Monday, October 28, 2013

Bad tooth, redux (and resolved)

I headed to the dentist this morning, to have That Tooth extracted. You know the one: the last time they tried to get it out, they broke my jaw, instead.

I got a letter from my insurance company last week saying it won't pay for the previous "extraction", because the dental school hasn't sent them any documentation. Hmmmm. I think one of three things happened: 1) the dental office didn't send documentation because the tooth is still in my mouth, 2) the insurance company has cut back on file clerks, since they'd just assured me last week that they'd reviewed my dental records and there'd been no malpractice, or 3) someone's out to make me crazy.

*        *         *        *

The resident came in and was puttering around. My dental student -- who was going to be observing -- got things ready. The two chatted a bit. The dental student had already shot me full of numbness, and was beginning to put the nitrous oxide to my nose when I stopped her. "He's not going to touch me until he has the decency to introduce himself," I said firmly. Startled, he did.

This is one of the advantages of middle age: if someone younger than you is doing something that's just plain wrong, you have few qualms about saying so. A decade ago I wouldn't have spoken up.

*         *          *          *

It took longer to extract than you'd expect. I thought a lot about how much worse it would have been a hundred years ago, or if I lived in the third world today, or if someone were doing this to me as part of an human experiment during WWII. I offered up whatever suffering I might need to endure, asking that it might be used to alleviate the suffering of others who are undergoing worse pain, including our friend Ken, who is undergoing a major procedure today.

It wasn't too bad -- except when the dentist was twisting a piece of the tooth and I could feel the pressure. Then I had to consciously relax my muscles again and again, and let the process be what it was: scary. It was during a moment like that that my jaw had snapped.

After it was over and I was stitched up, my student dentist asked gently, "How are you now?"
"Not as scared as I was!" I replied.
"Me either," she admitted, "I was praying the whole time!"
"Me too," I said.
"This is a bad memory that will stay with you a long time," she said ruefully.
"Naw," I said, surprising even myself, "The only thing we need to remember about hard things is that we got through them. Learn what you can, and be glad it's over. We'll both be okay."

*         *          *          *

All that said, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. And sore.


  1. So glad it's over and done without further complications!

  2. Having dental work done is one of my worst stresses. Have had numerous work over the years and now was told 4 teeth need onlays to the tune of $980 each. Sounds like you have a great option with a Dental School. I have no such option within 200 miles of where I live. You are a brave soul and your strong faith has seen you through another experience.

  3. I am betting that last part sounded better with a mouth full of Novocaine!

    And Cheryl I am with you-hate the dentist even though in real time he is a friend of mine.

  4. Hi Julia. That sounds really painful and scary. But I have to commend you because, while a toothache can be our enemy, going to the dentist for procedures can be a bad experience. I'm glad that you got it over with.

    Calandra Novak @

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Oh my. I can tell just by reading this entry how much pain you had to endure during the procedure, but it's nice that everything went well. I just hope everyone who has read this post will gain the same courage as yours. :)

    Agripina Warnick @