Monday, February 06, 2012

My face hurts

Today I went back to the dentist, and lo and behold, I did need a root canal after all.

Whenever I need to have work done on my teeth, it seems to be a much starker and more upsetting sign of my deterioation than any other thing. I can avoid mirrors and the sight of my greying hair, I can suck my gut in and pretend it's not growing ever outward, but I have a strong and specific fear of losing my teeth. Not being able to bit into an apple, or crunch a carrot, or chew on a steak, seem awful. I don't want to accept that I'll end up on a diet of soup and Angel Delight.

Ok, I wouldn't eat a steak anyway, but supposing I stopped being a vegetarian, it would be nice to retain the option.

Things were made worse by yesterday's journey. The more tired you are, the lower your tolerance to pain becomes. I almost cried out when they stuck the third enormous needle of anaesthetic into my cheek. It turns out a 7 and a half hour wait on a plane, followed by an 11 hour flight, isn't a brilliant way to arrive fresh and rosy cheeked for your dental appointment.

You may have known that already. I did. What I didn't know was that it's a really bad idea to watch both editions of The Thing (1982 and 2011) on the plane, because instead of happy images to concentrate on while a man fumbles inside your jaw, I kept thinking of aliens with whiplike tentacles and half-absorbed human heads. That isn't the most comforting thing to experience while a man is clearing out the middle of your molar.

It's only worse when, amid the smell of powdered tooth enamel and bleaching agents, you see him turn to his assistant and complain at how much blood is coming out. There I sat, a dental dam like a small rubbery tent erected in my mouth, wondering exactly how much blood was leaking from me.

Another dentist came in to have a look at me. Then a third. I began to understand what it feels like to be a victim of circumstance rather than somebody with agency. I didn't like it. On, on, on the dentist worked.
After two hours, and another application of anaesthesia inside the tooth after he came up against a nerve, or something similarly painful, we were done. My dentist, generally a kind man, shouldn't have said "we might as well have done an implant" when he finished, but I suppose he was slightly frustrated that a one hour job had grown by 60 minutes. It meant I immediately wished I'd had a bionic tooth, for all of five seconds.

My whole face is sore from being stretched wide open, my mouth feels bruised from all the different tools (dentists really do have the best toys) and my neck, of all things, is worn out from holding my head on to my body. And I couldn't face eating until 7 this evening, so I'd gone eleven hours without any food.

On the positive side, I don't need a root canal any more. And I've lost a pound in weight. And I'm (probably) not infected by a shapeshifting alien that's made of tentacles and rage.



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