Adventures in Oral...

Not my mouth. 

...ORAL SURGERY. Ha! Did I have you going for a minute or what?

Yes, I had oral surgery this week. I had to have a tooth extracted. Ironically enough, it is exactly 2 years after I had my very first root canal, on the very same tooth.

I'm having trouble processing this whole thing. For some reason it's almost shameful to me, to have had this happen. Like I told my homegirl Danielle, I feel like this is the first step towards becoming a toothless, bearded hag.

I actually wept in the chair yesterday, and not because of pain. This time around, there was zero pain although it turns out I had a pretty serious infection. The beauty of having issues with a root-canaled (?) tooth, I guess. No, I cried because of the shame. I mean, who has to have a tooth pulled? I pictured meth addicts and Ted Kaczynski-type people. Or little kids who are put to bed in their cribs with bottles of Mountain Dew. Not middle aged suburban moms who drink fluoridated water and have great dental insurance.

But there I was, wiping tears away as the left side of my face became numb and number. My new dentist and the hygienist were very kind and offered me Kleenex and put comforting hands on my shoulders. They assured me that aside from that janky, broken tooth, the rest of my mouth was great and this type of tooth trauma can happen to anyone, not just people who play the banjo on the front porch of a dilapidated hunting shack in the backwoods of Georgia (sorry my Georgian friends, but I will take any chance to use a Deliverance reference).

So here's what happened: about three weeks ago, my tooth broke. I was chewing gum and I felt it happen. It was the farthest back molar on the lower left side. Now, most normal people would think, "Holy hell. I'm pretty sure that was a tooth breaking. I'd better call my dentist now and get in there." But, I'm not most normal people, am I? It was an extremely busy week of work, and I am probably the world's most anxious person in general, let's not even begin to describe the heart palpitations I get when it comes to anything invasive (literally, anything). I've been told by a therapist that victims of childhood abuse often experience this kind of medical/dental anxiety, so there's a valid reason for my nuttiness. But you know who doesn't care how scared you are? A BROKEN TOOTH. It doesn't sense your discomfort and say, "Yo. It's cool. I'll just seal myself up and we can both avoid being poked and prodded. Okay?"

No. The tooth is very much honey badger in that it doesn't give a shit. It's broken! No shits left to give as far as old Timmy the Tooth is concerned.

I worked up my courage and called the dentist. My former dentist. I was 3/4 of the way through the initial appointment when the receptionist peeked her head into the room and giggled, "Oh em gee Jenny! Guess what I just found out...we are now out of your network! Sorry!" I failed to see the humor in the situation. My former dentist sighed, and said "So I guess you're going to need some referrals." I nodded, and mumbled, "Probably a prescription for painkillers, too." Because although the mouth wasn't hurting I was pretty sure untangling the bill and doing the insurance-two-step with Giggle Pants was going to be a giant pain in my ass.

Thanks to Delta Dental's fab website, finding a new dentist was easy and in the long run, is going to be a good thing. The first thing she said after looking inside my maw was "So, you obviously grind your teeth at night." This was news to me. I laughed and said, "No way, my dentist never mentioned that before..." New Dentist shook her head and pointed at the computer screen where the ethereal x-rays of my mouth were displayed. "Here, and here, and all along here-" She made circle motions over the pictures of my shadowy teeth. "You have little tiny fractures in all of these molars. And that's most likely what caused this one tooth" here, she placed her index finger on the picture of my broken chomper, "to break down. It was already weakened by the root canal. And, whoever performed that root canal, by the way, didn't do a very good job."

She smiled and said to me, "I can't believe nobody has mentioned your grinding to you." I was torn because there were so many places I could go with that statement. But I decided to respond, "You know what, for the past several years my most consistent bed mate has been a dog. And he's totally not Scooby Doo. So there's never been a time when he's elbowed me awake and said Rut Roh Renny! Rinding reeth again!" She laughed in a way which I'm sure was not uncomfortable or forced at all and then laid it on me.

"At first I thought we could save it. But now I see it's cracked completely down the middle." She looked at me and said the words I was dreading:

"We have to take it out."

Jumpin' Jack Flash started playing in my head along with images of the witch-as-old-lady in Snow White.

I've prided myself on being intact after all these decades of living. On not having to take medications or have anything replaced and on being, for the most part, insanely healthy. This did not fit into my plan.

It had to happen, though. Aside from the fact that I had a broken tooth and an infection, there was also the matter of my stanky mouth. I was pretty sure my breath was starting to smell like the restroom in a poorly managed Old Country Buffet. My friends and family assured me that it wasn't true, but it's hard to ignore something that is literally under your nose. And there were moments when I know for sure it wasn't orchids and unicorn glitter farts I was smelling. To those of you who may own stock in the Eclipse gum company, YOU'RE WELCOME.

I had the procedure performed yesterday. It was relatively painless, and I even got to watch part of Legally Blonde while it happened. After all was said and done, we discussed fun things like saltwater gargling and dental implants and then my dentist said, "I think you deserve a cocktail tonight. But not if you take a Vicodin, okay?" talk about a no-brainer, right? Martini for the win. 

I love her.

Today I woke up with just a little extra chin and cheek, not much pain and a blessedly feces-free mouth. I was also filled with gratitude. I'm grateful for health insurance, for paid sick days, for flexible and caring coworkers, for sweet dentists who know what they're doing and for my loved ones who put up with my porta-potty breath.

Now I just need to survive the next couple of days, what with doctor's orders like "soft foods" and "no sucking". I've never wanted to inhale a bag of Stacy's pita chips so bad in my life. I'll let you guys take the sucking comment and go to town with it, okay? I'm still focused on the grinding thing.


  1. My husband just came home from the dentist today, his head hung low with shame that he had cavities, plural. I think we all hate the thought of bad news from the dentist because it's such a big deal from a young age to take care of our teeth. No one can be prepared for the fact that getting older just wears some stuff out. I love your writing. I hardly ever comment on it, but I could. Thank you.

  2. She did insist you get a night guard for your mouth, right? Prevents the damage from tooth grinding. I hear it works even better if you actually remember to wear it at night. Not that I would actually forget for 2 whole months or anything...ahem...

    1. I know, right! I actually forgot mine a few years back at a beach condo - maid tossed that $300 piece of plastic! So had a new one made, that I don't wear regularly. Husband: "and you had it remade WHY?!" :-( But they do work!

  3. OMG! Can I just I love you? Or at least, I love your sense of humor!!

  4. I've been grinding my teeth for years and years and have a super sexy night guard I'm supposed to wear to protect them. Next time you go in, ask if you should get one. The downside to wearing the night guard is the mouth breathing which apparently isn't great for your gums.

  5. Love this! Dentistry is always good fodder for a humorous blog. Well done!

  6. I feel you, I was 31 when I had my extraction (about 5 years ago), totally felt bumpkin-isn and shame, but discovered lots of other people are missing teeth, it's just not something that's talked about. Started my implant process recently at the UofM dental school, super stoked.


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