Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Number 15 or the circle of life

Dentists number our teeth to make their life easier. Today, after putting it off for 35 months, I had to finally say good bye to my tooth # 15.

It started with an innocent cavity. The cavity progressed to a root canal in a couple of years. The root canal was just fixed and the tooth was filled. Then, when the dentist realized she can mild my insurance she convinced me to replace the filling with a crown "root canal means a dead tooth and without a crown it can chip at any moment"-and who wants a chipped tooth?
The crown lasted for a while until one day, while I was southbound on the West Side Highway, somewhere in the area of Chambers Street and happily chewing / making bubbles with my mint flavored Must gum, I realized that there is a foreign body in my mouth. A crown that popped off #15.

After getting over the initial shock, I put the crown in a napkin, swore off gum, and made an emergency appointment with my dentist. This dentist refused to use the old crown that the first dentist made ( because she, too, realized that she can milk my insurance for some USDs), and in a couple of weeks crowned my #15 with a new, weirdly feeling but porcelain-with-gold-beautifully-made cap. That lasted less than 1/2 year at which point I, 38 weeks pregnant, had to make another emergency dental appointment.

This time I went to a male dentist- he was trustworthy and didn't accept my insurance. He told me that the tooth was a gonner- not in the theoretical root-canal-equals-a-dead-tooth sense of the word but rather it-has-extensive-infection-and-bone-loss kind of a gonner. (And I bed the hyena who put on the new crown knew that, too). He sympathized with my situation, gave me an antibiotic and recommended to get rid of #15 ASAP.

I went to a factory of oral surgeons where one of the factory dentists with much less sympathy to my situation told me that #15 cannot be salvaged and he'll pull the it for 800 something dollars. And, I'll have to come back in a week to remove the stitches. "How about the stitches that dissolve?" "Those are not as good." " I'm 39 weeks pregnant, I can give birth any day." "Well, make up your mind."

I was pregnant, concerned for my little alien with an infection in my body. I was mourning the eminent departure of #15. Yet, I was even willing to shell out almost a thousand bucks just to get rid of my tooth and forgo the bad factory worker attitude. But regular stitches!?
I thought I'll risk it and just finish my antibiotics to quell the infection and take care of more permanent changes after my baby arrived.

My baby arrived and my tooth stopped hurting. And I figured a tooth inside the mouth is better than a tooth outside of the mouth. It hurt every 10 months or so, (the kind man-dentist retired, so) I went to a new dentist, heard the '#15's got to go' got my antibiotics, the pain would stop and the tooth's life 'd be extended. Until a few months ago, when due to unforeseen circs I went to yet another dentist with the same issue. He gave me antibiotics but said the tooth should go because I won't know when the it'll start hurting again and how serious it may get.

What do you know- last Friday and Shabbat #15 started hurting again. The pain was so severe that I couldn't really sleep ( with 2 painkillers in my system) motzaei shabbat, replaying the dentist's words, thinking that he must've given me the evil eye, desperately hoping I won't have to go to an ER on a long holiday weekend. And finally resolving to pull #15 out.

This morning, with lots of encouragement from hubby and my mom ( and hubby's kind company), I finally made it to the oral surgeons office. I almost backed out from pulling #15 after the xray was read. After all, the pain completely resolved already by Monday. It didn't even hurt when the dentist tapped on it. #15 was instrumental in my mastication and subsequent digestion. It and I went through so much together. I needed it, I'd dearly miss it.

But in the end, I just let it go. I took it home with me in a cup -it looked so big yet abused by dentistry. I acutely felt it's void in my mouth even before I started feeling very acute pain because it was gone. Now, thanks to time and pain meds, the acute pain is gone. I'll miss my #15 even if the advances of modern dentistry won't let its absence be palpable for long.

As I was writing this eulogy and listening to the Republican National convention speeches, I kept looking at the cup on my dresser and feeling the empty space in my mouth. Now, that the eulogy's completed I think I'm ready to say my final good bye to #15.


Moshe said...

My dentist wanted to send me to a surgeon for a wisdom tooth. I told her no way I'm waiting in line for 2 months, gave $250 and she pulled it herself. No stitches btw.

Sally Hazel said...

I've been trying to stay away from dentists ever since one told me, when I was mere 12 years old, that she'll drill through my cheek if I don't stop crying.
The rest is history.

Moshe said...

I think I got that at 9 or younger. I also remember them trying to put some kind of pipe in my mouth to keep it open. Only went to dentist once in Russian and that was to extract a tooth.