.. would be a good way to describe my teeth. I have a beautiful smile (if I say so myself!) and unlike my weight and my hair you will never hear me complain about it.Perfectly shaped teeth, even, white and pearly. And a nice enough smile to go with it. (GRAPHIC DETAILS. NOT A POST FOR THE FAINT HEARTED)
But open my mouth and there’s a horror story going on in there. Three root canals and sundry fillings.
Years ago I was on the train alone and met a young dentist. Being the only passengers we chatted and laughed for the three hour journey and he kept complimenting my smile. Told me that my teeth were the kind that they were shown in dental college as a perfect set of teeth. He then as a joke, took out his visiting card and made me a certificate – This is to certify that MM has the most perfect set of teeth and a beautiful smile to go with it.
I now wonder if the idea was to exchange numbers and stay in touch. But I was too raw to understand flirtation and it passed. I forgot about him but I carried the visiting card for years. It was the first time anyone told me that something about me was perfect. Other than my doting grandmother who thought even my snub nose was perfect.
Anyway – the point is, I’ve always had dental issues. I don’t know why. From the age of 12 I’ve had root canal treatment and its reached a stage where a root canal is a matter of course and I take no medication during or after. Never have. It set the stage for my pain tolerance and even after having my stomach sawed open for the cesareans, I took no medication after. Cee and I often discuss my disregard for pain medication and I really do feel the need for pain to feel alive and kicking.
So when I went to the dentist for a routine check up and a slight pain that I made the OA peer into my mouth and find the cause of, I knew it was a wisdom tooth that was stuck. Horizontally impacted. Come back next week and I’ll do surgery on it, said the dentist, someone I’ve known for years. An interesting young doctor who sings old Hindi film songs beautifully while working on your teeth and puts on your favourite music if he has it.
We went yesterday, all sure that it would be a quick painless procedure. Anesthesia you know!
But little did I know what a nightmare it would be. What was meant to be a quick one hour process dragged on for more than three hours. Hell I’d delivered a baby in 45 minutes.
It started off well enough since the dentist is used to me on his chair. We crack jokes, I make rude comments even while he has syringes inside my mouth and what I cant say, I make gestures about. His assistant finds me rather amusing.
So there we were, the OA and I, and he started. I’m not sure when the panic struck but it might have been when the anesthesia wore off at the end of the hour. My tooth had grown into my jaw bone and they were busy sawing the bone around the tooth. Each time he put the bone cutter in, blood would come spraying out across my face and his and that was traumatic enough. At some point he pulled out a broken bit of tooth to show me what a perfect tooth it was. I almost shed a tear. The irony. A perfectly shaped tooth being yanked out.
And so they kept at it. Sawing, injecting, poking, wrenching. And then they got to the part where the bone met the tooth and from there onwards it went downhill. The tooth refused to come out and they began to saw at the bone around the tooth, with renewed vigour. The combination of the drill shrieking in my ear, the vibration of it, the agony of the bone being cut.. and the anesthesia wearing off had be bucking in the chair and crying. The OA sat under the dentist’s tray and held my hand. At some point my feet were freezing and my legs began to tremble with the effort of just staying there. A broken piece of tooth went flying back down my throat and I swallowed it, choked and almost threw up all over his immaculate clinic.
The OA reached out and began to warm my feet. I think it’s moments like these when you realise the worth of the man you hitched your wagon to. I kicked out at him in frustration and rage (I don’t remember this, the dentist told me). But he sat there, his face the picture of anxiety and at some point I screamed, pushed away the dentist and tried to make a getaway. The OA just held on to my feet and begged me to stay. My hair standing up, my face splattered with my blood and my soft biotique kajal spread across my tear stained cheeks, I must have looked a sight, but my husband looked at me with more love in his gentle brown eyes than I’ve ever seen – more than our wedding, more than when I produced two beautiful children for him.
Five years ago when I was expecting the Brat, the OA was a heartless bast …. errr.. brash young man who couldn’t deal with his 25 year old pregnant wife and her needs. He’d often snap at me but most often was just indifferent to my condition and needs.
Two children and two surgeries, a bum knee and a tired back later, the man sits at my feet with the utmost humility with no thought to what it looks like to the dentist and his assistant, whispers soothing words and rubs my hands and feet in an attempt to warm them.
It’s romantic to see the usual brash, strong, man of few words in films. But in real life, there’s nothing like a man whose eyes shine with unshed tears as he watches his wife in agony. He’s watched my cesareans and dealt with those – but last night he hugged me and said… ‘It was really bad babe… Really bad…”
The doctor was sweating, his face covered in blood and finally he gave me a break the second time I pushed his hands away and tried to escape from the chair. Giving me some time to calm down, he went out for a smoke. The OA came close, hugged me, whispered words that calmed me and made me feel so ashamed of myself. For the scene I was creating, for the pushing him away, for the crying.
As with all surgery, I think what gets to you is the helplessness of your condition. You lie there under somebody’s hands and hope they’re doing the best they can.
The doctor came back and the agony resumed. I cried. Unashamedly. Like a baby. From soft, soundless sobbing to guttural, animal sounds. The dentist went on, cutting, wrenching. At times standing up and yanking at my tooth like you see in cartoons. Except its not so funny when its real life and happening inside your mouth. After three hours of nonstop hammering, chiseling and sawing I could take it no more. In the most pathetic way I put my hands together in wordless prayer and begged him. Being an old friend he couldnt even take my pain anymore and gave up. And sewed up my jaw with a few jagged, stubborn pieces still left inside. I hope they dont cause any problems later.
The assistant explained it to me. Apparently 80% of people go through this (as you can see from the comments on my last post). Evolution is to blame. Earlier food was tougher and harder to chew, and that gave the jaw the much needed exercise and helped it grow. But our foods get softer and easier to chew these days (when was the last time you ate sugarcane?) and the jaw doesn’t get its exercise. Like the tail we lost, we need to lose the last 4 teeth but instead the jaw gets smaller and the teeth stay the same in number, 32. It made a lot of sense but I was beyond it.
The doctor helped me wash my face gently, and applied vaseline to my lips – chapped and bleeding where the pressure from the instruments came, I was quite a sight.
As he made the bill he told the OA that he’d never seen as stubborn a tooth as this one and was hoping the jagged pieces left inside wouldnt create a problem and that he will see me next Monday. Having got off the chair I recovered my good humour and told him well, he’d never see as stubborn a woman as the OA’s wife either. The OA, who never misses an opportunity to rib me, said nothing but hugged me close, his face still rather grey.
I got a shot for it and the bloody thing hurt quite a bit although I chatted through it – I guess it was one of those oil based things.Came home and spent the night getting up to spit blood that kept pooling in my mouth. Have been throwing up all day and now my swollen face and neck look like I have goitre. Don’t ask me why – I thought it would be only the face. Right now I would be scary to meet in a dark alley.My lips are cut, bleeding and blistering at the edges that were held down by the instruments.
The children with their characteristic innocence and instinct have just snuggled up closer, knowing I am not well, and the Brat keeps patting my head and telling me to go back to sleep. I love that child and his sensitive ways.My parents are rather upset. And my fun loving father touched me by calling at night and saying things I dont expect from him… “God bless you my sweetheart, I wish we could be there for you, I feel so bad being so far away from my baby….’ My mother who I take after in some ways, called up and asked the dentist if he was trying to kill her baby. Yes, yes, he’s a family friend. We don’t randomly harass strange doctors who are just doing their job.
Have spent the day throwing up (which isn’t easy when half your jaw is sewn shut) and spitting blood alternatively. Life sucks. And I am sure more teeth will require removal. The OA has the most awful uneven teeth with two dracula teeth and after all this we realise that this is the best way. His teeth have fought and pushed and come out unevenly and not a single one remains. And he only brushes in the morning; I on the other hand brush thrice a day and still have to live with endless trouble. His logic is that I brush so much that my teeth wear out! Silly moron.
Spoke to a couple of others who said they’d had it done too, but under General Anesthesia. My own mother, one among them. I see the sense of doing it that way because lying with your mouth open for three hours is not easy. Neither is the awareness. You hear words like ‘bone cutter’, ‘drill’ and syringe, while you am wide awake and feeling the pain, and its not fun.
Now I’ve had two kids and dealt with some pain – but in that case I had prepared myself for the pain and in this case I hadn’t. As I left the doctor I apologised for being a nuisance and thanked him for his patience. He held my hands, looked at me and said, ‘I’m really sorry- that was the worst I have seen in 13 years and you were very brave. I am sorry for the pain you went through…’
Yes of course. When I do things, I dont do them by halves.
Now I am torn. Is it worse to have to open your mouth to a dentist or your legs to a gyne. Ladies? As for me – hell, I’d rather have a baby. Atleast you have a beautiful baby at the end of all the trouble.