Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Appointment Number 24, My 2nd Root Canal, My Progression of Eating & For the Love of SPORKS!.

On July 25th I went in for my second root canal. As you may recall, this one was sort of a surprise that snuck up on me over the past few months and made this tooth the most sensitive in my mouth. For about two months the majority of all my chewing has been done on the left side of my mouth, due largely to a heroic effort by my 2nd premolar (and ONLY premolar) on top that worries me regularly that it is going to collapse since it is unsupported on either side. Though often much of the severe pain I once had has largely disappeared, eating is a far cry from easy for me. I still often stick with many softer foods, and make smoothies almost every day as well. Biting and tearing off large pieces of foods like sandwiches, burritos, pizza, etc is virtually impossible if they are not really soft. A few days ago I was starving after not really eating much all day and went to Pita Jungle and ordered a black bean burger and I swear it must have taken me 40 minutes to eat. The roasted garlic potatoes I chopped into smaller pieces with my fork, as I tried to also do with the tomato and raw red onion before placing them back on my burger.
Bites are very small for me and technically only having 2 teeth on the left side of my mouth that meet (not counting my canines which are hard and awkward to chew with out of the corner of one's mouth) if you can do the math for a moment and imagine that most adults either have 32 (or 28 teeth if their wisdom teeth have been removed,) and therefor you probably have 14-15 more little pinching teeth to chop and grind foods apart than I have = I can't help it if I eat slower than you. Furthermore, I should add, that it is a fucking CHORE. Afterward, quite often, depending on what it is, my jaw and just me in general feels totally exhausted, and more often than not, the task of eating for me leaves me bored, frustrated, and is generally unenjoyable. Matters only become more complicated and sensitive when attempting to eat with others, let alone if I try to also spend time talking during the meal that I could be chewing if I am to remotely keep up. (And if you know you you know that like, DAMMIT, talking is one of my favorite things!) A few weeks ago a friend and I went to try out the food of a new chef in town and both ordered the same thing. My disappointing friend grew so impatient of how long it was taking me to finish my food, he left me there alone to proceed to our next destination before me I had thought we were heading to together. Now imagine these feelings, and anxieties at every meal with everyone for nearly a decade. But this isn't a pity party, it me reaching out for just a little bit more understanding than it seems I often get from people, even those who I know care and don't generally want to hurt or upset or be unaccommodating to me on purpose.

I've used this analogy before, but I really want to make it clear and remind people, that eating for me really is like trying to split wood with a screwdriver or a chisel. It can be done, and is in fact performed regularly by me, but it is most certainly slow, tedious and frustrating. If you choose to share a meal with me during these transformational months, please try to be understanding, and do not take your numerous axes and wedges for granted. I am doing the best that I can, and if I often try to rush to keep up with others, it will probably mean that I am going to cough and choke my way through my meal that I have not chewed into small enough pieces, not to mention, that I will barely get to take part in any of the conversation we are having. Thank you.

People lately have seemed fascinated and confused by why on earth I more often than not have a titanium spork clipped to my hip. I purchased it from REI before leaving for my bike tour mostly with the intention of packing light and only needing one utensil for camping, but over time on that trip and since it has become a special tool to me that has often taken the place of my missing front teeth. Whereas spoons are hard to chop things with, and the sides of forks somewhat work, the tip of my spork sort of has the best of both worlds and I often do in fact use it to chop foods as I would bite them if I could. I don't care about all the weird looks I get or the mild, mocking amusement. I love my spork, and it has become a piece of my story as much as anything else.

So, back to my root canal.
This time it was to be on my first molar, the only one we determined was worth saving, #3. I would learn quickly that maxillary molars are a ridiculously elaborate process to perform a root canal on because unlike my previous one on tooth #7, this tooth had 3 canals to fill. Although this day did take longer than many other appointments, not to mention it is a two appointment procedure, it ultimately wasn't too horrible overall.
Today I got to meet another student, Payam, who would be assisting Rakhee in the Endo section of the school, and some of the most isolated chairs. Normally, in most of my appointments, I have been seated alongside 4-8 others sometimes in large open rooms that remind me of tattoo studios. At thsi point, and with how comfortable I am and how many people know me, I almost feel a little claustrophobic when in Endo in all honesty.
First things first, it was time for my first annoying rubber dam(n) in several visits. This one however, would prove a little problematic due to the fact that my tooth that the clamp fits on had already been prepped for a crown and had very little surface to clamp on to. Though annoying, I still could not help but snicker when even the Dr. who came to Rakhee's aid's first attempt went shooting out of my mouth across the room a few seconds later.

Something you didn't know--I actually bought my own safety glasses I wear to my appointments now. Some of the ones at the school are more scratched than others and if I can't talk half the time I am at least determined to be able to SEE! :-)
 We did however get the clamp suitably fashioned on shortly after and I proceeded through one of my least favorite parts of ALL my dentist appointments, the part where I mostly am forced to shut up! Haha. I also volunteered to use a bite block which is also not on my top ten list of fun things dentists can put in your mouth either, but it could be far worse. I am still slowly working on a top 10 list of my biggest pet peaves/most annoying tools/procedures or things that I've had to endure at the dentist, one of which, was coming up very soon.
So in case you have never had a root canal and need one, let's see if I can describe how it feels in a concise manner as best as I understand it/have experienced it. Basically you have an infection at the root of your tooth that over time can kill the pulp, the nerve and begin attacking even the supporting bone around the roots. To stop this, the dentist first creates an access point in the crown of the tooth with a round burr on their powered rotary tool I still don't know the name of, then uses a series of small hand files to remove all the necrotic pulp. It is a slow and arduous process so as not to fracture the wall of the tooth while using an ever-increasing series of longer and wider files, remeasuring the depth and taking X-rays. I forgot this time, but had wanted to count every single time a drill or anything else was stuck in my tooth throughout the duration of my appointment, because I swear it has to be nearly a hundred! It certainly seems like it. Here is a slightly blurry shot of 3 files of different depths in all 3 canals of my tooth before the X-ray to determine if the final depth was reached:
What, I had to go to the bathroom!

I thik it was around this time that my FAVORITE part came, when they use Sodium Hypochlorite, AKA bleach to irrigate and clean any remaining bacteria out of the tooth canals, which my crazy Indiana Jones tongue always seems to want to explore, and manage to taste lots of things I am not supposed to taste. Let me tell you, I cannot imagine being a child raiding an unprotected cabinet under the sink and downing a bottle of bleach. Even with the very small dilution of this solution, it is by far one of the grossest things I have ever tasted, even if only probably a drop. Gross, gross, GROSS! Here are some more pictures from the remainder of the day:

One of the rare times I would ever support using the phrase "Drill, baby, drill!"

If only I got a picture of the size of the drill INSIDE my tooth right now.

After this, they fill the canal with calcium hydroxide to help fight the remaining infection I guess and seal the tooth back up again with a small cotton pellet and a temporary material called Cavit. If you want the even longer and more detailed version of all of this that will probably make even less sense, feel free to try and translate Rakhee's notes from a picture I took at the next appointment :-)
 Frankly, it is pretty awesome and empowering that I actually understand virtually all of them, including the abbreviations. More on this when I write about the follow up root canal appointment a week later. One thing I forgot though--if accidentally tasting bleach is on the terrible end of the spectrum as far as taste sensations can go, I must add, that upon first drilling into bottom of the canals of my tooth, the smell I guess of the infection and/or rotting pulp and nerves is by far one of the most terrible things I have ever smelled. To know that that came out of the body of a LIVING person, let alone MY MOUTH seems absolutely impossible and downright disgusting. It feels really great to know that after all these years, for how "rotten" and old and morbid looking into the mirror has made me feel that somewhere inside my mouth, the deepest, darkest, most unhealthy and unsettling parts of me are finally almost all removed. If it takes bleach to do truly disinfect the most infested underworld of my spirit, so be it. It is time once and for all, to rid my body of this emotional menace, and to heal. It feels so, so very good to begin to finally start to feel "clean."

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