I Got Some Teeth Yanked Out (part 2)

Things are quite different
And life ain’t the same
Since I lost my tooth.*


Things are quite different and my life ain’t the same since I lost my tooth. My life has improved 1000%.

“Toothache” is such an inadequate way to describe the mind-numbing pain that can accompany a cracked tooth. A cracked tooth can ache, but it can also throb, make you scream, give you headaches, and, worst of all, make eating not that fun.

About six years ago I bit down on a tortilla chip and experienced blinding pain. That pain would recur, off and on, steadily worsening, until 2006, when I finally decided to do something about it.

But it wasn’t that easy. Nothing showed up on X-rays (not unusual), and because I’d never had any work done on my teeth, there were no suspicious areas to indicate where the problem might be lurking. So, my dentist was reluctant to do anything. So was my endodontist. Apparently you have to wait until the pain is unbearable for any kind of action to be taken. I did get my wisdom teeth pulled out, as one of my dentists thought that might help the situation, but the only thing it helped was my nascent Vicodin addiction.

I went back and forth between dentist and endodontist. Finally (after trying a $500 night guard that did absolutely nothing), my dentist recommended a root canal. Back to the endodontist. He nixed the root canal idea and recommended a crown. Not only that, he determined (by the sophisticated test that apparently only endodontists can perform of having me bite on a cotton ball) that the tooth (#15) responsible for the pain was not the tooth (#13) in which I felt the pain.

Fuck it. I was so confused and unsure of what to do, I decided I would just be one of those people who learn to live with pain.

I am not one of those people. And the pain got exponentially worse. We were to leave for vacation in a few days, so I started looking online for home remedies other than the clove oil and the numerous Orajel products I’d been trying with no success. The solution: Tea bags—particularly peppermint—actually eased the pain. It was like a miracle! Easy to travel with, easy to use; so what if I looked like a drooling idiot with a tea bag string hanging out of my mouth? I stuffed my carryon full of peppermint tea bags, Advil, and, at the last minute, I grabbed some year-and-a-half-old Vicodin from my wisdom tooth surgery.

Thank God I did.

The tea bags worked for a few days. I also tried whiskey-soaked cotton balls, handfuls of Advil, warm compresses; I finally broke down and took some Vicodin. Ah, sweet relief. My options were to take Vicodin for the rest of my life or do something about this damn tooth. I called my mom (from Jamaica) to ask her to get me an appointment for the Monday we returned—with anyone, for anything, as long as they could put an end to this pain. She promised to take care of it.

We got home on a Saturday and my appointment was on a Monday. Thanks to Vicodin, I really don’t remember Sunday.On Monday, I saw a different endodontist who did some more tests and finally, finally could say with 100% certainty that I did need a root canal. I don’t think many patients burst into applause at this news, but I did. She started drilling (“Smell that? That’s all the pus that was inside your tooth!”) but had to stop because apparently the fracture was too deep for a root canal to do any good.As luck would have it, there was an oral surgeon in the same office building, and I shuffled across the hall, bib still tied around my neck, so he could finish off the job and yank out the tooth. (Now, nothing against either of these doctors—they were so great and reassuring and they FIXED me, but, geez, couldn’t the endodontist just pull it out? I was already strapped in, numbed up, partly drilled into, clutching my lucky globe . . . oh, well.)

The tooth, she did not want to come out, my friends. I thought back to my wisdom tooth experience and how, even tho that was traumatic in its own way, it was very brief and the teeth came out easily. Not so with this molar. It came out in pieces (see extremely graphic picture above), and I believe the oral surgeon may have used a jackhammer. Didn’t matter. I was so relieved to have it out, I didn’t even mind having to hear the awful grinding and breaking noises.

I took Vicodin for 4 days before the surgery and 2 days after, and I took to my bed for a week. I may be a toothless hag, but I get to continue my record of no fillings. Everyone is pretty sick of hearing this story, so with this post, I put to rest the traumatic tale of the teeth.

If you want to get a tooth pulled:

Make damn sure you know which tooth is the culprit. I felt the pain in my #13 molar, but the crack turned out to be in my #15 molar. Thank goodness my dentists were hesitant after all.

Having a tooth pulled is usually considered a last-resort procedure—unless it’s someone else’s tooth—so make sure you cover your options.

If you do have to lose a tooth, you can consider implants or dentures. My gaping hole is in the very back of my mouth. You can’t see it unless I force you.

If you’ve got a toothache:

Here’s a helpful video that shows you how to cure tooth pain with household items.

Seriously, tea bags really work, at least temporarily. Here are some other suggestions.

* Today’s lyrics are courtesy of Daniel Johnston.