Long in the tooth…

My health spiral can be tracked back to the wisdom tooth I had extracted on the 2nd of November this year. I knew it had the potential to throw things even more out of wack than what they were, but I was fast running out of options.

I had been having a debate with my dentist over the few weeks prior about whether or not he thought he should remove my badly impacted tooth. In one of our meetings, he informed me that the wonderful ALP had cancelled all health plans for chronically ill patients – to build one (yep just one) dental college. That’s great, the college will be put to great use considering none of us (chronically ill or not) can afford dental care in Australia. There were a study recently where they revealed that middle and lower class families had declining dental health – well dah! $120 for a check up, add another $100 for each filling… yeah cause I keep that kind of money laying around. Anyway – on the dental plan I only had to pay the gap for dental procedures, my dentist was so understanding of my predicament that he organised it so there was no out of pocket cost to me for the fillings and check ups I’d had up to that point – I swear some people in this world deserve medals and trophies and big cheques for the things they do for other people. My dental plan would expire at the end of 2011 and would not be renewed – and there was no way we could afford the $3,500 required to get my teeth surgically removed. So I had prepared myself to get my two wisdom teeth out in the chair – despite the fact the idea scared the hell out of me. He looked at me, looked at my blood tests and looked at the x-ray and started to make excuses. Oh hell no! I had been suffering from a persistent headache for about 4 weeks prior to this check up and it was either my medication or my tooth. I needed to get my tooth out before I could rule it out as the cause. He had a closer look at the problem, impacted tooth. He pushed it and realised that it was badly infected and full of puss. He knew if he didn’t do it, it wasn’t going to get done… I left pretty upset with him telling me he’d talk to my specialist and think about it. I got a call from him that night, he said it was on the borderline (it probably should be taken out in surgery) but given my current predicament, he would do it. He couldn’t however, get away with doing it for free – it was still going to cost $250. Okay – that’s okay $250 I could do.

I got a nice long list of things I needed to start taking before the extraction – on the list was two courses of antibiotics (Amoxicillin forte) a pain killer called Zydol (in the Tramadol family) and two other drugs too keep my bowel working right while this was all happening. Add $96 to my dental experience.

My tooth was meant to come out on the 1st of November (Melbourne Cup Day here in Australia). It worked out well because there was a bonding activity I didn’t feel or look well enough to attend – and everyone at work was getting really pushy about it. I think, when you are sick, you should be able to say “hey, I really don’t feel like going out to look at food I can’t eat and watch everyone get drunk while I feel like Attila the Hun – sorry” without being baraded and made to feel like a criminal. Even with my dental appointment looming, I was still made to feel like I was “letting the team down”. Why? Cause you can’t drink that bottle of sparkling alone? I have been there nearly 9 years – I haven’t changed… and I have never asked to just have some personal time due to my illness until now… and I get made to feel like a toad. This is one of my biggest gripes with my workplace at the moment. I wish they would take 4 minutes to stop and think about my situation. Anyway – due to the complex nature of the extraction he needed to set an hour and a half which he only had free on the 2nd… I rescheduled. Due to the large amount of antibiotics I was about to take, I needed to go get a heap of pathology done before that started – so I needed to take the 1st off to do that anyway. The people at work treated me like I was uber lucky getting the whole day off… well a) I had to take a sick day and they just got the time off and b) I sat in Gold Coast hospital for a major percentage of the day… yes I even watched the race on a little wheel out telly they brought in for the people waiting on pathology – so, top day. Fuck – get off my case!

The day came and I had a Valium about an hour before we left… somewhere along the line within the last year, I made a decision that I was going to stop making procedures harder for myself. If I was able to take relaxants before procedures – I was going to take them. I think there comes a point in your life that you decide to take it a bit easier on yourself and stop being such a hard arse. I was given a sample pack from my doctor (so that’s one thing I didn’t have to pay for – which I thank him for eternally). I had only ever taken one before – and these were stronger. I also took two Panadol and two Nurofen and off we went. I was still a little stressed, but I didn’t really care about what was going to happen – and that’s all I was looking for.

I got into the chair and this little blond girl asked if I minded if she watched. At that stage – I didn’t care if he had a room full of people there. He came in, shot me up with local (which hurt like a bitch) and flitted out again while it started to work and he finished off another patient. I found out in that time the girl was a first year dental student on something akin to work experience – she was observing. I was her first wisdom tooth extraction…. oh boy.

The dentist came back, cracked a joke then started. As soon as he opened up my gum I heard him say “uh-oh” under his breath. My eyesight (and pretty much most of the rest of me) might be shot – but my hearing is outstanding. With both of his hands in my mouth I managed to mumble “what ‘uh-oh'”. He replied “you know how I told you your tooth was borderline – its a lot worse than the x-ray showed”. The Valium was still working like a charm – I managed to retort “too late for “uh-oh” sunshine, I’m here, I’m open – get it out of me”. And so he did. While cutting through my jaw to get the tooth out, I heard running followed by vomiting…. I made the blond girl sick…. it made me feel strangely accomplished and sorry for her all at the same time. All in all – the sounds were a bit nasty and there was one point that I was in a little bit of discomfort – but it was no way as bad as I had worked out in my head – and apparently it was quite a nasty extraction. The dentist ran out of time and was only able to get the bottom, impacted tooth out – but said the top one may be able to stay. We will wait and see. He also warned me to stay on my antiobotics and my pain killers. According to him – pain is directly proportionate to the amount of bone they cut/grind out… and he took out a decent amount. I’d do it again in the chair. We saved $3k and I didn’t have to be put under a general – so win/win.

He was right about the pain thing – woke up on the third morning (coincidentally the same morning he said it would happen) an it felt like a bomb had gone off in my mouth. To add insult to injury, my body isn’t that tolerant to Tramadol. I started to spin out and become nauseous. So I had to stick to panadol and nurofen (I shouldn’t be taking the nurofen either – I know, but in these situations….).

My mouth is totally healed now – apart from really bad sensitivity along my bottom right teeth – all of them. I’m okay with that though. The infection is gone and before I had to restart the Entocort, I was headache free for almost 6 weeks. So it seems that my tooth was a contributing factor to those headaches.

It’s just one more thing I can add to the list of “things I told myself I’d never do”. Not many things left on the list now… It kinda makes me feel tough – like I can deal with anything the doctors can throw at me now and in my situation, thats a good feeling.

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