Monday, May 30, 2011

fun at the dentist

It started with a little pain in my tooth, but it quickly intensified.  The next morning I knew I had to get into the dentist ASAP.  So, I called some friends here to get recommendations.  My mission is to find whoever can see me the soonest.
I get an appointment with Dr. Patricia, recommended from my friend Ann who has had a cleaning there.  She tells me it's #67 on Canal, I can't miss it.  Sure enough, the 67 on the wall is large, but there is no indication that a dentist is there.  I cautiously go up the stairs and arrive in what appears to be someone's living room.  Lo and behold, a receptionist/ hygenist/ resident? comes out to greet me and tells me it will be a couple of minutes.
Dr. Patricia was nice enough.  She took an xray of my tooth (xrays here are a dime a dozen).  Even though I knew which tooth it was and told her, she insisted on hammering them all with a metal instrument to see which one had the pain.  Then, she did it again.  With all three of my front teeth now throbbing, she told me I need to see another doctor because I had an infection in my gum and I needed an endodoncia (root canal).  The other doctor would not be around until Saturday (it was Wednesday.)  She did tell me that the cost would be 2500 pesos if they could reuse my old crown, 4500 pesos if they needed to make me a new one.  (basically about $200-400).  She also gave me an antibiotic and some pain killers, making the visit well worth my time and 100 pesos.
Not sure if I could wait until Saturday, I find Dr. Herrera, also recommended by Ann.  Her husband Sam had a root canal done by him and was pleased.  Unfortunately, all I could remember was when her son, Redding, had a tooth extracted there with virtually no novacaine.  I hesitatingly make an appointment for the next day, but continue to explore other options as well.  Finally, I get in (same day) to see the adult dentist at the practice where our kids go.  I have really liked their dentist, the office is clean and nice, and I'm thinking this is the way to go.  I cancel Dr. Herrera and go see Dr. Monica.
Dr. Monica also takes an xray and confirms that I need another root canal because I have an infection up in my gum.   She says that she can do it today, but will not have a temporary crown for me until Tuesday. (It's Wednesday still.)  At the moment, the pain was not too intense and I say ok, thinking I can wait until Tuesday instead of spending a week toothless.  (It's my front tooth.)  
That night I couldn't even sleep the pain was so intense.  I got up in the morning and started stalking the dentist to see if I could get in.  She agreed to see me that Friday and made a special trip in from Celaya (about an hour away) to do my root canal.  I arrived promptly at 12 on Friday, trepiditious, but anxious to get this thing taken care of.  I no longer cared whether or not I'd have a tooth for the weekend.

From 12:15 or so until 2:30 I repeatedly thought about all the questions I should have asked before proceeding, all the while she is drilling, jack-hammering, yanking at my old crown.  I became quite fluent at asking for more medicine.   At one point, she reached into what I thought was an antique dentist cabinet there soley for decoration and found another medieval torture device and started  chipping away at who knows what in my mouth.  It's really all a blur by now.  Then, mid-jackhammering, the task lighting went out.  She disappeared for a few minutes and then came back to inform me that we were changing rooms since our light was not working.  So, I got up, helped her carry some tools, (mouth still pryed open with cotton stuck under my lips) and moved to the room across the hall.  The last patient was still there.  I smiled (or tried to at least) and waited for her to vacate the chair.  A few minutes later we were back at it.  Dr. Monica did not speak much english, so she didn't really tell me what was happening as we went.  The questions going through my mind (that I should have asked before we started) were, "have you done this before?", "how long does it take?", "what are the possible outcomes?", "will it hurt?".  These four questions, especially the first one, became a constant loop in my head, at least when I wasn't trying to translate "I have pain", or "I need novacaine" into Spanish.

the cabinet

what are those pointy things on the lazy susan?
After the first hour and a half, she had successfully removed the old crown and the post.  It was a brutal and uncomfortable task, so, trying to lighten the mood a bit I say, "at least the hard part is over."  She replies with a deadpan look on her face, "that was the easy part."  Now I really want to get up and run.  But now, of course, what am I going to do.  I have most of my tooth (and it feels like half my mouth) missing or at least badly chewed up.   I have to ask her what she means by her comment and she explains that now she needs to carefully find the infection and remove/ treat with medicine.  She says something about how she has to be very careful because if she goes too far to either side something will happen.  My Spanish studies have not included dental terms so I was totally lost.  Was I going to lose other teeth if she went to far?  Was it going to hurt really bad if she's not careful?  Could the infection spread if she miss-dug?  My mind was going to all sorts of horrible places while I tried desperately to do some deep breathing relaxation techniques.  Totally worthless.  I tried to focus on the positive - at least the task lighting was working for this part.
Another hour later and she seemed relieved and confident.  She found the infection and treated it, saying, in English, "I saw puss."  ew.  I think I would have preferred that part in Spanish - or maybe they use the same word.    Even better, they had managed to get a temporary cap there at the office for me and insisted that they put it in before I leave.  The other dentist assured me that the pain would subside almost entirely now that the infection had been treated.
By 2:45 I was sitting with Tom eating gorditas at our favorite stand near the kids bus stop.  By 2:50 the temporary cap had fallen out.
So, until Tuesday, I am toothless, but I am also almost totally painless.  The dentist called me later in the evening to make sure I was doing ok.  I didn't even tell her that I lost the cap already.  She was happy to hear that the pain was subsiding.  Otherwise, she then mentioned, I would have had to have oral surgery...

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