Saturday, September 4, 2010

The journey of a tooth

Farewell, tooth. And R.I.P. - rest in pieces.

It was five years ago I took a one-hopper off the chin at softball and you split in two, causing me to need a root canal.

Two, in fact. My first dentist in Calgary attempted it but decided my roots were too tiny and he couldn't dig 'em out.

Off to the specialist I went. I think it was even on my birthday in 2006 ... but I had to get it done quickly. I had been laid off and the Sun was 'kind' enough to leave me with three months of its measly health benefits.

Time went on. I grew accustomed to the shiny fake tooth that was my new crown. And I continued to see my dentist, believing he was super. He was ... kind, funny, conversational and, yeah, a little bit good looking. And I could give him post-dated cheques to cover the fees not covered by my new, more improved benefits in the non-newspaper world.

But, Lord, how his receptionists pissed me off. I asked them to not call me to confirm my appointments but rather to email me. You see, I loathe answering the phone. And I loathe appointment confirmations, especially when:

  1. I haven't missed an appointment in five years
  2. You're going to charge me with a $50 fee if I don't show up ... confirmed or not

This last appointment I had set up for a cleaning, they found it necessary to call me three times in two days. And you know what? By the time I can get back to you, your office is closed and you don't have an answering machine.

So I found a new dentist. Referred by a friend, Dr. Orr is a kind fellow ... and tall. Mother of God, is he tall! And his staff will email me to confirm my appointments.

He takes X-rays and says to me, 'hmmmm, that doesn't seem right.'

There it was. A curvy dark line running across the tooth, which is supposed to be dead ... just kind of a placeholder, a space filler-upper.

It shouldn't be decaying any further but that's what those curvy dark lines always indicate.

'It's rare but it does happen,' Dr. Orr said.

So off comes the crown - it was gold, I didn't even know. Dr. Orr says your dentist should always tell you what's going in your mouth. It has to be broken, there's no other way. And it can't be fixed, so a new crown will be in order after my third root canal on this tooth.

My head starts doing the calcamutations. Root canal, $1,300. New crown, $650. Trying to figure out how much of this my benefits will cover ... head starts hurting. I get a letter from my benefits provider and it confirms my fears. I'll be on the hook for about $700.

Joy kill, eh?

Except for one tiny little issue. Dr. Orr goes on into that tooth. He says, 'aha, there's what happened.'

As it appears, my previous dentist attached the crown to the filling of the root canal and not the tooth. It is done that way sometimes but it doesn't provide as stable an environment as attaching the crown to the tooth.

Thus, my decay.

He gets the filling out and pokes his nose in.

'Oooh, that's not supposed to smell like that.'

A dead giveaway, it seems. The tooth is beyond saving and must come out.

Hey, look on the bright side, I tell myself. You just saved $700 for a root canal and a new crown. Of course, it also means the tooth must come out.

Dr. Orr stuck a temporary crown on and sent me on my merry way, scheduling me for  a tooth extraction in October.

Who wants to ruin a summer afternoon with getting a tooth pulled, he asked.

Who, indeed.

I went through the month of August with my temporary crown, at times forgetting the procedure that I was due in a couple of months.

Until I go for lunch at the Original Joe's in Kensington. There are bone shards in my turkey wrap. Yes, bone shards. And my temporary crown cracks off.

Come back tomorrow for more on the Original Joe's story. For today, we're dealing with the tooth.

There I am, left with the stump of a tooth and its filling. Food is getting caught in the gap, It's a pain in the ass.

I had to leave for Toronto and the World Hockey Summit the day after my trip to Original Joe's. But I fire off an email to my dentist's office and they agree ... the procedure must be done sooner than October.

So here I sit, my long weekend destroyed.

The extraction was the most stressful procedure for which I have ever been awake ... the drilling, the pulling, the grinding, the breaking, the suction, the digging ...

How was it when we're young these stupid things just fall right out?

I have drugs. Pain killers and an anti-infection drug.

No alcohol, it thins out the blood and doesn't promote healing. No eating anything that isn't soft. There go the steaks I had planned for tomorrow.

For the next two days or so, it's yogurt, cottage cheese and protein shakes.

Ah well, maybe it'll kickstart into dropping the weight I've regained, thanks to ball and beer.

But for now, I'm going to sit here and grumble, fuss, bitch and moan.

Because the freezing is starting to wear off and, goddammit, my face hurts.

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