07/03/16-Home: My dentist is a very kind man I have discovered over the past month or so and a diligent dentist. He’s worked hard to save a troublesome tooth of mine in frustratingly difficult circumstances.
One Friday evening back in February an aching began in one of my lower chewing teeth, a long-grumbling molar second from the back on the right hand side of my mouth.
Subtly at first, a lone slightly out of tune violin. Nagging yet still bearable. But…as the weekend progressed, it built. The aching became a throbbing and the throbbing became absolute and outright agony.
Layer upon layer of tuneless screeching, a grating symphony, a concerto of pain. (And no, I’m not being melodramatic, it really did bloody well hurt)
It’s the early hours of the Monday morning and I’m about ready to take the pliers from my toolbox and perform an extraction myself.
I wait through these long dragging hours in agony whilst time mockingly marks its sloth like passage on the clock of my mobile phone. 01:47… 02:22…04:01…
I watch in torment as sleepy dawn finally arrives to take over from the night shift, waking up the birds for their morning chorus and lightening the skies.
As I wait for my dentist to open for business I contemplate the possibilities:
Extraction? Root canal? Infection? Chemotherapy on pause?
I juggle these thoughts throwing up first one-losing my tooth, then the next-root canal treatment, then another-infection. Unable to focus long enough to catch any, they tumble down around me in a big jumbled mess, one landing face up.
I’m of an age now where I know an extraction will equal some face-cave.
Any gap in my back teeth and my once bouncy, youthful face will sink into the space left behind, sucked into the void. It happens to older people all the time. Their faces unable to hold their shape without the teeth to scaffold.
I’ll look like a cabbage patch doll!
I know in my heart that extracting this tooth is the most viable option. I can’t afford to mess about with a root canal whilst undergoing chemotherapy. I can’t afford an infection.
I can’t bear the thought though… more loss.
Some losses are easier to see coming. Some losses I have had time to prepare for.
My way is to confront loss as it looms upon my horizon – run out to meet it on my own terms- grieve, say my goodbyes, make my peace before the loss arrives knocking at my front door.
It’s how I survive.
The deaths of my beloved grandmothers, the end of my relationships, losing my breast, my hair even, I saw it coming and readied myself but losing my tooth…I’m totally unprepared for this.
I’m beside myself with the grief of all of the loss.
Exhausted and weepy I secure myself an emergency dental appointment from the bright and breezy Monday morning reception girl. Her kindness at my tears doing little to stem the flow, rather the opposite, drawing ever more from the well of my self pity which I can assure you is running pretty damn deep at this point.
Worn down by pain and driven by fear of infection I arrive at my dentist resigned to losing my tooth.
My dentist however is not about to concede defeat so easily and recognising that I’m in no fit state to make a decision, he removes choice from the table suggesting we hold off on any treatment until my chemotherapy is over.
He performs his dentisty checks, confirming the previously suspected hairline crack had begun to shift and shake, resulting in the chronic pain I’d experienced as the nerve in my tooth was dying.
So I arrive home with my eleventh hour reprieve, mightily relieved, tooth still in situ and armed with antibiotics to deal with the pain.
Good plan. I am in no fit state to deal with dental issues right now.
My tooth however has different ideas and less than a week later as I’m eating my Sunday dinner, I feel a suspicious crunch in my mashed potato.
…and a whole range of additional expletives that I shall not detail here, burst forth from my mouth along with a shard of broken tooth.
I’m in no physical pain.
So again I lay back in the dentist’s chair fingers clenched tightly, trying to focus my attention on a stain on the ceiling through the smudged plastic, health and safety goggles protecting my eyes from heaven knows what.
“Breathe” suggests my dentist and I do. I didn’t realise that I’d stopped.
There’s a strange burning type smell which accompanies the high pitched, intermittent buzzing of my dentist’s current tool of choice.
My cheeks and jaw are aching from the effort of keeping my mouth open though I can feel nothing else as my gums have been loaded up with anaesthetic and are numb.
Again my dentist patches me up with temporary filler and sends me home to await another appointment this time to start the root canal which can no longer be delayed.
Providing my blood counts remain ‘acceptable’ and providing I have my treatments just before my chemotherapies when my immunity is at its strongest- we are good to go!
My appointment arrives a few days before my fifth chemo. My original filling is removed. The canals-three of them are cleared of the dead nerves, flushed and cleaned out before the tooth is filled with anaesthetic packing and a temporary filling. A few days before chemo six my dentist will complete the treatment
A week passes.
It’s a beautiful bright Monday morning and as the steroid buzz is draining from my system and the tiredness of another sleepless night gathers around my eyes, I settle myself into my little doorway nook half outside, half inside.
My book at the ready, coffee and toast on the table by my side- I begin to feel better my spirit lifted by the warmth of this early sunshine and the intensity of conversations between the Blue Tit and the Blackbird, the Gold Finch and the Robin. The gentle but still chilly breeze strokes my cheek, the only real give away to the fact that it’s March and not June.
I pick up a piece of generously buttered, lightly golden toast ever so slightly heartbroken by the fact that I will not be able to taste it’s buttery wonder and tear of a small corner with my teeth.
I move it around my chemo inflamed mouth cautiously, slowly mashing it down to pulp bracing myself for the painful swallow.
I repeat the process several times.
Half way through my second, tasteless slice I feel once again that sickening crunch between my back teeth and I know immediately that it’s not my toast…
…here goes my tooth again!
Spitting out the contents of my mouth into the sink, I rinse first with water before gently brushing around my teeth in order to properly assess the situation.
In the sink are bits of filling, packing and a small piece of my tooth.
I’m in no pain although I feel my emotional reserves begin to buckle and strain under the phenomenally unfair and totally unnecessary additional stress inflicted upon them.
So I call upon my dentist once more and once more he attempts to patch me up, edging me tantalisingly ever closer to the finish line where the glittering prize of keeping my tooth, awaits me.