Tuesday, August 22, 2006


WARNING: Description of dental agony to follow. Stop reading now if you are either bit squeamish.

Well, anyone who doesn't live in Taiwan may be unaware that I've been having root canal therapy for the past little while. One of my lower right molars acted up a couple of weeks ago when I was having supper (chew, crunch, PAIN), so I went to the dentist.

[ASIDE]I'd been to two different dentists in Taiwan previously and had unpleasant experiences with them, but my friends Jamey and Christy recommended a clinic called Hotshots. They're quite nice and competent and speak fluent English.[END OF ASIDE]

The dentist (a lovely lady named Yung Chen) informed me that the filling in the tooth (a large filling, at that) had fractured, damaging one of the nerves. As such, I would need root canal therapy.

Needless to say, I was thrilled.

Thankfully, she's not Steve Martin, but sadly, neither am I Bill Murray.

From Wikipedia: "For patients, root canal therapy is one of the most feared procedures in all of dentistry; dental professionals assert that modern root canal treatment is relatively painless because the pain can be controlled."

Well, I'm going to go ahead and call bullshit on that one.
(Copy and paste if it doesn't work, blogger can't do the link right.)

1st visit: August 4th (or thereabouts), a Friday.
She x-rays, cleans and diagnoses. I cry out several times as she touches various nerves (there are three in the tooth). She puts a little cotton ball in my tooth which will "kill" the nerves. It will take a week for the nerves to "die."

2nd visit: August 11th, a Friday.
She gives me a shot and begins to remove crap from my tooth. I scream. She stops, puzzled. "This has never happened before. That thing I put in always kills the nerve. This is the first time this has happened. Your nerves are very strong."
Well, good for me.
She shoots me up five more times. Ineffectual.
"I will have to inject the anaesthetic directly into your nerve. It will hurt you very much." [Italics mine.]
Jolly good. I scream and writhe for fifteen seconds (which doesn't sound like long when you say it...) and then the pain stops like a door slamming shut. I go limp in the chair and barely notice the rest of the appointment.
The dentist assures me that the worst is over. She puts another cotton ball in to finish killing the nerves.

3rd visit: August 19th, last Saturday
She gives me a shot and begins to clean the third and final nerve. I react negatively to this.
She is puzzled. Yet again.
She gives me several more shots. THEN she asks, "Do you drink wine?"
I respond, dread snaking into my belly, "No, but I drink beer. And rum."
"Oh," says she. "If you drink alcohol, it may negate the anaesthetic. I should have told you that before."
I seize her drill and plunge it into her eye.
"Did you drink wine last night?"
"Yes." There is no point in belabouring the difference.
"A lot?"
"You get drunk?"
"Last night I did."
"Oh, dear."
I strangle her with the draining tube.
She gives me several more shots. I forbid her to inject anything into any nerve. We agree that if it hurts, we will reschedule.
Some deity is pleased with my earthly endeavours, and I feel no pain.
The dentist assures me that all the nerves have been removed from my tooth, rendering me physically incapable of feeling pain.
I am enraptured.

4th visit: August 22nd, a Tuesday, today
"Today we will clean the root canals a final time and insert these little cement spikes into each one, filling and strengthening the tooth."
"So," I say, feeling any trace of manliness slinking off into a corner of my psyche to die a lonely and pitiful death. "No more pain?"
"No more pain."
And there is none.
At first.
So she cleans and drills and scrapes, and all is well, and she puts in the first little cement spike, and the second little cement spike, and the third littleJESUS-TITTY-FUCKING-CHRIST-ON-A-POGOSTICK.
Well, the nerve from the tooth was gone, but (whodathunkit?) the gum still has nerves, and the third canal was deep. Deep enough to touch the inner surface of the gum, right at the root of the tooth.
Can somebody please explain to me what good it does us to have nerves in the middle of our heads, that can only feel anything if you dig down two inches from the outside? Please?
She proceeds. She compacts the first canal, and the second canal and the third[insert howl].
"Do you want me to numb your gum?"
I almost scream at her. I almost say, "FUCK! YES!"
I nod. She gives me the shot. She finishes, and I feel no pain.

This is in no way meant to make Dr. Chen out to be incompetent or stupid. She is a very good dentist, and I am immensely grateful to her for helping repair my tooth. It is just that certain things are different here. Anaesthetic is not commonly applied unless in dire circumstances. The doctor was unaware that I am an alcoholic. Etc.

My fifth visit will be next Thursday, the 31st. She will install the post (2500nt=$85) and temporary crown (500nt=$17). Oh, but first, she has to remove some gum tissue and bone to make sure the crown will fit. About 2mm worth.
She says this will not hurt. Removing gum and bone will not hurt. She says she will numb my gum. Do I even need to say it?

Then we must wait two weeks for the soft tissue to heal, and my sixth (and ostensibly final) appointment will be on September 14th, a Thursday, when I will pay around 12000nt ($410) for my permanent crown.

The lesson, children: Take good care of your teeth. Or you'll end up yar fucked.

Thank you for reading my whine. I will go away for a little while now.
Then I will tell you more about the magical land of South Africa, where my tooth didn't hurt, and the world was bright and beautiful and good.

Adam out


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