I like to think I have a high tolerance for pain. I can put things off easily. Things I shouldn’t. My teeth for one thing. My dentist doesn’t help matters either. He is very practical. Usually, I like that quality in him.
One of my back teeth, now known as #18, has been acting up. I knew it wasn’t good. It’s been far too long since it’s been checked. Finally, I made an appointment. “You have to remove the filling to this tooth! It’s hurting.” I clambered as soon as I sat down. He shared that he just got back from China at 12:30 am. He is an incredibly generous man of his talents and time to extremely poor people who haven’t seen a dentist in years, if not their entire lives. Yet, I’m thinking to myself, “Great. I need some serious work and you’re dealing with jetlag.”
“How bad is the pain?” He asked.
“It’s a toothache. It just hurts all over.” I said. My tongue instinctively glides over it as if to comfort it for what’s about to happen. I knew it wasn’t good. I settled back in the chair as he lays me flat and received my first shot. 5 minutes past. He begins to drill the filling out. You know it’s getting worse when your dentist is making faces and apologizing. He starts rambling about the tooth calcifying. Please don’t let that mean I’m losing a tooth. A tear follows the crease of my “laugh line” into my ear. Apparently, my tooth was trying to repair the damage. I’ve kept my filling for far too long. The drilling continues. I clamp my mouth shut from his grasp and pull away. My fits tighten up along with my whole body. We both just want to get this done, but the pain is too great. He keeps sending sharp pains as the drill touches the nerve. He gives me another shot.
10 minutes later, I touch my chin to feel that rubbery flesh that isn’t your own. He comes back in, adjusts the drill, and yanks my mouth open. I’m exaggerating, but I just wanted to run, run somewhere but here. His new LED light is strapped to his forehead blinding me. He looks like a miner getting ready to drill for gold. His spectacles are splattered with water stains. I hope. No sooner does he get started and I jerk away. This time he gives me a shot directly into the nerve of #18.
Finally, I’m completely numb. The drilling continues. 5 minutes later, he stops. He can’t get through the calcified tooth. He apologizes. He packs the tooth. He gives me a card for a specialist. I walk out the door complete numb on the left side of my face. That lasts for a little while before I feel the gravity of the situation.
Yesterday I was too busy to focus on the pain. Today, not so lucky. If I breathe on it, it hurts. Tuesday can’t get here soon enough. I just hope the specialist is able to repair the damage and save the tooth.