I apologizing?)
“Oh no”, he said in his very blasé way that sounded a lot like Ferris Bueller’s teacher….“It’s not that you are bothering me or annoying me in any way, I just think for your own comfort you would be better off getting put out.”
I didn’t want to tell him that I had an anesthesia phobia and would have to be teetering in between life and death before I ever even considered getting sedation of any kind. So, I just gave him a very tight thumbs up while keeping my upper arms glued to my body.
Finally my tooth came out and it was all done.
I was practically giddy as I sat up and said “That was so great! I am going to recommend you to everybody”! I was high off of happiness. He really did do a great job. I didn’t feel a thing and all things considered he probably handled my phobias and concerns the best way possible: short and to the point so I didn’t have time to start over thinking and psyching myself out. So shout out to Dr. Nasiin in Peoria, IL who has great skills and a great staff.
As far as healing goes, I am now 14 days post procedure and no my face is not paralyzed, I have not developed an infection, or tinnitus which was another of my worries that I forgot to ask him about. All is well. My jaw has recovered nicely too. It was sore for a few days but nothing too major.
There was no pain during the recovery. Ever. They gave me an Rx for Tylenol #3 but I barely even had to take Ibuprofen except for the jaw pain. I was very surprised at how little discomfort I was in after the procedure. No swelling to speak of either. And yes I have very much enjoyed analyzing every square millimeter of my tooth. I would say I have crossed over into the “weird zone” with it, but it’s so cool, I don’t care. I am fascinated with it.
All in all it was pretty much a breeze.
As usual I created much ado about nothing, and the drama was entirely self-created. My tooth is out, and not only do I have a pain-free mouth now which is really weird after months of being in pain, but I also am really proud of myself despite the fact that it wasn’t all as smooth and “elegant” as I had hoped. I went through with it and that is the important thing. I could have chickened out and ran out the front door of that office but I stayed and did it. Yay me.
If you have a tooth that needs pulled, it is SO easy. I would tell you the truth because I believe in keeping it real and not sugar-coating anything, and it really is the most simple procedure. The tugging and pulling is a bit rough but other than that….so easy. So if you are putting off a tooth extraction due to fear, I encourage you to take your doctor’s advice, get it done, put it behind you and feel proud of yourself! (And if you are lucky you get a great souvenir to take home for hours of enjoyment. 😉 )
If you have any questions at all please email me at TheWorryGames@yahoo.com or leave a message in the comments below.