Thursday, February 18, 2010


Why does a real bad toothache always happen the day before a three-day holiday?

Even if you have your own dentist, you know, like stored away in your back closet, chances are you won't be able to get an emergency appointment before the next week. Probably a good reason why dentists want you to come in on a scheduled, regular basis to make sure such emergencies don't happen. That's nice from their point of view, but there's usually absolutely nothing except one hell of a toothache to get you to start thinking about going to the dentist. At least that's the way it is in my house. Yeah, I know. I had a couple of teeth that needed some work, but just kept putting it off since they weren't bothering me. Problem was, this tooth was capped and didn't indicate any problems.

Then this last Thursday evening rolls around and I happened to notice a dull throbbing when I was eating some ice cream. By Friday morning I had already been into my wife's aspirin a couple of times during the night. I rarely ever take aspirin since I hardly, if ever, get a headache. I was looking in the Eureka telephone directory under dentists and found a couple that take new patients, even one that said “Emergencies” were welcome. So, by the time these different dentist's offices opened 8:00 and 9:00 that morning, we were calling. New patients? That was a joke. Emergencies? That was even a bigger joke. One of my wife's workmates told her about the clinic at the Burre Center. She called and they said come in as soon as possible and we'll do what we have to do to get you through the weekend or until we can fully take care of the problem. That was welcome news, because by now, I'd had three or four sessions where I totally lost the left side and top of my head. I've had toothaches before, but NEVER anything like that.

So, the wife came home from work and we went to see the dentist. Thank God for the Burre Dental Health Center. The greatest amount of time was spent doing the paperwork. After that it wasn't very long and they called my name. I was introduced to a stall and the nurse took some more information, a couple of xrays of the tooth and it wasn't long a young women who said she was an “intern” showed up to examine my mouth, showed me the xrays and proceeded to tell me the decay had come down from under the steel cap on that tooth and had gotten into the root. She said, since there wasn't anything to get a hold of and that there was a very real possibility that the roots would break off in the gums she was referring me on to an oral surgeon. She suggested that since there was only one in Eureka that I probably should go right over to set up an appointment. That was just great! So, what about the pain if they couldn't do anything or I couldn't get in or had to wait until the next week? She said that I could take Ibuprofen for the pain and gave me a prescription for a stronger than over-the-counter dose. When I asked her what I was supposed to do when the pain became or escalated to the point where aspirin didn't work, she said I could call the clinic and the dentist might be able to give me a prescription. Well, that was a relief! The last tooth I had that acted up the pain had progressively intensified as time passed. I was worried.

So, we went to the oral surgeon's office and talked to a very nice, but more importantly, very helpful person. The doctor wasn't in the office, but they could work me in on the next Tuesday afternoon, if I was willing to wait to be fit in. You know, I jumped at that! Now that I was taken care of, I got my Ibuprofen and Tylenol and went home to tough it out. Later that afternoon I received a call asking me if I could come in in the morning, they had a cancellation. Does God look after the little people or what? However, and I do mean HOWEVER, by Sunday evening my toothache was down to just a throb and I stopped taking anything for the pain. Supper time caused a bit of a resurgence so a big Ibuprofen, but most all Monday and even Tuesday morning I only took two Tylenol, just to make sure. I don't know what happened. I could bite down on the tooth (gingerly) and my head wouldn't come off.

So, since I didn't have a chauffeur, I drove myself over to begin the battle. By the time I got all the paperwork done there, I was promptly called back and seated. Everything seemed to be ready for me, it wasn't long and the doctor came in, introduced himself, made sure of the tooth – and began. I'm not sure if the doctor was just really good at what he does or the whole tooth problem was misdiagnosed. The doctor used the same xrays taken at the clinic. I don't know if it was positive thoughts or the little prayer, but “The Tooth” came out relatively pain free – not easy from my point of view, but it came out without any muss or fuss all in one piece just the same. The doctor showed me the decay in the root and said that was what was causing the pain. I was given some gauze and written instructions and promptly shown to the door OUT -- DISMISSED.
Well, today is Wednesday, the bleedings stopped, but the empty hole in my jaw still thinks the hurting tooth is still there. It hurts just like before. Not quite as bad, my head still stays on, but enough to hit the pain med's. So, what did I learn in all of this?

I learned to suck it up and get a dentist to look at the rest of my poor teeth. Maybe I'll be able to keep the rest. That's really no guarantee of anything, though. I had a doctor I'd been seeing on a regular basis for hypertension and he was taking all the tests he said he needed and I still had a serious heart attack.

Something else that this episode made me aware of is the practical issues surrounding the Health Insurance debate that are ignored – the needs of the patient come first. Why is it that the patient answers to the beck and call of the doctor? If it wasn't for the health centers that take walk-ins, the only other alternative is the hospital emergency. Those people deserve all the community support they can get. At least they're there for the people, most of the time. Before Friday we didn't even know such places existed with dentist. Doctors need to be available for the needs of the patient when the need arises even if it is on a holiday, a Saturday or a Sunday. This idea that the American Way of all the health care providers presuming the right to make money off the sick, and injured is stupid and obscene. If you don't have health insurance and don't own a couple of properties free and clear to back that up, you are really looking whatever care you're lucky enough to get. The first question asked is, “Do you have any insurance”? In fact, the only way to really guarantee decent health care for everyone is to take the money out of the equation. Medicare for all, single-payer answers all these needs. It's time to level the playing field.

[UPDATE :: Wednesday, March 3, 2010]

Why is it that getting sick always follows getting a tooth extraction? Too bad the antibiotics didn't fend off the flu bug. One benefit to getting sick is lots of soup and bed time rest. Do you think my body is trying to tell me something?