Friday, February 28, 2014

Snap Crackle Pop

Note: before you begin reading this, promise yourself that you'll finish what you started. Did you really promise? Good. Let's begin.

The fluorescent light glinted off the surgical steel hypodermic hovering above my mouth.

"You may feel a slight pinch here," Dr Benning says while working his way to the gums surrounding a distressed upper molar in the back of the mouth.

I felt the pinch. It wasn't bad. Slight pressure and a warm, gushing sensation followed. He quickly adjusted his position.

"Here again," he says while applying another shot from the needle.

"Ok, you can rest now. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Then I’ll talk you through it."

The 'it' he was going to talk me through was a tooth extraction. What started 20 years ago as a deep cavity has since been filled (twice) and a root-canal some ten years ago. The tooth remained quiet for the next five years. But since then, it has swollen up  at least once a year, requiring a round of antibiotics to get in under control.

I am jealous about my teeth. I like my choppers. Katherine says I have a nice smile. I'd like to keep it that way. Needless to say, I didn't like the idea of getting a tooth pulled. The only other tooth extraction I was familiar with involved Castaway Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) and a figure skate.


But the tooth was not worth saving. It was time to bite the bullet, or the figure skate or the pliers, or whatever. It was time. Goodbye tooth.

A few moments later, Dr Benning and his assistant Brittany were hovering over my mouth. Dr Benning said that the first step was to remove the root canal’s crown with a set of surgical pliers.He told me to expect pressure, but no pain.

I felt the pressure, alright. For the next minute, Dr Benning worked the tooth over. Gradually at first, but steadily applying pressure as he went. The crown wasn't budging. Dr Benning checked on me, then went after it for another 30 seconds. Still nothing. He stopped to catch a breather.

He was soon at it again. The pressure was strong. I felt it arc across the maxilla bone to the other side of my face. Meanwhile, an image formed in my mind of bending and shaping a baseball cap's bill. A few more rocking efforts and then finally it gave --


The suddenness of the crown snapping off was nearly equaled by the funky smell of decay permeating the air. (Oh dear, so sorry. I should have forewarned you above to also finish your breakfast before continuing)

"That was an impressive crown, but we got it," Dr Benning reassured me. "Next, I'm going to drill the tooth's three fingers extending upwards to break them up for removal.

Moments later, the high-frequency drill whirred to life, mixing in new smells of vaporized tooth enamel with fresh rounds of smelly bacteria as it pulverized the fingers. After completing the drilling, he explained how he was going to remove each 'finger' of the tooth by applying pressure with a lever. He paused and said that I may hear some 'noises.'

Those noises were the "crackle" and "pop" of this procedure. Each time he got leverage over the tooth fragment, the periodontal ligament would crackle and pop until the tooth fragment came out.

The entire procedure took about an hour. They packed the gaping cavity with gauze and sent me home with a script of Ibuprofen 800mg.

That was Monday. Since then, the recovery hasn't been too bad. I only took a single dose of ibuprofen and have had no other pain. During the initial six hours, or until the clot was pretty good, my mouth would slowly pool with blood. Because you're not allowed to spit until the gums have had a chance to heal, I'd simply open my mouth and let the rich hemoglobin and immature dark magenta clots drop to the toilet bowl. After that and for the next 12 hours, the blood flow was minimal. I returned to work the next day.


Epilogue: An Observation
Because the tooth is near the back of the mouth, you wouldn't know it was missing unless:

1) I told you

2) I opened my mouth wide enough to show you the hole

3) You were a dog (or a vampire (or a canine-vampire for that matter)) and could smell the blood in my mouth. For example, my dog Emmy took a great curiosity to my mouth when I returned, sniffing it with a keen interest. She knew right away that something wasn't right and wouldn't leave my side for the first 24 hours afterward. Amazing instincts.

No comments:

Post a Comment