As you should have gathered from my previous post, as a child one of my favorite past times was bouncing my face off of hard surfaces. Part of me thinks my parents should have retrofitted me with one of those child safety helmets from an early age, but here we are.
If I’ve proven anything from my last post (as well as this post, this post, and this post), it’s that I’m an accident-prone individual; always have been, probably always will be. I’m not one of those consistently sick people. I don’t catch colds. I get my flu shot every year. I’ve had strep once and vowed never again–so far, so good. I am one of those perpetually injured persons though. I’ll be happily living my life and then BAM!–poison ivy on 80% of my body. POW!–a scratched cornea. ZAP!–thrown out my back. CRASH!–sprained ankle. And yes, all of these have happened to me within the past 5 years. I guess I was due for another unexpected affliction…
I’ve experienced minor tooth aches, sensitivities, and headaches, but they’ve all been remedied with a dose of over the counter meds. Not this time. I noticed some discomfort of my trauma-ridden front tooth on a Wednesday. Thinking it was a typical flareup, I took some ibuprofen and shrugged it off. Thursday, my pain remained, so I started eating softer foods and continued to self-medicate. By Friday I was in unbearable pain. We had a COVID testing clinic at work that day and since I’m the only bus driver, I had to be there. Before the afternoon clinic I spent my entire morning calling around to local dentist offices to try and get seen.
The dentist I had established care with is closed Fridays, so that wasn’t an option. I called several other offices in the area and received one of three responses:
- Our office is currently closed due to the corona virus pandemic.
- Our office is open with appointment only availability, but we are currently not accepting new patients.
- Our office is open and accepting new patients, but the soonest ’emergency visit’ appointment available is a week out.
Now answer me this: How are dentists considered non-essential during a pandemic? Also, how do dental offices not understand that an emergency visit is not something people typically schedule?
I get that teeth cleanings are the first routine doctor visit to go during a mass outbreak what with docs and technicians having to shove their mitts into slimy virus pits, but what about their emergency care services? Dental pain isn’t like an upset stomach or a case of athlete’s foot. Dental pain is so debilitating and… well to be honest, any affliction that keeps me from enjoying food is the work of the devil.
With no luck securing a dental appointment I went to an urgent care center where I was prescribed an opiate(!) and told what I really needed was to see a dentist for x-rays. If I wasn’t in so much pain, I would have rolled my eyes so hard at that suggestion.
I went to work and soldiered on and by soldiered on, I mean I did the bare minimum with constant looks of concern from my coworkers as well as strangers. When I was finally able to go home and start taking the hydrocodone I was prescribed, I broke down in tears.
I was in excruciating pain and upset over the fact that I had done everything in my power to get the help I knew I needed to alleviate my discomfort and was turned away numerous times and instead prescribed pain medicine; the type of pain medicine that our country is currently at war with due to absurdly high overdose rates. It was not at all lost on me that I had to essentially suffer through the weekend in the state I was in and that was, simply put: not okay.
I soon found out the desired effects of the medication lasted 5 hours and I could only take my recommended dose every 8. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. Even moving my head certain directions caused sharp twinges of pain jolting through my mouth and across my face. I broke down in tears many times over those 48 hours.
Early Sunday afternoon my boss texted me to see how I was feeling. I admitted that I was in rough shape and was looking forward to potentially getting a chance to see a dentist first thing the next morning. She responded with this:
I have a dentist who will speak with you today and see you if need be tomorrow.
You know how we’ve been providing COVID-19 testing for our community…? Well my boss had spent the better part of her Saturday calling patients with their test results because a) she knows how
scary important it is for people to find out their results in a timely manor and b) she’s an amazing woman who takes her role as health director during a global pandemic very serious. As it turned out one of the patients she had called to relay results to was a dentist in the next town over. Once he received his negative results, he started asking her for some professional advice on how best to reopen his dental office to start seeing patients again. Talk. About. Fate.
She shared her professional guidance and then told him about me; her pathetically pained assistant/bus driver in desperate need of a dentist. He gave her his personal cell phone number and told her to have me call him as soon as I could. When she texted me his number and told me I could call him directly, at home, on a Sunday afternoon… that was the first time that weekend I cried tears of hope.
After I called him and chatted about the history of my traumatized tooth and described my current situation, he got me on his schedule the next morning. I went in, had x-rays done, and found out I had a “rather large abscess” at the base of my tooth that needed attended to and the only way to do that was performing a root canal. The kicker: since my tooth was so damaged, there was no canal for him to conduct said root canal, so he had to make his own. Yes, it was just as painful as it sounds.
After 3 rounds of Novocaine and a half completed root canal, my newest best friend told me the proper combination of meds to combat the pain with (ibuprofen and tylenol in case you were curious; not hydrocodone) and scheduled me for my second root canal 2 weeks out.
The second root canal procedure was not nearly as painful as the first since I didn’t have as much swelling and inflammation and I was able to get through it with only the first round of numbing instead of 3. I went back for a final check up and my doc gave me the all clear; my infection was gone and the root canal went off without a hitch. Then he told me it was time for my wisdom teeth to come out. My response: “Thems fightin’ words.” The last time a dentist told me that I didn’t go back…
So now I’m in the process of scheduling my wisdom teeth extraction and hoping that after this procedure I won’t have strangers sticking their hands in my mouth again for a very long time.