It seems that my dental saga is not yet over. Oh joy!
So far during lockdown, I have been to my dentist no less than 7 times.
Seven times. In 2 months. For a while, I avoided writing about it so not to bore you all again with what’s going on inside my mouth, but at this point, it’s too comical not to share. Plus, the only place that I go anymore is the dentist, so all of my stories are from there. I don’t make the rules. I just…get the fillings…or something. Look, I couldn’t get it to rhyme, okay?
Like I’d imagine many adults with dental anxiety do, I avoided the dentist for about 6 years once I reached adulthood. At my first appointment after this long hiatus, they gave me referrals for my wisdom tooth extraction and my first ever root canal as well as an appointment to go back for some fillings. Okay, cool. That first horrible appointment was over, so now, moving forward, I should be totally fine, right? As it turns out, that was not the case…
In my next 6-month checkup, my dentist pointed out several more fillings that I would need done. But how?! I went to the dentist! I did good!
Apparently, fixing years of dental neglect is not a “one-and-done” situation. I started going monthly to get my fillings done. I finally made my appointment for my last fillings for the beginning of April. Then COVID hit and the office was shut down. I spent the next two months hoping that the cavity wouldn’t get worse and lead me to need another root canal, but I had a really bad feeling about it. The tooth itself felt fine, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was still off.
When I was finally able to schedule the fillings for the beginning of June, my dentist’s office called me to let me know that my dental insurance ran out for the year and that my awesome dentist was no longer at the practice. Hey past Renata, remember when you thought you were going to save money during lockdown? Heh heheh heh.
I walked into my appointment with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. For those of you who know me, I am a pretty optimistic person. I never assume the worst-case scenario, so when I have a bad feeling, you know something is up.
The new dentist introduced himself and we chatted for a bit. Like I do with anyone who’s about to give me a shot, I warned him that I’m not great with needles. He then looked at my x-ray from 6 MONTHS AGO and warned that the cavity he was about to drill into was pretty deep. Yeah, that didn’t make me feel better. He told me that I had a 90% chance of being fine with a filling, but recognizing that he hadn’t even looked at how bad the cavity had gotten, I knew my odds probably weren’t quite that good.
He even verbally exclaimed when he drilled into my tooth “Oh wow, yeah that cavity’s deep.” Fun fact: if you want to make a dental patient start to panic while doing a filling, go ahead and say that. It works, trust me.
He finished the filling and told me to come back in 2 weeks if it was still sensitive. I had my 6-month visit 2 weeks from then anyway, so I promised to give him an update when I saw him next. Of course, I didn’t quite make it that long.
I got the filling done on Tuesday, and by Friday I wasn’t functional without Advil. Not only was my jaw in constant pain, but I also had developed giant canker sores inside my upper lip, so talking, eating, drinking, and brushing my teeth were all insanely painful. It was not a fun time. My gut had been right, I needed a root canal. Friday night, I vowed to get the first appointment that I could on Monday morning to get the referral I would need for the procedure.
It figures that my gut only talks to me when it’s telling me that I need dental work done…
One pain-filled weekend later, I was in the dentist’s chair begging for both a referral card and for anything he could do to help my canker sores. He gave me a prescription for a paste (that essentially stuck my upper lip to my top row of teeth when applied) and a referral for the same endodontist that I went to last time. On my way out of the office, I told the receptionist (who is now becoming one of my best friends) about my canker sores and even showed them to her. Nothing bonds people like gross body stuff.
I was happy to schedule the same thoughtful and funny endodontist to do my procedure, and I was happy to see that my memories of my last root canal served me well. The hygienist and I had some great conversations, and it was hard to not laugh when she and the doctor bantered back and forth. Like, guys, you have drills close to my mouth, stop being so hilarious!
After my root canal was done, I went in for my semi-annual cleaning at my dentist office. I forgot how much I adore the hygienist that I have there as well. There’s nothing like making jokes during a stressful situation and she and I had each other in stitches! I remembered why I really love my dentist office…especially when they’re not telling me that I need more work done!
On my way out, I told my new best friend at reception that I was so glad to not need any more fillings. She laughed and told the other receptionist that I have terrible luck. While at first I wanted to disagree with her, I had already spent several days in physical agony and several hundreds of dollars trying to fix it, so I figured I couldn’t really argue.
Plus, I almost hit a car while pulling out of the parking lot. Honestly, I think the potential shame I knew I would feel walking back into that office to alert them that I had hit someone else’s car kept me from causing a fender bender.
Getting my temporary crown put on went without a hitch (only with a drill bit breaking off inside my mouth, no big deal), however, after using mouthwash the following week, I spit my temporary crown into my hand. Terrific. I called them to see if I could come that day to get it put back on and my new friend answered. We both joked about my terrible luck. Again.
As per usual, I went in joking with the dental assistant. We’re all on a first-name basis now, of course. As the dental assistant was cramming the temporary crown back into my mouth, my hygienist passed by the room and called in, “hey! You’d better not be hurting my favorite patient!” I would’ve “awwww”’ed if I didn’t have someone else’s hands in my mouth. So instead, I held up a heart sign with my hands. I again felt at home at my dentist office where they all joke with each other and have me join in.
I was sent home with the instructions to keep using my mouthwash, but to not swish so vigorously. You know how long that minute feels when you’re using mouthwash? Yeah? Have you ever swished mouthwash slowly? That long minute becomes, like, two hours.
So I spent the next two weeks not chewing on my right side, slowly swishing, and hoping above all hopes that my temporary didn’t decide to take another nosedive out of my mouth.
By some miracle, I made it to my appointment last week without another incident. I finally got my permanent crown put on, and just like when I got my last one, I’m mostly just excited to start chewing on both sides of my mouth and tasting all of my food again!
With all of the dental (mis)adventures I’ve had in the past year, I’ll be happy to not see my dentist again until my 6-month appointment. Everyone at my dentist office is lovely, but at this point, I’m ready to have a classic breakup conversation with them. It’s not you, it’s me…and my desire to not have you stabbing needles in my mouth.
Now you can all stop wondering what Renata has been up to during lockdown. I was going to the dentist. Many, many times.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/