They took another X-ray. Apparently, the panoramic x-ray was not showing him what he wanted to see. So they used the one at the station. Given the amount of pain that I was in, this did not help at all. My mouth was hurting and I needed to hold it open so they could stuff the X-ray adaptor in my mouth. Not fun. Especially since it took 3 people and about 5-10 minutes to get it done. It did though confirm what he said; he had reached the last mile. There was only a little more to go. “There are just two pieces left. I was right there when you stopped me. Let’s see if we can get that out and we’ll be all done.” Again I asked, “Are you going to give me more anesthesias?” He assured me that I’d get more.
Freezing applied he was set to go. However, something wasn’t right. As soon as he started to work, I felt it. Stronger than ever, sharp and direct, more powerful than I could ever comprehend the pain had become something unimaginable. . . It was also unbearable. My moans I noticed had turned to screams.
Being a veteran, I still will refer to myself as a soldier from time to time. My professionalism, sense of duty, integrity and other features were all enhanced by the military. I also had developed a strong sense of pride. This too was now being challenged and my screams were the evidence that this was a challenge I was not going to win. My screams soon turned into pleas, “STOP! STOP! PLEASE STOP! I can’t take anymore, you have to stop.” His response… “I almost had it.”
I got a script for Motrin and Tylenol and was on my way. I left the dentist office and the aides there all looked at me with such sympathy in their eyes. I don’t know how many put so many of them apologized. The lady at the front desk in a very saddened look gave me 2 roses on my way out. My mouth stuffed with gauze and the amount of energy it took to even think about saying thank you, resulted in me just waving.
As I walked to my car holding my face, I tried to piece together what just happened. The first thing that came to my mind was the thought, ‘I was going to talk.’ In the military, my SERE’s (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training was pretty. . . interesting. While not a full course we learned there is a standard answer one is supposed to provide when captured, interrogated and tortured; name, rank and social security number. That is all one is to provide to the enemy. I was now sitting in my car, in pain from what just took place but also trying to identify this new feeling. As I processed it I had that thought again, ‘I was going to talk.’
Pain in my thinking before was something that I thought I could soldier through and endure, this however was different. It took me to a place mentally that went past the moment. It linked me to every painful experience I’ve ever endured, because this was the one that I could not endure. It also linked me to my strong sense of military pride and the thought that I would never talk. “STOP! STOP! PLEASE STOP! I can’t take anymore, you have to stop!” I had the feeling that if more words would have come they would have been, “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.” Their interrogator, ‘The Tooth Fairy’, was known to have effective methods, and I learned firsthand the definition of torture.
March 6th, I called my usual dentist. I had been going there for a couple years. It was convenient, it was clean, and efficient. I got my appointment for March 11th and informed them that I had a wisdom tooth that came in on an angle which was now causing me some irritation; scratching the inside of my cheek, biting my tongue and trapping food (because the tooth was pushing up against another tooth). I wanted an extraction.
On March 11th I showed up for my appointment and I was shown to a chair. I didn’t wait very long, that was nice. They did a panorama xray, which needed to be done more than once because the hygienist couldn’t figure out the machine; the first one came out wet??? The doctor came in and said, the tooth was in an unusual position and he identified it as, “The second worst type of extraction that can be done.” But he was going to “freeze” me up, crack the tooth and remove it piece by piece. Okay, I thought to myself sounds like it could be bad but isn’t that bad.
He forgot to tell me about the pain. Not the pain after, he didn’t mention anything about the pain during. I went back over it in my mind. He told me it was the second worst kind. He told me it there would be freezing so I wouldn’t “feel a thing.” He told me I would feel a lot of “pushing and pulling” and some “pressure”. He also told me that I’d hear the cracking. HE DID NOT MENTION THE PAIN.
It stated out much like he said, I was going to hear some cracking, there was some pressure, and there was some pushing. This went on for about 15 minutes and then I felt something. I thought maybe I got poked by a tooth shard or something. Then it happened again. I made a noise, “Mmph”. Once more the same feeling, then I felt it. I remembered it. Pain.
I had been sitting in the chair with my legs crossed and my hands folded across my abdomen. I wondered, when did my hands move to bracing the arm rests? He stopped. My hands needed to be flexed and my jaw had that throb I remembered (from my thumb being injured). Doctor said he needed to get another panorama to see where he was at. Once that was done, he came back and said something that was a bit surprising. “Well, remember when I told you that this was the second worst kind of extraction? I’m going to have to upgrade it to the worst kind.” He talked about the angle of the tooth and some other stuff about the approach. I told him at that point that the anesthesia must have worn off because I was starting to feel it. “You got something else? Are you going to give me some more.” He told me that he would apply some more, he did, came back about 3 minutes later and got started again.
I looked at the table prior to him getting started and expected to see some plyers. Is that a misnomer to think they pull teeth with plyers? All I saw was the drill, two ice pick looking tools and a scalpel. Where were his plyers?
Once he got started, it didn’t take long for that memory to surface again. It hadn’t even been 5 minutes and I was consciously gripping the chair again; body tense, sweat beading and breathing deeply. It almost felt like Basic Training all over again. “No pain, no gain. Remember Private, pain is weakness leaving the body!” It was a fight to endure, I wanted to hold on. I couldn’t. I started to uncontrollably make noise again, “Mmph”. He adjusted his angle, seconds later, “Mmph!” It was louder than before. That’s because it was more painful than before. These sounds were surprsing even me.
What was once a memory has now become my present condition. PAIN. “Mmmmph!” My eyes widened that was definitely not a memory. It was raw pain. It went into my jaw and shot through my body. I struggled to stay still (he did have a large pick in my mouth) by gripping the arm rests all the more. I’m not sure how long it was for round 2, but I found myself saying to the doctor, “Stop. Stop!” Now there was sweat running down my brow. He told me, “We’ll take a break. We’re almost finished. Let’s get another xray, I was almost there but you stopped me. I don’t have much more to go.”
My question to him was, “Is it too late for you to put me to sleep? I don’t think the anesthisa is working.”
I wasn’t please with his response when he said, “Yes. It’s too late.”
There are not too many things that I can say have scared me, there also aren’t a lot of things that I can say have hurt me. Being a veteran I’ve been through some painful situations as a soldier, but they were usually very brief. Interestingly enough, I kind of enjoyed those experiences; I likened them to the “No pain, no gain,” mind set. My drill sergeant would say, “Pain is weakness leaving the body. Embrace it!” And I did.
It is interesting to start this talking about pain. Normally this is something I don’t really talk about, but recently I experienced it in such a magnitude that it brought tears to my eyes. That is also saying a lot, because I don’t cry easily. The last place I thought I would ever experience something like this was the dentist office.
I hear about people being afraid to go to the dentist and those fears are usually grounded in nothing but anxiety. I never quite understood it really. I am now one of those people with a genuine fear based on an experience that I can only describe as traumatic.
When I told some folks about my visit to the dentist, they kind of chuckled when I said it hurt, that is until I explained in detail why it hurt. Most were thinking that I was in pain prior to sitting in the chair, and most certainly was not expecting me to talk about the pain coming from the chair.
For reference, prior to this my most painful experience happened a couple years ago. I closed my thumb in a door. It hurt, but not as much as what happened next. The thumb had a line through it and a dark spot that started to form. Within hours the throbbing grew to a banging both in my hand and my head. My thumb started to swell and soon my fingernail was completely black underneath. The blood was filling the space under my name. I went to emergency and then I understood true pain. The doctor came over with what looked like a soldering iron and said, “This is going to hurt.” In my mind I thought it can’t be much worse than this, or maybe it’ll be the type of pain that brings relief; like when something hurts and you put pressure on it. This “hurt” that he mentioned, gave me an operating definition for excruciating. He took the tool and pressed it to my thumb. I watched as it neared my finger, tensed from the initial pressure applied and then… And then I tried to scream, but nothing came out. My head became heavy and the room went black and then it was back again. The whole event was probably about 1 second, but time slowed and dragged trapping me in the moment. That became my new definition and standard of pain. Who knew it would ever be challenged.