I was lying in the dentist's chair— quasi-sedated, heart racing on the monitor, staring at the dark ceiling—when tears started streaming down the sides of my face. I tried to make a joke through my pryed opened mouth by asking "Does this drug make you cry?" Probably sounded more like "Dousnfli sfliefnt oafhoewu aye?"
A commanding voice filled the room and I could see the surgeon's face hovering in my peripheral. He said, "You're emotional, Britteny. You're emotional because you've been sick for ten years. You've been sick and this infection has made it impossible for you to get better. And today I'm taking it out, and your life is going to change."
Let's rewind an hour.
Now if the girl in the surgeon's office, who talked to me the day before wasn't a complete idiot, I wouldn't have any traumatic memories to recollect for you right now. So I guess, in a way, this blog is dedicated to her.
I arrived at my appointment with all the Type A add-ons you could expect: copies of my x-rays, a referral form, list of questions, and a fair (absurd) amount of preparatory online stalking of the surgeon in question. I wasn't fasting because answering service girl said I'd be given "twilight" sedation and local anesthesia so no need to fast. It sounded like the prefect solution: I could eat breakfast, I didn't have to almost die, but yet I wouldn't remember anything.
Except none of that happened.
I had a consult right before my extraction. I had waited months to resolve this botched root canal / abscess, which started with my regular dentist referring me to an Endodontist, who just wanted to "fix it." After my research, I knew I wanted it out, but my dentist would never go for that. I prayed for a different option.
BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. On a long shot, I emailed a biological dentist 2 hours away who wasn't taking new patients. I begged for any suggestions of someone who could help me. They were sympathetic to my story and got me in right away, then referred me to this surgeon.
But make no mistake— even though my husband took the day off work and drove me 2 hours to his office, I was COMPLETELY prepared to walk away if my questions weren't answered the way I was hoping.
You always have to be prepared to walk away. I learned that from the zero sales books I've read.
I had researched exactly how the extraction needed to be done in order to remove ALL the infection, cavitations, and to prevent further issues. I asked all my questions, and he got it. He also got how this tooth was contributing to so many of my health issues.
Oh, and he mentioned root canals are only designed to last 10-15 years to begin with. I bet your dentist never told you that?
HOW FAST CAN YOU SEDATE ME
Let me just low key mention that I have had dental PTSD since the age of 12. I then successfully avoided the dentist for almost a decade, by tossing those post card cleaning reminders in the trash. One glorious, dentist-free decade. That's why I wanted to continuously vomit thinking about this appointment. But I'm almost paranoid of vomit, so I didn't.
So when I tell the surgeon I'm likely to have a panic attack mid-procedure, he offers me Anesthesia or IV sedation, but since idiot answering service girl told me not to fast, I couldn't. I was left with laughing gas, AND IT DIDN'T GO SO WELL.
My heart is hooked up to the monitor and it's just going gangbusters as if I was running sprints (I'm just guessing because lesbereal I've never done that). For some reason, hearing my heart beat always makes me more anxious? I can hear all the imperfect beats...the stress.
The sedation started to hit me, tears streamed down the sides of my face. I flashed back to my first time on the acupuncture table, crying in the darkness, and when the girl came in to remove needles, she said, "It looks like your ears are leaking." I wasn't scared of the acupuncture. It was just the weight of everything—this whole health journey, the money, the hope, the desperation...and it hits me at inconvenient times.
Apparently laughing gas = crying gas.
THE HORRIFYING YET COOL PART
First, he says to this new guy, "You'll want to stay in here and see this." I've watched enough Grey's Anatomy to know when medical people "want to see" something, it's because it's going to be complicated, gross, or rare.
Then my worst nightmare came to fruition. All the sudden, it sounded like someone cracked my tooth into a million pieces. OH, PROBABLY BECAUSE HE DID. Then things got complicated.
He said, "They used silver in this root canal —I haven't seen that in 30 years." Great. I was starting to freak out. I kept praying that I wouldn't feel anything, for calmness, and the prayers worked.
I tightened my eyes and zoned out with the sedation. I couldn't feel a thing.
Out of nowhere, my eyes opened and I looked up at the ceiling and a feeling of total peace and mental clarity came over me. I heard my heart rate instantly lower, and I said to myself, "It's out."
I could literally feel the second that infection was out of my body. And immediately they started suctioning and applying pressure.
THE GOOD PART
There was so much infection, silver, and tooth fragments to clean out, the surgery took longer than expected. In the middle of it, the surgeon orders x-rays. My jaw was so locked at this point — it was hurting more than anything else, and this trainee couldn't figure out how to PRESS THE DAMN BUTTON TO SAVE HIS SCRUBS.
As I'm massaging my jaw, I hear him say, "Look at that. I was right, there's still something in there. That's why this girl came all the way from Rockford to see me... because she wants someone who is going to make sure they get everything out... and that's exactly what we're going to do."
My biggest fear was doing this to solve a problem, but ending up with a bigger one. As soon as he said that, somewhere behind that nitrous mask, I was smiling.
Just like I am in this picture here.
UDPATE: My healing process was extremely rough due to how bad my tooth was and how hard it was to dig out. It felt like my entire jaw was split open on one side. I spent days with ice on my jaw, but I’m happy to report I was able to get by on high dose Ibuprofen and didn’t need the Narco they prescribed.
My therapy dog was on stand-by throughout the process.
I didn’t eat solid foods for quite sometime—lots of pasta— DARN.
It is now 5 months post-op and I had my check-in with the surgeon who did a follow up conebeam x-ray. He verified all the infection was out and no cavitations have formed. We discussed my options going forward for replacing the tooth and I’m going with a ceramic (zirconium implant).
Please keep in mind, your experience probably won’t be as bad as mine. My mom had a root canal removed the same week with no pain and no meds needed. She healed right up and the tooth didn’t break. It all depends!
Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.