A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I almost took a picture of myself with a bloody mouth this week and was going to pretend that I had gone out on Halloween as Ed Helms from The Hangover, but then decided I would just rather go to bed.

Long story short, I am a bit of a dental mutant. I was born with an extra tooth, the eventual removal of which resulted in two dental surgeries before the 4th grade and weekly visits to the dentist all through 5th. Understandably, I hate dentists, and throwing away my retainer before the job was done, after several years of retainers and braces, was a huge existential moment in my life, the equivalent of rejecting God, country, and family all at once. Last time I went to the dentist was...well, I don't remember. But I had my wisdom teeth out and they found I had two extra wisdom teeth, little tiny ones that looked like dog's teeth. To counterbalance, apparently, it turns out that my other teeth have abnormally long roots--some of which my last dentist left behind in my gums. He was pretty horrible. I was awake the whole procedure, I could see my mouth reflected in his glasses, he cussed whenever his pliars slipped out of my mouth, and he refused to believe me when I told him I was in pain. He also gave me crappy drugs afterward that didn't help at all.

Earlier this year, I had a cavity in the very back tooth on the bottom left that eventually led to the front of the infected tooth falling off. I was eating a Little Debbie's Peanut Butter Bar and felt something give way and before I realized it, I swallowed the tooth shards. I know, I was like the Goofus side of some dental cartoon. Having no insurance, I decided to ride it out. I had good days and bad days, but the pain was always manageable with Tylenol or aspirin or whiskey. Weeks went by with no pain, some weeks were awful. Some may even recall my using my broken tooth as fodder for my review of The Hurt Locker.

After some bad times this fall, I made a plan to get the tooth fixed after the end of the year. I had learned that OHSU had a dental school where patients are helped for a fraction of regular prices, it just takes a little longer than normal. Sounded good to me.

Only, I woke up this past Sunday in screeching pain. I spent the whole day trying to dial it down, and nothing worked. I made myself sick with aspirin, bought a numbing agent, and could only find temporary and incomplete relief. Woke up Monday and tried to find some urgent care. Unfortunately, OHSU only books a day in advance, and fifteen minutes into their Monday, Tuesday was full. They gave me the number of SafeNet, an Oregon program that connects patients to services. As luck would have it, they had a clinic with a Tuesday afternoon opening. Apparently patients in emergency situations usually have to fly standby, but I was in.

Cut to Tuesday. I am amazed by the service I received from the Multnomah County Health Department. Efficient, friendly, and conscientious. Not bad for a bunch of socialists! I was in and out in 2 hours. They pulled the tooth, and it only cost $200. The doctor and nurse were very communicative and talked me through everything, and when I complained I was in pain, they gave me more anesthetic. No argument. No "that doesn't hurt."

Don't get it twisted, though. The experience was excruciating. You can be as numb as you want, and you can still feel the pressure of a guy drilling, pushing, and pulling inside your mouth [insert rent boy joke here]. The cavity had gone all the way down below the gums, and the whole thing had to come out. They broke it into four pieces. The doc asked me if I knew about my long roots, and I said yes, and told him the last dentist had left some men behind. This new fellow said he wasn't going to let that happen. "I love a challenge," he said. Errrr, okay, hot shot.

Well, he didn't lie. He got the whole thing out. I saw the fragments. My roots were at least 1/2" long. I wish I had gotten a picture of them next to a piece of rice or something. The nurse laughed when I asked if they were normally so big. "No, they are usually tiny," she said. The worst part of the procedure was actually getting the roots out of the socket. It was like Satan was pitchforking me from underneath my jaw. I was sweating and gripping the arm rest and I am sure I bent the bite tool they gave me to keep my mouth open. Ugh.

Again, public dentist put me on three meds as opposed to private dentist's one, and for the last two days I haven't had an ounce of pain. The only inconvenience was the first several hours of swapping out bloody gauze and the fact that I can only eat soft foods until Sunday. But, concentration was an issue prior to the operation, and I lost three days of work. Watching DVDs in bed post-op has allowed me to get some reviews in the can, including The Hangover on DVD. Expect that update when my theatrical reviews go live later today. Thanks for nothing, public health care!

Oh, well, one tooth less and hopefully I'll lose some weight from all this oatmeal and yogurt. (Plus, Joëlle's chicken soup!) First thing I'm eating on Monday: Little Debbies!

And I share this because it made me smile...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Current Soundtrack: The Raveonettes, In and Out of Control; Alicia Keys, The Element of Freedom

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All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich


Greg McElhatton said...

OUCH! My sympathies... I'm glad the actual pulling of the tooth went well. This seems to be the year for dental surgery, unfortunately. *sigh*

Jamie S. Rich said...

Yeah, you're one of the only people I know that can really match my horror stories.

I am in the same Motrin haze you were, though with a little Vicodin. Plus side is that I will be taking penicillin for about a week, so I should have a pretty good immune system for fighting colds.