Serial Bus

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Just What The Dentist Ordered!

with 2 comments

I am not sure what came upon me when I visited a dentist recently for a check-up. It was meant to be preventive but it has ended up causing me exactly what it was meant to prevent: loads of pain, incessantly. I remember as a boy, we read a poem by Ogden Nash called ‘This is going to hurt just a little bit’ where the poet hilariously describes the experience of visiting a dentist. I remember this poem because it was the first time I learnt the expression ‘vicious cycle’. But today, while reading it again, I identified with each and every line.

Dental health was never a priority in my life. I do not recall a single time when brushing teeth proved to be even mildly ecstatic. It was something you had to do in the morning along with a mandatory emptying the bowels and an optional bath – one of the 3 ablutions. Papa perhaps suffered a lot of dental trauma early in his life which is why he would insist that we brush in the evening also, before going to bed. He used a false tooth in place of an incisor that he lost as an adult and never regained. The denture was a source of endless glee for my sister and me, as papa would amuse us by taking it out of his mouth and then, put it back in a split-second as if it was always there. He would always underscore it by telling us that if we did not take care of our teeth, we might have to wear a whole set of artificial teeth some day. I followed his advice of brushing in the evenings begrudgingly, and only on the days he did not forget to coerce or cajole me. Sometimes, I would still take a bite off a sweet or eat a fruit after brushing at night.

All that bad karma took an early toll on me and I remember vividly how a few of my molars became black with plaque and grime overtime. They would begin to hurt sooner than later and I would come home with a palm firmly against a cheek, writhing in pain. Mummy would give me cloves to chew – they dulled the pain while she took me to the dentist at the Soban Singh Jeena Base Hospital in Haldwani to get rid of the affected tooth. Since it was a government hospital that was run free of cost (except for a registration ticket that cost one rupee), one couldn’t be sure of the hygiene. So, mummy would gently persuade the dentist to dip into their supplies and use a new needle to anesthetize my jaw. I would come home with a swollen cheek and a thick gauze on the place where the black tooth resided. As the numbing effect and bleeding wore off, there was pain. It was excruciating but it did not last as long as the pain caused by the decayed tooth.

This became the ritual for a couple of years and in the process, I redeemed several of my molars and pre-molars. After every extraction, I would bring the tooth home and bury in the garden of our house. Papa & mummy maintained that this was a form of prayer to God, who would promptly grant me a new glistening tooth, as a replacement for the buried one. Seems like God was propitiated since somehow, my teens and early twenties were peaceful; not more extractions and the teeth looked fine in the mirror.

So, in a way, I invited misery myself when I decided to make good the free dental check-up offered by the insurer, before the year ended. The dentist declared solemnly that 6 of my teeth needed fillings and 2 would be under watch. She also took an x-ray of the jaw and concluded that one of the wisdom teeth was growing in an oblique way and could cause much grief as life wore on.

It’s funny how insurance coverage sometimes drives medical decisions. Since I was moving to a less attractive dental plan next year, I went on an overdrive. On my next appointment for a couple of fillings, I requested the dentist to see if he could do all six. As the Novocaine injections went in, the dentist wondered what I planned to do with the outlier wisdom tooth. Since the jaw was already dizzy, I thought this was the best time to go an extra mile. At the end of the grueling 90-minutes session, I walked out with 6 amalgam fillings and one less tooth. The monstrous tooth (it’s like an iceberg: what is visible is much less than what lies beneath the surface) came along in a sachet as a souvenir.

Taking a cue from my childhood, as the numbing effect and bleeding wore off, I expected relief. The extraction was soon a non-issue but the fillings became my nemesis. I have been on Tylenol continuously for the 8th continuous day – the pain is doing a dance with me. Any food or drink that is slightly warmer or colder sends a shooting pain through the jaw. I am humbled by even an average soda and some meek baby carrots.

A furious internet search did not confirm any diagnosis – it could be the bite re-adjustment process (if I am lucky) or it could be an infection in the pulp underneath (if I am damned) or ten other things in between. I visited the dentist again who thinks it’s the bite (may God bless him!). He shaved off some edges from the molars, gave me a pack of Sensodyne and asked me to get back if I don’t feel better in 10 days.

Day after tomorrow is the 9th day. Here I am, my palm held firmly to my cheek, awaiting redemption while being reminded of ‘vicious cycle’!


Written by serialbus

December 29, 2008 at 9:43 pm

2 Responses

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  1. OMG….. Everyone has a dentist story to share… and why do I feel obliged to defend all dentists…I won’t šŸ˜› I hope your oral life returns to ‘normal’ soon, let me know if you need any professional assistance or a ‘dentist friend’ you can rely on or if you are just in the mood to vent and hate my kind šŸ™‚

    I’m looking forward to reading your blog. Keep ’em coming MoJo.


    January 5, 2009 at 10:47 pm

  2. What did you do to the souvenir? May be this time you did not bury it, which prevented it getting a booking in the heavens & the spirits have now come to haunt you.

    Though I am a absent minded person & student, still I too remember the ‘vicious cycle’ taught by dr. k l trivedi, one of the very few memories of things taught in the classroom, guess KLT deserves appreciation for the way he taught it.


    January 14, 2009 at 4:00 am

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