Drifting #31

A loss is hard at any time, but at sixty three, I never thought about your dying. If I had planned for it, I might have suggested we indulge more (or I save more)! More hot fudge sundaes, more licorice snaps while watching the sun set on the lake with you. But now, here I am looking over the chart: periapical absess. How was I to know that I would find myself in such pain, only to lose you? How many more of you will leave me before I leave you? (If you know anything about dentistry, this will make sense!)

Last summer can be summed up as painful, short and simple. When I awoke at 2 a.m. it felt as though the side of my face had gotten hit by a grenade. “I need to go to the emergency room!” I cried. Dollar bills floating in front of his irises, my husband calmed me down and suggested Tylenol first and then, if needed, the emergency room. Amazingly, Tylenol worked and I fell back to sleep. But pain medications wear off, and early the next morning, there was no doubt I needed to see a doctor.

Stop one: a small medical clinic on the main street of my small home town. The doctor there examined my ears, throat, and nose and finding nothing, suggested a shot of antibiotics to knock this mystery pain out. “Where will I get the shot?” I asked. “Right here!” he pantomined creepily, pointing to his own buttocks. “No, thanks. I need to get out of here,” I said, shaking my head as if to say “Really? This is the best you can do?” He quickly wrote me three prescriptions, none of which I filled, throwing them in the trash on my way out. A fifty dollar pit stop.

Stop two: my sister’s dentist on a main thoroughfare to the lake. These people were glorious! After paying outright for an x-ray and an examination, the doctor was kind enough to admit. “I just don’t see anything. That’s not to say that there’s nothing wrong–I just can’t find a crack, decay, or anything. However, sometimes when a tooth is dying, you will get pain like that. But that is something for an endodontist to check. I DO highly recommend a mouth guard though, because you are obviously clenching and that will continue to cause problems for your teeth.” Eight hundred dollars later, I retrieved a mouth guard and have been wearing every night since then.

Stop three: my own dentist’s office back in Texas. My own highly specialized crew cannot find anything either. Pay the bill and go see the endodontist.

Stop four: Endodontist suggests more x-rays. I ask why I need more x-rays when the ones from my sister’s dentist in Michigan have been forwarded as have the ones from my own dentist. “If you look closely at these two x-rays side by side that you had sent, you will see that neither one covers the area I need to see: the roots. I will need to take one 3-D x-ray and one standard x-ray and will be able to see what is going on here.” Well, sure enough, a disruption and infection showed very clearly at the very bottom of the tooth root….You know what this means: a root canal! Root canals in our neck of the woods run $1200 minimum. If you add a 3D x-ray, we’re talking $1400. Plus the prescription that you will need to ensure the infection goes away.

I think back to the time I met a German working at IBM who had all his teeth pulled out many years earlier. Somehow he got on that topic and said it was so much cheaper to just pull them all out than go through years of upkeep trying to save them at the dentist’s. At the time, I thought he must be missing some marbles. But here lately, I’m beginning to wonder….

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