Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why do we Make Medical Procedures Scary? Or, I had a Root Canal Today

After a night of excruciating pain, I called my dentist and they were able to get me in (for which I am very fortunate). A few months ago, I had had a similar pain in my front tooth, and it was caused by clenching and grinding. The tooth was slightly longer than the other, so it hit on my bottom teeth first and with more force, causing the ligaments attached to the tooth to become inflamed. I figured I had the same problem again, and thought "this will be a quick fix; he'll just drill down the tooth a little more again."

After x-rays, however, my hygienist (who has the most ridiculously long lashes but I'm too shy to ask if they're real or extensions) showed me on the film that I had an abscess. My mom used to get them when I was a kid, and I knew they were painful and dangerous if left untreated. Then I was told my two options: pull the tooth or root canal. Both options put me in a panic. I live in fear of having "Mainer teeth," meaning not all of them, and obvious gaps. I could not have a missing front tooth. I know, it sounds terribly classist to say, but image is important to me. The other option was root canal, which I had only ever heard horror stories about. I opted for the root canal. I knew what to expect from past research (WebMD is only a click away!) so the little informative video my hygienist showed me was nothing new.

I got a shot of Novocaine and then two shots of something stronger. I was so tense it was visible and my dentist had to tell me to relax. Now, it wasn't a painful procedure, by any means, since I was numbed up, but it was still very uncomfortable. Apparently, my tooth  was badly infected, as they needed to use surgical suction, which felt awful. A root canal, however, removes the nerve, so the tooth itself doesn't hurt. I could do it again, if need be (not by choice!). The relief was almost immediate. I'm still tender and afraid to eat (I'm in the "draining" process. The canals get filled next week) but compared to this time last night, I'm so much better.

We all experience things differently, but we need to talk in a more positive way about medical procedures. Root canals aren't fun, but it wasn't the absolute horror show everyone always makes it out to be. Kind of like having a pap smear, I worked myself into an anxiety over something that was just not that bad. Had I ignored the pain (ha!) the abscess could have gotten much worse, eaten through the bone of my jaw, and even caused sepsis as it seeped into my bloodstream (I actually have another abscess in a wisdom tooth that I need to get pulled because that's what it's doing, draining into my bloodstream). I'm starting to wonder what other "awful" procedures are just not that bad.