My trip to the endodontist was early (9:30 AM) and unexpectedly fast (in and out in under 30 minutes) on Tuesday (the 23rd). I’d barely made it into the difficult to get to office (built into the side of a hill, with a long and winding walkway for someone using a walker, and up two flight of stairs) and checked in with the receptionist before the nurse was calling my name. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, because my only memory of this office was of the last (disastrous) root canal I’d had. So getting in quickly without dwelling on that was a relief, as was the fact that the doctor I saw on this morning was not the same one I’d had last September. I’d been trying real hard not to imagine what it was going to be like to see Dr. Shapiro again (the doctor of my ’09 root canal) when my mouth no longer displayed his handiwork!
The fact that I’d been squeezed in because I’d been referred by the oral surgeon’s office yesterday was working in my favor though, as was the God of circumstances, and I’d never before met the older doctor I got in to see. Dr. Rosenfeld was very polite and quickly got to work. What was my problem, and what did I need him to do? I had come to the decision the day before that too much truth is often a detriment (discretion is the better part of valor), and he really didn’t need to know much more than that I had a tooth that we (Dr. Lane, Dr. Stewart, and myself) needed to discover the facts about. Was tooth number 5 dying? Another digital X-ray later (because the oral surgeon’s office had neglected to send over theirs) and we were in business. Dr. Rosenfeld looked it over and didn’t see anything either, though he had another method to try. Lighting this little burning wick of a thing (which reminded me, rather uncomfortably, of witch doctors and medieval medicine), he proceeded to explain what he could do. Using the left side of my mouth as an example, he ‘heat tested’ a tooth there so I could feel what this test should feel like on a tooth without pain. It hurt for a moment and then it went back to normal. After that he proceeded to test the other teeth on the upper right side, starting with tooth 6 and then moving backwards. Tooth 6 was fine and, surprisingly, tooth 5 was only slightly reactive. The burning sensation wasn’t exactly pleasant, but it was short-lived, and it wasn’t until he touched tooth 4 that I felt a real reaction. And then, yes, I realized that there was a problem, though it wasn’t on a tooth that any of us had previously considered.
Tooth 4? Well, wasn’t that interesting! It is obviously right next to the bothersome extraction site of tooth 3, so the pain there could have been the combined pain of a healing hole and a dying tooth. And it would also explain why I could never pinpoint the exact spot in my mouth that hurt besides the area around the extraction site itself (because it was right ‘beside’ the extraction site itself?). Glad that the test was nearly over, Dr. Rosenfeld did me one more favor by suggesting we test tooth 2 as well, which had been the first tooth we’d been worried about ever since I’d returned home in mid-October. That also tested fine, which relieved my mind of any worries that that tooth currently was, or might have previously been, part of the problem.
Is it too strong a reaction to say that I was actually thrilled to have found the source of my pain? How ironic that it came in the same office that had caused so many problems for me last year. It meant I still had a decision to make though, and Dr. Rosenfeld was quick to point out that he’d be happy to make arrangements for doing a root canal to ‘save’ the tooth. Shaking my head rather strongly, I declined his kind offer and said that no, I was going to have the tooth extracted. And yes, he did ask why, as he was curiously looking over my ’09 X-rays, which obviously showed an unmistakeable change. “Where did all the root canals go?” he asked, a question I answered rather politely myself: “I had them all pulled out.”
That got his attention. “You’d rather have a tooth pulled than get a root canal?” he asked, and when I said yes (with no elaboration), he shook his head this time and said “I get the feeling you don’t like my profession very much!” Trying my best not to offend (unusual for me, I know), I said that he’d been very helpful, but my mind had been made up long before I’d arrived here this morning. With no reference to ‘total dental revisions’ or ‘Dr. Hal Huggins’, I was able to flee the scene of the crime with nothing more than the knowledge I’d long been seeking: The number of the tooth that had been the real culprit for weeks on end.
I returned home to call the oral surgon’s office to make an appointment to extract tooth number 4. With the holiday Thursday, the soonest I could get in was next Monday the 29th, at 3:15 PM. Until then I get to spend another week with my newest family member and my recent closest friend (pain being the former and Motrin being the latter), but that also means I’ll be able to eat a real Thanksgiving meal.
Because, oddly enough, after what’s happened on this day, I’ve been supplied with yet another reason to be truly thankful.