Saturday, August 13, 2011

Me and My Big, Fat Pulps

So what were you doing two days ago around 2:30 p.m.? I decided it might be fun to have a root canal. Well, not exactly fun. And technically, I didn't decide. Well, technically, I did, but I had little choice. I had a tooth that was bothering me a month ago, and bothering turned to pain and pain turned to waking me up in the night wishing I had a bottle of Vicodin and a sledgehammer. I found a lovely dentist who would see me the next day, and she took a lovely x-ray, and then we both took a lovely walk to see the man next door to her who just happened to be an endodontist. It was lovely.
Not really. It was weird. And uncomfortable. I am very, very glad he was there, and had an opening for me at that precise moment. But was it weird that there were just two people in the office? And that the receptionist also doubled as his assistant? And wasn't even an RDA? And was just then trying to get into a community college to take some dental-type classes? Perhaps. Yes. Definitely. And believe me, there were parts of me that screamed, "Get OUT!", like those Vader-like, disembodied voices one hears in spooky old houses in horror films. Part of me wanted to run. I was already thisclose to screaming from the pain alone. Now I had the mental aspect to worry about.
I began to notice little things that concerned me. I might have been their first patient of the day. I was definitely their only patient in the afternoon. The office was quiet as a tomb. Where was the hustle and bustle of your normal dental office? I realize endodontics (root canal stuff) is different than plain-ol' dentistry, but one? Yeep. I was weighing the fact that both dentists had told me there was a good chance I'd end up in my local ER over the weekend (a weekend packed full of many plans, mind you) against the fact that something inside kept telling me, "There's a weirdness about this office. Find another one."
What to do, what to do...
I can tell you what I would have done a couple years ago. I would have said, "Ya know--I need to come back another time. I need to ... think about this a little...". Weak, I know. Then I would have found a more modern, lively office, one in which I felt more confidence in the dentist. I would have wished hard, and prayed in my own little way that God help me find a good endodontist and that my tooth would not get worse over the weekend and that I could find someone who could fit me in their schedule asap. I would have relied on my own judgement alone to fix this problem. But it's not a couple of years ago and now I have something even better than blind faith and straws at which to grasp.
I have God.
And He didn't let me down.
 Looking at my x-rays, having two dentists point out where the cavity was (about a hair's breadth from the nerve of my tooth), I now understood why I was in so much throbbing pain. While there was no telling when the cavity would reach that nerve, I didn't want to know what level of pain I could withstand when it did. I was already being wakened up from sleep in agony. So I said yes to the root canal. (Catchy new name for a reality show?) But I did so with a caveat. I nervously needed to visit the ladies room several times before the procedure. Each time I went into that ladies room, I asked God if this was the right thing to do. I prayed to Him to help me make this fast decision. I also prayed that if this was the right thing to do, that He guide the dentist's hands surely and that the sweet little non-RDA guy really know his stuff also. Hey--I was praying to God. No business too big or too small for Him. And while this was probably not on your mind at 2:45 last Thursday, it was most definitely taking up an incredibly unbalanced amount of my grey matter.
What to do, what to do...
I decided to go ahead and do it.
And then the real fun began.
I had to be numbed FOUR times. I'm blaming that on age. Or the dentist.
Or on air molecules.
I had to listen to them say things like, "Wow, she really does have a narrow palette!" and "Watch the way I do this, she won't even flinch!" and other things I never thought I'd have to listen to while I was nearly flat on my back with 3 different hands in my rubber-dammed mouth. While the dentist did say, "Sorry--we're sort of making fun here; I hope you don't think it's at your expense!", I couldn't even retort with my usual snarkiness: "Why, no. I'm the only patient in the office. I'm numb from my eye to my neck. I have a super-cute and not-at-all-annoying rubber dam in my mouth and a trendy spit-sucker hanging down my throat. I'm basically as undignified as a person can get this side of a torpedo-style crotch-kiss by a large unruly dog. Why on earth would I think that you're having a moment at my expense? Carry on!"
But something told me it was OK to stay. Or perhaps it was the fact that something didn't tell me to leave. I petitioned God for an answer. I believe that He gave me one. This is not blind faith. Blind faith would have been me fleeing the office on my own "gut feeling". While gut feelings are a good thing to listen to in the face of immediate danger, this was a situation in which I had some time and lots of inclination to ask the One who knows every hair on my head (and yours) for His opinion. I knew what I felt. Time to let God give me His wisdom.
And the answer I got was, "Stay."
No, not in words, and not in some untrustworthy bosom-burning sensation, either. Just a blanket calmness that this was indeed the right place to be. A calmness that could be trusted because there was no way, absolutely none, that it came from me.
So I stayed. And although there were several other things that made me nervous ("Seriously? No water in that little holder thingy to squirt my mouth with? There's NO ONE in the office and YOU DIDN'T CHECK THE LITTLE WATER TANKS?"), I could rest easy in the fact that, although I didn't necessarily want to be in this chair at 3:00 on a beautiful Thursday afternoon, I truly didn't have something better to do. This needed to be done and God guided me to the right place at the right time. (Interesting rabbit-trail: the regular dentist was not my first choice. I called another dentist and was disconnected twice and on the third call, received the recording that "this number is no longer in service and there is no new number". I checked the number on my phone screen against the number flashing at me from my computer screen. Same. Again, I believe God's hand guided me to the right people. I may not understand it, but then again--I don't have to. End rabbit-trail.)
I did like some things about this endodontist. He was very personable and talked to me a lot before the procedure. He didn't feel I needed antibiotics (no infection) and that was great, since I usually have to fight with a doctor to not take them. And he finally explained to me why my teeth are so incredibly sensitive: "You have the biggest pulps I've ever seen on someone your age!" (I really, really hate when sentences are ended with, "...for your age", by the way.) Apparently, as we get older, certain parts in our teeth "shrink" and get thin and less sensitive. Mine are not. Dr. Dentist said he has never seen pulps as big as mine except on teenagers. Teen. Agers. All I could think was, "Great. I'm aging all over the place, but I've got the tooth pulps of a 15-year old?".
He was honest about the pain medications he could prescribe me, and in the end, I didn't get any. The cool thing: I didn't need any. Not one little Tylenol. Not one teeny little Advil. Nothing. Aside from an almost unmentionably small little bit of gum soreness, felt only when I brushed my teeth, there was absolutely no discomfort at all after the numbness wore off.
This is amazing.
A root canal is a fairly traumatizing procedure for a mouth to undergo. Not only is there the actual procedure, but just having your mouth cranked open for over an hour gives many people a jaw-ache that lasts a week.
I got nothing.
With all my TMJ problems, and my tooth issues, and my big, fat, gargantuan pulps, I got no side effects at all.
Thank You, Father, for modern dentistry. Thank You for the doctors you put in my path last Thursday.
Thank you, Father, for answering my prayer.

"Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer."  Psalm 4:1


Lisa Elifritz said...

The real pain comes when the bill hits!

Stephen Norton said...

All facets of a root canal are bad, but the worst is the drilling.

Lisa said...

True, you two. But the alternative is worse! :-) said...

Glad it all ended well...whew! Dental pain freaks me out and I have never even experienced much pain. If I ever have to have a root canal, I hope my experience is as good as yours :-)