Tooth-hurty: time to see a dentist

Remember this grammar school classic?

Q: What time do you see a dentist?
A: Tooth-hurty (2:30)

There’s a party going on in my mouth, but I think there are some rock stars smashing guitars and mirrors in there. It’s tooth-hurty and time to see a dentist.


About a week ago, I noticed my teeth seemed extra sensitive to cold, plus my upper molars felt achy. Part of that, I realized, was from sinus pressure. Another possibility is I might be clenching my jaw and/or grinding my teeth at night. That, too, will cause temperature sensitivity and ache.

All that may be going on, but there’s a definite issue with one bottom left molar in particular; it has a filling in it already, but the tooth around the filling seems to be a little grayer than before. That might be my imagination, but the pain is very real. Eating or drinking cold stuff has become an exercise in selective chewing! I just want to get it taken care of before it gets worse and I’m really hurting.

My favorite dentist is not on our dental plan, so I am going to someone new. This DDS was recommended by one of Howie’s co-workers, so I gave the office a call today and the receptionist is getting me right in tomorrow morning at 9:30am. She said I’ll still need to come in for the usual x-ray and initial visit as a new patient, but she wanted to get me in about the painful tooth right away. I appreciated that.

I told her that my jaw had also popped last night and since then has been painful. This is a recurrant thing with me and I wasn’t sure if it had anything to do with the pain in my teeth or not. She said this dentist is really good with TMJ patients, so that’s cool. So far so good.

Dentists don’t scare me like they used to, thank God. When I was in second grade, I chipped one of my front teeth on some playground equipment at school and had to go to the dentist. He wanted to inject some Novocaine and cap the tooth, but I was afraid and struggled. Blind panic is probably more like it. He did the unthinkable: he slapped me.

From that point on, I was terribly phobic about dentists. I to excused myself from the classroom when the teacher showed dental hygiene movies or filmstrips (yes that dates me – check out this book if you remember filmstrips!).

Flash forward to 1986 or 1987. I had a cavity in one of my molars, one hard to miss considering it was a hole in the tooth. It would flare up and get better, so I tried not to think about it. There was just no way I was going to a dentist. One night, while getting ready to go roller skating with friends from church, I chomped down on my gum just the wrong place and WHAMMO, I was going through the roof. Coating my poor gumline with Anbesol, I headed out to the rink and did an impromptu survey among my friends about dentists.

My friend Mike assured me that his dentist, Dr. Null, was great with people afraid of dental work. And he was. My then-boyfriend Jeffrey (hey Jeffrey!) took me to that fateful appointment and sat in the waiting room while Dr. Null gave me a root canal. What a way to break into the world of dental care, right? Dr. Null had a wonderful agent in his arsenal for cowards: Nitrous oxide, laughing gas. It counteracted the weirdness of the Dali print hanging within view of the dentist chair. Later, Jeffrey told me he heard things like “Awwwwwww, owwwwww……hehahahahahahahaaaaaa” come from behind the door. It may have hurt a few times, even with all the numbing shots, but I didn’t care.

Since that time, I’ve had a few fillings, but not many. At least I learned that dental work while unpleasant, is not the horrible thing I imagined it to be. Unfortunately, through the years I’ve taken my good teeth for granted, and not been a very good steward of my mouth. I brush when I get up in the morning and that’s pretty much it unless I have a social engagement and want my mouth minty fresh. That all has apparantly caught up with me.

Tomorrow I’ll learn the fate of this errant molar. I hope it’s a matter of a simple repair to a filling and not one of another root canal or an extraction. Faced with the price of the former, I’m not sure what I’d do. We don’t really have the money for extensive dental work right now, but I sure don’t want to lose any teeth if I don’t have to, not at only 38 years of age.

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