The Tiger's Eye: Hobsen's choice

30 July 2010

Hobsen's choice

Ever find yourself literally pondering the worse of two evils and then actually choosing one over the other?

Recently I was afflicted with some kind of hellish tooth/gum pain. It all started back in June when I bit down on a bagel and was rewarded with instant knifing pain in the lower jaw on the right hand side. (30-31 molars). Usually when you have that kind of pain, it subsides and you find yourself thinking, “I had better not do THAT again” but this was different. It got worse as the morning wore on, compounded by the heat and humidity of being up on a 2nd story roof while doing a site review. By 11:30 that morning I had called my dentist who agreed to see me on an emergency basis and fit me into her busy schedule.
A few minutes of probing and an X-Ray later concluded that there was little she could do but that she felt a specialist Endodontic visit would be required as this tooth had a crown/root canal a few years earlier. I got the names of a few specialists who are on our insurance plan and went home to medicate with Vicodin while I tried to make an appointment.
The following Tuesday the Endodontic Dentist saw me (Norhtside Endodontics in Indianapolis if anyone needs a root canal – these guys are very good) and after reviewing my Xrays decided my tooth really wasn’t a tooth/root problem but that with all the inflammation in my gum it was most likely periodontal in nature; so off to another specialist I went armed with more Rx for anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs. A week later the Periodontist saw me and concluded that yes, I had some infection that need some minor gum surgery. All the while this was going on the tooth above was ALSO beginning to cause discomfort but we decided “first things first” and to deal with the gums before tackling the tooth.
2 weeks later (4th of July week) I had periodontal surgery that cleaned up the gums around my lower molars on my right side and left with stitches in my gums and more drugs. 2 weeks later my surgery site was fully healed and those teeth felt fine but now the upper tooth causing real discomfort.
Any pressure on the tooth was cause for immediate and lingering pain. As it happened, it was time for my annual tooth check-up/cleaning so back I went to see the dentist who informed me that there was good reason to think I might need a root canal on the painful tooth (No 3 molar) as it was a very old and deep filling. I called the Endo and made an appointment for yesterday afternoon to have a root canal to stop the pain. Fast forward 2 weeks and now the pain is almost continual when anything (food, my tongue, my finger…) touched my gum or my cheek (shaving felt like I was dragging sandpaper over my cheek). It felt like a rusty nail being driven into my cheek by angry badgers on speed.
Sunday night I noticed that there was a little swelling above my gum line so Monday morning I called my dentist and described the condition. She said that swelling may be due to the “shadow” she saw on the X-ray which might be the beginning of an abscess (made me feel better that I might be doing the correct thing… I am REALLY sensitive to my teeth and gums. I will admit that I am a wimp when it comes to tooth pain.)
Wednesday morning about 4 AM I woke from a deep sleep with intense pain and swelling that was across the right side of my face. By 8 that morning when I called the Endo office I was nervous, sick at my stomach from the nasty taste in my mouth (imagine that) and worried that any number of things were going wrong in my mouth. Thankfully they fit me in that morning and saw me. The dentist said that while the swelling had increased and was worrisome, the root canal scheduled for the following day should take care of all of it.
Thursday morning I was onsite at 7 to do a field report and get some actual work done before I was to leave at noon for my appointment.
I went home and gathered up the wife to drive me (amongst other things, the meds were making me nauseous enough to puke every so often) and off we went to Northside Endodontics to see doctor.

We arrived at 2:30, hit the chair at 2:50 and I was numbed out by 3:05
2 hours later the tooth was completely cleaned out and ready to be packed and a temporary filling placed in the crown when the dentist decided to fill the tooth with antibiotic for 5 min due to the abscess that started the entire mess.

5 min later while the dentist was taking care of an emergency and my tooth sat with the drugs in it, THE PAINKILLERS WORE OFF!
Over the span of 10 minutes I went from being fully numbed to frantically waving my arms to get someone’s attention to PUT MORE DRUGS INTO MY MOUTH FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!

About 15 min. later, when the Doctor came back and prepared to finish the work I started to motion to him to do something. To his credit he immediately attempted to numb me again but sometimes when your mouth is that inflamed, painkillers will only do so much. In my case the limit had been reached. Even the needle he used to inject the drugs with felt like a hot rusty nail in my jaw.
45min later he finished the root canal. 45 minutes without painkillers on a tooth that an exposed root structure and an abscessed infection!
I don’t think I have ever felt pain like that and I hope I never have to again.
Now I am sitting here, benumbed with Vicodin 750ES while taking all sorts of antibiotics, my face all puffy and sore.

The lesser of two evils was that I knew going into the procedure that it would most likely end up that way. As I said, I have very sensitive teeth and gums and I metabolize anesthetics pretty fast too. So I could have pain that got worse slowly but incrementally or pain that almost made me pee my pants but hopefully will be gone Monday.

What a wonderful way to start the weekend…