I have the bad habit of thinking that if I ignore something it will go away. The trouble is, I can’t remember even one time when that theory has worked, especially when it comes to bills and any plumbing problem that causes water to spew anywhere.
The weekend before last, I woke up feeling as if someone had crept into my bedroom during the night and stabbed my bottom right molar with an ice pick. The minute I opened my mouth – and believe me, I open my mouth a lot – and the air hit that tooth, I made a sound that was so high-pitched, the dogs started howling.
“Something wrong?” my husband asked when I shoved my English muffin into the blender so I wouldn’t have to chew it.
“No, I’m fine,” I said, smiling through gritted teeth and winking at him. Actually, it wasn’t a real wink. I was just trying to ease the pain shooting up from my tooth into my right eyeball.
To be honest, the toothache really didn’t surprise me. It seems that whenever there is a special event coming up, I get an abscessed tooth. It’s as if my teeth have radar, and the minute I start planning for some big event, they say, “Aha! Let’s give her an infection she’ll never forget and completely ruin her good time!”
At my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary party, I was nursing a botched root canal that had me popping antibiotics and painkillers. My face was so puffy it could have been used as a mold for Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.
And two nights before my husband and I were to leave for Las Vegas for our 25th wedding anniversary getaway, I cracked a top molar on a petrified almond and ended up having to slurp soup all week instead of partaking in all of the tempting buffets.
So last week, all I had to do was mention I was going shopping for something to wear to my uncle’s upcoming 80th birthday bash, and my tooth decided to start shooting electrical jolts up into my brain.
I was determined not to undergo another root canal, however. Last count, I’d had eleven of them, most of which were done without the benefit of my tooth being numb. One dentist told me the reason why Novocain has such little effect on me is because my nerves aren’t where they should be. That would explain why I usually end up with a numb nose or tongue, but a perfectly un-numb tooth. When I repeated the information about my misplaced nerves to my husband, he said it only further supported his longstanding theory that I came to Earth from another planet.
So when I woke up with a toothache last week, I decided I’d just put it out of my mind and it would go away. I didn’t want to attend my uncle’s party if I looked like a chipmunk smuggling a winter’s supply of nuts in its mouth, so I wasn’t about to tempt fate and stir up any trouble with a root canal.
By the third day, I had sucked all of the contents out of a tube of Anbesol toothache gel. Even eating only broth didn’t help ease the pain because broth that’s not hot tastes like sweat-sock water. But when I heated the broth and the hot liquid hit my tooth, I had to smother my face in a pillow so my husband wouldn’t hear me yelping.
“Go to the dentist!” he finally said when he caught me biting down on a stick so I wouldn’t cry out in pain.
“It’s too expensive!” I said. “And I don’t want to have to suffer through a root canal when it’s so close to the party.”
“You’re already suffering,” he just had to point out. “Why wait until it gets worse?”
“Because this suffering is free. The root canal suffering will cost over $1,000, so it’s a lot more painful. Besides that, the toothache will go away, I’m just giving it time.”
“Fine, it’s your mouth,” he said. He was silent for a moment, then smiled wickedly and said, “Hey, you want to go out for some ice cream? My treat!”
The man is a sadist.
I took the hint. The next day I called the dentist. When the receptionist answered, I chickened out and hung up. A jolt of pain shot up to my eyebrows. I picked up the phone and called back. An appointment was made for the next afternoon.
That night, I pretty much acted like a condemned prisoner about to face the electric chair. I’d have eaten the traditional last meal, but my choice would have been a thick steak followed by a hot-fudge sundae, both of which would have had me begging to have my head dunked in a vat of Anbesol afterwards.
So the next afternoon, I headed to the dentist’s office, fully prepared for a couple hours of un-numbed torture and a charge on my credit card that inevitably would drop my credit rating by a couple hundred points.
The dental assistant x-rayed the tooth from Hell just before the dentist entered the room. He studied the X-ray, then picked up one of his many evil-looking dental instruments and poked my tooth with it.
“Is this where it hurts?” he asked.
The fact that he nearly had to scrape me off the ceiling was a pretty good indication.
“Everything looks fine with the tooth,” he said, “but the gum is receding right there and part of the root is exposed. It’s very sensitive to heat, cold and air. I recommend using Sensodyne toothpaste twice a day. It should make it feel much better in a couple weeks.”
I sat there and just stared at him. No drilling down to my toes? No having to take nausea-inducing antibiotics? No dental procedure that would cost so much I’d have to fish the dumpsters for aluminum cans so I could cash them in for food?
The tube of Sensodyne toothpaste cost me about $5. Within two days of using it, the pain began to fade.
And I figure that as long as no one ever invites me to another special event or party again for as long as I live, I should be spared from having any more toothaches.