August 29, 2012

Dental Woes


The Pain
I ignored the tingling sensation and the sweet pain in the jaw when a small part of my wisdom tooth chipped off, and avoided seeing a dentist. With almost 4 filings in my teeth and an extraction, I am wise enough to know that it means another painful extraction.

As luck would have it, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was literally praying to let the nurse be rude and say that there is no appointment available for a month. My prayers went unheard. She was all ears and promptly asked me to see the doctor the very next day.

The Dental Surgery clinics in Singapore are akin to the Paan shops in India… you will find one in every neighbourhood. As I entered the clinic, which is just across the road from my house, there was no queue and I was directly ushered in. The doctor turned around in his revolving chair and asked, “Hello Ms, What can we do for you today?”  Umm.. how do you answer such a question J plus I immediately doubted his skills…a dentist who talks so politely to you with his 100% attention … is it some gimmick!. Aren’t good dentists supposed to make you wait and act pricey?

After the routine examination, I was whisked in adjacent room for an X-Ray. As I entered back in like 10 seconds, the doctor was already studying my jaw on his computer. He again revolved in his chair, explained about the required extraction and still expected some questions from me. Once he was convinced that I had run out of questions, he said, “So, do you want to go ahead with the surgery now?“

Now…as in Now ??

Almost 5 years back, when I got my wisdom tooth extracted, in India, I had almost fainted. The pain and swelling that lasted a few days…. The feel of stitches in mouth….the khichdi and porridge meals…. The ice packs….all came back to haunt me!

The Decision
I made some enquiries on whether it is safe to get something as big as a tooth extraction done at a neighbourhood clinic where the dentist talks to you nicely, explains what exactly is happening and encourages you to ask questions ! Shouldn’t I be going to a big hospital or something? Well, I got positive feedback on neighbourhood clinics and finally decided to go ahead with it.

All prepared to have painful four days of Chinese New Year holidays ahead (bye bye Tiger, welcome Dragon), I announced to everyone who called up for Birthday party invitations / plan of an early morning nature trail / a potluck dinner etc. that I am going to be in bad pain and wouldn’t be able to join in anything.

The Surgery
The next evening I heard the doctor say, “Raise your hand if you have any discomfort during the surgery”. I felt as if I was going on a diving expedition.

The injection for the anaesthesia hurt. As soon as a tool was inserted in the teeth, I shouted and simultaneously raised my hand. The Doctor had to give another shot in the nerve. I cursed the moment I decided to go ahead with this.
Soon after that I could not feel anything but knew that the tooth was being drilled and cut and pulled. Actually while writing this.. I realized how amazing the local anaesthesia is…and decided to do a little reading about its history. Interestingly, the first usage was with cocaine and because it is addictive other “-aine” drugs are now used like idocaine, novocaine or tetracaine!

Doctor kept asking me in between – “Are you feeling ok?” and surprisingly I was actually feeling quite comfortable. Before I realised, the doctor announced that the surgery was over.
He showed me 3 pieces of blood stained tooth…and explained that the whole tooth has been extracted and the surgery went quite well with minimal cutting of bone.

Happiness that Money can’t buy
I walked home taking small steps…expecting the fainting sensation to come anytime – it didn’t.
Next day, I kept waiting for the swelling and pain to come – it didn’t.
The next to next day, I stopped pain killers and waited for the pain –nothing!

I called everyone back to announce that I had no pain and would join in all activities.

By the second day I almost forgot that I had a surgery. Only when I laughed too much while playing Pictionary over potluck dinner, my jaw pained a bit.

On the seventh day, I went to get my stitches cut and dared to tell the doctor,  that because I had no pain at all and no swelling, I doubt if the teeth was pulled out fully ! He asked me jokingly – did you do the surgery or me?

Well … HE did… but in this whole episode I experienced the sort of happiness that money cannot buy.
(Well…it did make me poorer by 800+ dollars but the fact that the cost was fully taken care of by insurance did contribute in the above mentioned feeling!)

PS: Some gathered Gyan: Wisdom tooth is actually a vestigial organ…an organ which has become redundant. With change in eating habits (more processed food instead of raw) the jaw does not expand enough and so doesn’t have enough space to accommodate this late arrival. As a result, the wisdom teeth grow tilted and put pressure on neighbouring molars to create space for itself. In some policies, the government actually encourages people to get rid of the wisdom teeth at a young age to have less of such hassles in old age.