Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Tale of the Tooth

Warning: This post is not for people with weak stomachs. So all of you who may be susceptible to nausea or slight queasiness... well, go have lunch first, or something. It'll make for an interesting experience while reading this.

When I woke up last Sunday morning, the first thing I felt was something rolling around near the back of my mouth. I reached in there, expecting to pull out a hair or a piece of lint or something like that, but I was amply rewarded with what looked like a tiny fragment of black stone. After I probed around the area a little more, I noted what felt like a gaping hole in one of my molars, and I was forced to conclude that one of my fillings had somehow shaken loose from its foundations.

This was bad news. I've been genetically blessed with weak teeth, to the point that my dentist constantly despairs over my condition. And, seeing that I had somehow degenerated to the point where my fillings were falling out, that pretty much indicated that something was rotten in the state of Dentistry.

So this afternoon, I left work early for an emergency appointment with my long-suffering dentist. She listened patiently to my story, critically inspected the fragment of filling that I had brought along (wrapped in Kleenex, for its luxurious benefit), and prodded at the gaping enamel hole with a variety of instruments.

It wasn't too bad, she said. I had apparently done what I could to keep it clean for the past two days, which included abstention from bite-worthy foods and a paranoid obsession towards chewing on my left side. The culprit was most likely a stone from a dinner long past, which shattered the filling and impacted certain shards into its own dental crevice. My estimate was that it had been a month or so before the largest piece -- which still sat in all its Kleenex-wrapped glory -- finally worked its way loose.

That, however, was where the good news ended. The filling was one of my oldest ones, from way back in 1992, and it had apparently shattered because the inside of the tooth had decayed significantly. In short, it had plugged its respective cavity for a good sixteen years... but nevertheless, the tooth had continued to rot away from the inside, which left a good-sized hole into which the pieces of the filling could get stuck.

Things took a turn for the worse when she asked if I could feel any pain. When I told her that I couldn't, she gave me a curious look and tapped the tooth about once or twice.

"Did you feel that?" she asked.

I shrugged. I hadn't felt a thing.

She tapped it again, and gave me the same questioning look.

I shook my head.

She played Jingle Bells on the enamel with one of her metal picks.

I still didn't feel anything.

That was bad, she said, because it meant that the dentine part had almost fully gone. This apparently severed the tooth's connection to its corresponding nerve, which was why I couldn't feel anything. This also brought about the possibility that every other piece of dental work in my mouth actually concealed a slew of dead teeth... and I had a lot of fillings in there.

Fifteen minutes later, though, she was breathing a sigh of relief at my x-ray results. It looked like the sole offending tooth was the only one of its kind, which got her to breathe easy. There was a huge gaping hole sitting to the left of that tooth, yes, but at least that was the only thing we could worry about for the moment.

She strongly recommended that I sit through a root canal for the tooth -- five consecutive sessions to take place over one or two months -- in order to restore the tooth to workable condition. That is to say, we both wanted to significantly arrest the possibility that the tooth itself would break apart the next time I used it. Moreover, she suggested that I look into the possibility of capping it with a porcelain crown, which would strengthen the tooth further. The catch with the latter option, though, was the fact that it would require regular maintenance for the rest of my natural life. (The fact that my teeth degenerate extremely fast did not sit comfortably with either of us.)

As for the gaping hole itself, she plugged it with a temporary filling and told me to make an appointment as soon as possible. I think I'm going to have to make some arrangements at work in order to go through with this.

So now I'm sitting here, typing about my little dental experience. The temporary filling feels a little strange, as though it were merely half-finished... but then again, my dentist will probably be drilling through it in a few days. It tastes a little like dried plaster, with a hint of whatever medicine she used to dull the (nonexistent) pain.

I asked to bring the fragment of filling home, and she gave me a strange look about the matter. Nevertheless, she did allow me to wrap it up in the Kleenex again, and drop it into my shirt pocket. It's sitting in my room now, perhaps waiting for the day when I'll have it bronzed and preserved to show my grandchildren.

Then again, maybe not. I suppose that the removable dentures will have to do...


Tibibord said...

"It tastes a little like dried plaster"

Been eating a lot of weird food these days? =)

Dominique said...

Put it under a pillow.

Sean said...

Tibibord: The spot where the temporary filling sits still tastes like plaster, mind you. I'm glad it's coming off after the root canal is done.

Dominique: Er... but what'll the tooth fairy give me for a tiny fragment of metal filling? She'll probably leave coal in my sock drawer. (Or is it Santa Claus who does that?)