By Mark David Blum, Esq.
How long has it been since you last sat in a dentist’s chair; not out of choice, but out of necessity? It is not fun.
It started about four weeks ago, on a Tuesday afternoon after I woke up from a nap. What is a lawyer doing napping on a Tuesday afternoon? I was taking advantage of an opportunity. Napping is a favorite pastime and it enables me to work and/or play two days in ever one.
When I awoke, I had a nagging pain in a tooth in the back of my mouth. I thought perhaps I was doing my usual paint-stripping snoring thing and perhaps a couple hours of vibrato had just hurt the tooth. By nightfall, I figured the pain would subside.
It did not. In fact by nightfall it was getting worse and I was getting annoyed. By Wednesday morning, I was eating ibuprofen. Come Thursday morning, I had an appointment at the dentist ASAP for Friday afternoon. Pain, sweet glorious pain was building and intensifying and the ibuprofen was not cutting it unless I ate a bowl full.
I have a friend who routinely visits Canada and while there buys legal over-the-counter medications and stuff that is not available here in the United States. Among his routine purchases for medicinal purposes only are what he calls “2-22’s”. Apparently, they are the Canadian equivalent of our Tylenol 3 or Tylenol with codeine; available in the U.S. only by prescription. Thursday afternoon I begged a couple of the 22’s just to survive the next 24 hours. All I could do was lay around and moan. Nothing helped.
Finally, it was time to go to the dentist. Two seconds into my mouth and he said, “two of those teeth have to come out.” A sudden strong aroma filled the air as crap quickly filled my pants. He said there appeared to be enough bone loss around the gum line that such was probably the source of the pain.
Normally, I can handle Novocain injections. The ones in the cheek and the ones in the back of the mouth hurt; but are manageable. In an extraction, there are an additional two or three hundred injections that are made into the roof of your mouth and into the gum around the target tooth. Those hurt enough to make a grown man cry; not that I would know anything about that.
After a while, the dentist taps the tooth and since I feel nothing, he lays me back and I shut my eyes because I know what is coming next. Sure enough, he pulls out this horrifying looking pliers-type weapon that you have seen 100 times in torture scenes at the movies. He locks it onto the tooth.
First, there is the wiggling back and forth; back and forth. “That aint bad”, you think. Then comes the tugging; a little at first and then with increasing pressure. You resist. The tugging continues. You know are you are about to lose the battle when the crunching sound starts. Like a handful of Doritos being smashed up inside your head, you hear the crunching and crackling as the roots let go of their base. Within a minute, it is over and you have given birth to a brand new baby tooth.
Woops. My tooth was not complete. A piece of the root was missing. Down went the Dentist back into my mouth. Tools flying, blood spurting, digging and hunting and x-raying and looking for the lost piece of root; it was quite a scene. Finally, the jagged remnants gave up their hold and it was finally over.
No wait; he said two teeth. With the first one out, he said he thought that should solve he problem. Clearly a broken root had to be the source of the pain. I was plumb happy to not have to endure THAT again. With a mouth packed with cotton and a pocket full of prescriptions, he sent me home and said I would be fine.
My dentist is not nicknamed affectionately “Dr. Mangele” for a reason. (Yes, that is a deliberate typo). From what I experienced, his definition of being fine includes bleeding profusely for two days, enduring bouts of pain so severe I was down on the floor and had to stop the Mrs. from calling 911. Eating Tylenol 3 like candy was not helping and even a change over to Percocet (more on that later) provided only a couple hours of relief. After five days of this, the pain slowly subsided to where I could FINALLY get off those damn drugs. Ibuprofen was doing its job again and by early last week I was starting to feel better.
Wednesday, it started again. First a dull pain crept up on me that after a while drove me into the Ibuprofen. Soon that stopped working again and again last Friday; I was back in that dentist’s chair with his pliers lovingly ripping my face to pieces.
Something was different this time, however. I had hoped just the Novocain would suffice to end the pain but when the second tooth came out, even through the numbness, I knew instantly that it was over. I felt relief that I cannot explain. Since that time and through this moment, I have yet to take so much as an aspirin. All the pain is gone.
But the reason why the pain is gone is interesting and fun. Apparently the good doctor pulled the wrong tooth. When the second one came out, there underneath it, in the crotch where the roots meet the base of the tooth was what his nurse affectionately called, “Crotch rot”. There was decay up and underneath and that was the source of the pain. When he pulled the first tooth, not only did I endure the misery of the particular experience, but he exposed and caused injury to the rotten nerves from under the true bad tooth. That explains all the severe and unreasonable pain.
I kept both teeth and brought them home and soaked them hydrogen peroxide for a few hours to get all the meat and blood and stains off of them. Then I used the teeth to give anatomy lessons to the kid. At least I tried; she was so grossed out she ran screaming from the room. That night at dinner, when she was eating her chicken wings, I talked again about bones and she finally got it; especially since she was sucking the meat off one at the time.
During all of this, on the Sunday after the first tooth was pulled, I confess and freely admit I was stoned. Tylenol w/ codeine were not cutting it and I was taking them faster than the prescription provided. The Mrs. had called the dentist and he called in the Percocet to the pharmacy across the street. Of course, being a controlled substance, “I” had to go pick up the drugs myself.
So I dragged my stoned and pained body out of bed, convinced my kidlet to escort me to the pharmacy, and off we walked. No way was I going to drive. When we got to the pharmacy, she went off in search of her drugs in the junk food and candy aisles and I picked up my drugs. I asked for a cup of water and took one of the Percocet there which, within ten minutes mixed real nice with the codeine already in my bloodstream and we could define my then condition as being totally stoned. It was a good thing; it did not stop the pain but at least I did not give a damn that it hurt.
Those who honestly know me know I do not do drugs. They know I have a low tolerance for chemistry and have a high tolerance for pain. So the cocktail in my bloodstream had my head spinning away in a manner I am not used to. At least I know now how Rush Limbaugh felt every minute of his life for the ten years he was making a name for himself at Bill Clinton’s expense.
As we were walking back home, I had no choice but to confess my condition to my kid. I told her, “holy crap, I am soooooo stoned. Let me tell you something,” I continued. “You are going to find out that as you get older, the drugs get better; way better.”
“The problem, alas,” I explained, “is that to get these good drugs, you have to be in a lot of pain.” I looked her right in the eye and finished by saying, “trust me, I would much rather be clean, dry, sober, AND pain free, than be this buzzed.” OK, so I lied. By the time she figures it out, she will be old enough to decide for herself.
Percocet is a class of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin which are all synthetic opiates. They will mess you up and at times, they live up to their reputation; at least with me. I don’t know how people can possibly function while on these drugs. I could barely focus on the sentence coming out of my mouth.
One of the days I was enjoying the Percocet and suffering from pain, I had a trial scheduled to start. I had hoped the tooth issue would be resolved by that morning but alas, I had to beg the judge for a medical adjournment. It was not a problem. Floating around a courtroom and being openly stoned and telling the judge you are stoned was real cool. Yeah, I heard a few jokes and promised to come back sober next time. The highlight was when the court reporter said he liked it when I was stoned. Everybody started laughing. You will too when you figure it out.
The side effects were miserable. I itched and scratched until I bled. I dropped and broke three glasses in one night. Some scabs still remain.
Last night was the first night in nearly a month that I sat down at a meal and ate without concentrating on how I chewed or how much pain I could take before I gave up trying. Though I lost seven pounds from all of this, I have but a couple more days for the wound in my mouth to heal and then I get to live out my fantasy ... that which I have dreamt for weeks … a slice of thin crust piece of Italian pizza and a Burger King Whopper. If I see another bowl of soup, bowl of applesauce, or bowl of oatmeal, ……..