Monday, September 27, 2010

Adventures In Modern Dentistry

THURSDAY, September 23 – 11:44am

With luck, the Percocets will kick in any moment and my writing skills will deteriorate rapidly. Therefore, I’ll write about my dental work while I still can.

(That’s a joke, of course. My writing isn’t affected in the least by the ingestion of mind-altering drugs. Whether that says more about my writing or my past, I’m not sure.)

My mouth is finally complete. I have a full set of implants on the top. I have a full removable denture, anchored by two implants, on the bottom. Here’s a photo!

Not bad, eh? If I hadn’t incessantly gone on about my dental procedures – HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE – no one would be any the wiser. Heck, I’m not any the wiser, so why should anyone else be?

This morning, I had the final three remaining real teeth removed from my bottom jaw. That took about twenty minutes and was a relatively pain-free procedure. I was novocained to the gills, and the teeth weren’t exactly immovable objects to begin with, so all I felt was a sensation of heavy pressure as they were yanked. Oddly enough, the real pain began AFTER the extractions.

(Before I tell you about the pain, I want to make sure that you know how magnificent my dentist is. He’s Dr. Domenic D’Amico, of Watertown, and he’s done all of my dental work over the past eight years - excluding the two sessions of implant surgery, which were done by a specialist - and I wholeheartedly recommend him should you find yourself in need of anything similar to what I’ve had done. He’s a caring and skilled practitioner, and I consider myself blessed to have him as my dentist. Whatever descriptions of pain follow, I don’t want my florid prose to give you the mistaken impression that any of it was due to less-than-wonderful service by Dr. D’Amico or any of his friendly staff.)

(No, I was not paid for that endorsement. I really like the guy, and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than he has. Of course, if he reads this and wants to give me a kickback, I won’t complain, but he’s so damned good at what he does, I… well, hell, it almost makes me sad to have no more teeth to pull.)

As I said, the real pain began following the extractions. And there were a fair number of interesting procedures involved. Let me tell you about them.

SUTURING – Why is it I could have three teeth yanked with a minimum of ouch, but it felt like there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward? Oh, wait. It’s because there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward. For some unknown reason, this hurt like hell. I guess I’m just the sensitive type.

COLLAGEN – The good doctor decided that I had lost a bit too much bone, on either side of the implants, since the time of my most previous extractions. As a precautionary measure, he inserted some collagen into the gums prior to suturing. As it was explained to me – or, at least, as I absorbed it, which may be another thing altogether – the collagen, once blood flows into it, begins forming bone tissue. If I have that wrong, then I have no idea why he did it. In any case, he didn’t charge me for it, so combine that with my ignorance and I have no reasonable grounds for complaining.

LASER – On the other hand, there was a bit too much gum tissue surrounding one of the implants, so in order to be able to get at it more easily, a laser was used to burn off a small portion of my gums. During this part of the procedure, I was given huge green goggles to wear. I suppose that was in case, say, he sneezed and inadvertently jerked the laser into my eyes, then it would make it less likely that I’d be permanently blinded. Either that or it made me look really goofy and broke up the morning for he and his assistant. Or both.

FITTING OF THE PROSTHESIS – I have to explain something about the various bridges, temporary dentures, implants, and whatever other oral junk I’ve been wearing during the previous eight years. None of them hurt in the least. This new denture, however, when placed into my mouth for the first time, was very painful. That surprised hell out of me, and while having hell out of you might sound like a pleasant thing, this wasn’t. It was excruciating, actually, and I began wondering if I had made a terrible irrevocable decision to allow those final teeth to be pulled.

I winced and the doctor noticed. Actually, his first clue to my discomfort probably came when I said, "Holy Fuck! It Feels As Though You Dumped Fire Ants Into My Mouth!" Actually, with the missing teeth and whatnot, it came out as, "Hoy Fug! Id Feezadooya Dund Fianz Ihmehmou!" In any case, he got the message, even though I didn’t actually say that, so he set about correcting the fit of the denture. This took about an hour. I know because I watched two episodes of The Office while it was happening.

(One of the marvels of this modern age of dentistry is that you don’t have to just sit there being… well, I wouldn’t normally choose the word ‘bored’ to describe the experience, but I can’t think of a better word at the moment, so it will have to do. Instead, if your doctor has a notebook computer, you can watch a movie, or some cartoons, while parts of your body are being removed. Or, if your first choices of entertainment are unavailable – in my case, The Three Stooges and Phineas & Ferb – you watch a few episodes of a sitcom. Here is as ringing an endorsement as could possibly be given to a comedy series: At the exact moment when one of my teeth was yanked, a scene involving the characters of Jim, Michael, and Dwight literally made me laugh out loud. I kid you not. My bloody incisor was in front of the screen, but I was laughing. Amazing.)

Anyway, Dr. D’Amico filed down a bit of the prosthesis and then placed it back into my mouth. It still hurt. He continued to place it in, ask me exactly where the pain was, remove it, do an adjustment of one sort or another, and then rinse and repeat. After perhaps twenty-five repetitions, it fit without any major discomfort. And, since the Percocets have now taken over my brain, it still doesn’t hurt too much. I hope this remains the case as the weekend wears on.

PHOTOGRAPHY – Throughout my various procedures, Dr. D’Amico has, at intervals, taken photos of the work done. I assume he may have written an article for a dental journal, or perhaps he just keeps a scrapbook of particularly grody mouths. Whatever the case, it doesn’t bother me to have him take the photos. I know for a fact that he’s not charged me for a few things over the years, and I consider that good payment for being a dental model.

Below are the shots he took of this latest procedure. They are VERY graphic, and may be unsettling to some of you. Therefore, I’ve left a safe white space between here and the carnage. If you have a weak stomach concerning dentistry, you probably shouldn’t look. Scroll down with eyes closed and hope you stop where I begin writing again. Those of you not bothered by oral gore, enjoy!

Lovely stuff, eh?

Actually, the dentist didn't upload the photos to me yet. I'll have to show you the grody stuff in my next post.

I’m going to kick back and enjoy the buzz now. See you later.

FRIDAY, September 24, 11:12am

Here’s a valuable thing to remember: The physical act of smiling will make you happy.

Now, that probably sounds dumb, but it’s the truth. If you feel down, depressed, dour, or a whole bunch of other things beginning with "D", just smile. After a short time, you’ll find that your forced smile has become a real one.

I don’t recall where I first heard that advice, but I do recall that it had scientific testing to back it up. When you use the muscles that make a smile, your brain starts producing dolphins. Or maybe it’s endorphins. Anyway, then you feel happier, which results in more of whatever they are being produced, which leads to a real smile, and so on.

If you don’t believe me, try it.

Oh, come on! Don’t do it for just a couple of seconds and then tell me I’m full of shit, unless telling me that will make you happy, in which case I’ll have accomplished the same thing for you. No, you have to keep on smiling for a minute or two. It helps if you look in a mirror while you’re doing it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See? It really does make you feel better, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

This bit of trickery is, unfortunately, something I tend to forget. Maybe now that I’ve written it down, I’ll remember it more easily. Anyway, I had reason to use it this morning, it made me feel good, and I decided to pass the magic on to you.

You’re welcome.

The reason I needed it was because I didn’t sleep well last night, and I was also in pain.

The problem with having had dental surgery, and then having a wonderful drug such as Percocet given to you to alleviate the pain, is that Percocet screws up your sleep patterns. Well, I suppose I should amend that. It screws up my sleep patterns. Your mileage may vary. In any case, while I found myself to be very tired, and hardly able to keep my eyes open by 1 am last night, I found that when I lay down to sleep, I couldn’t. Here are the reasons…

1 – Percocet tends to give me a dry mouth. Therefore, I drank a few gallons of water throughout the day and had to pee every hour or so. This continued during the night, so a full bladder awakened me whenever I drifted off to sleep, which wasn’t often because…

2 – Percocet, while making me pleasantly yawn-filled and hazy, also adds an element of jumpiness into the mix. The mind tends to jump from one thought to another, all of them extremely interesting. It’s this combination of being an upper and a downer that delights me so, much as I once adored the combination of cocaine and alcohol. It does, however, make real honest-to-God sleep almost entirely unattainable. So, in order to get the sleep I desperately needed, I stopped taking the drug, which led to…

3 – Pain.

So, I had a choice. I could stay off of the pills and have pain, but pain doesn’t help one to sleep. Or I could take more pills, which would alleviate the pain but, again, make sleep impossible. Meanwhile, I had to take a pee again. All of it was working against me getting any significant sleep, so I decided to take more pills. If I was going to be awake anyway, why be in pain?

If you’re a regular reader of mine – and why wouldn’t you be, aside from having to wend your way through crap like this? – you may be experiencing a touch of déjà vu. That’s because this convoluted mess about sleep and drugs probably reminds you of THIS OTHER CONVOLUTED MESS ABOUT SLEEP AND DRUGS.

(If you go to that link, you’ll find a story about me being aided in my attempts to sleep by a bug crashing into my Venetian blinds. It’s actually a good story, in my very humble opinion, and features God as my co-star. I’d usually end a parenthetical such as this with some sort of snappy joke, but if blasphemy and a complete lack of humility didn’t already make you laugh, there’s not much else I can do to help.)

Having no friendly insects to aid me last night, I slept for perhaps an hour, and that was accomplished in five and ten minute segments at intervals between the pain, peeing, pill-popping, and other things beginning with "P". So, this morning, I was not in a good mood. I was tired, grouchy, uncomfortable, and other things beginning with letters from the alphabet. I decided that perhaps a cigarette would help me to feel more like I wanted to feel.

(OK, so most of you know I’ve been quitting smoking for the past two weeks. I have been a pack-a-day, or more, smoker for forty years. For the past 14 days, I’ve been proud to have never smoked more than 9 cigarettes during any one 24-hour period. The average day has been around 7 smokes. While the lessened intake of smoke has resulted in me feeling generally healthier, it hasn’t contributed to any good vibes.)

I had a cigarette. And while I was having it, the latest round of percs kicked in more than previously. And I remembered that thing about how forcing yourself to smile will help you to really actually feel better. So, I smiled during the whole time I was having the cigarette (which, excuse yet another parenthetical, isn’t easy to do while inhaling smoke through a mouth full of new dentures and stitches, but I accomplished it.)

And I felt immeasurably happier, overall, so I decided I would share the secret of my happiness with you, which I have now done, so my work here is through. Never fear, though, as I’m sure I’ll be back later on with more hare-brained nonsense!

(And, of course, it could be the drugs making me happy, and maybe the smile thing is totally full of shit. I’ve taken that into account, but since I’m the only one with the drugs, you’ll have to settle for trying that smile crap.)

SUNDAY, September 26, 6:23pm

Panic time. I tried to get the denture to come out. It wouldn’t.

In case I didn’t make it clear earlier, the thing is supposed to be removable. The two implants I have in my bottom gums are meant as anchors to hold the prosthesis steadily in place. The denture more-or-less snaps onto them. Then, when I want to take it out – for cleaning or whatever – equal upward pressure applied on both ends should lift it off of the anchors. Except, when I tried to get it out of my mouth, it wouldn’t budge.

The dentist had asked me to keep it in for as long as possible over the weekend. The reasoning was that the tissues underneath it would heal more quickly if protected. And the fit is snug, right up against everything, so nothing would get at the gums. Also, I think the idea was for me to get used to it more quickly.

Overall, it felt good, but not great. It certainly functioned well. No problems eating, other than a soreness in the gums, which I assume was to be expected following three extractions, suturing of the wounds, lasering of the gums in some areas, and all the other necessarily sadistic procedures I had performed on my mouth. I could feel pressure in certain areas, but nothing me and my buddy Percocet couldn’t handle. And I’m sure those small pains will be addressed on Monday during the follow-up appointment. However, I had taken a short nap, following the Patriots victory over Buffalo, and when I awoke, I was in fairly serious pain. My face felt a bit swollen, the pressure in the gums seemed to be increased, I could taste what might have been pus…

Sorry. That last is gross, but it was a really foul taste. I know that all of it – the pain, the swelling, the taste – might be natural occurrences following oral surgery and having the gums covered, and unable to be refreshed via brushing or mouthwash, for more than three days. The medications might have contributed to it, too. However, I felt that removing the denture, cleaning it, and rinsing my mouth, would probably alleviate all of the problems.

So, I placed my thumbs in my mouth and tried to take the prosthesis out. It barely budged. And the effort to move it caused some serious pain.

Bad thoughts flitted through my mind. Maybe my mouth was infected and stuff had oozed under the plate adhering it to my gums. What if I applied too much pressure and broke it, or destroyed one of the implants? I increased the pressure slowly, and felt a slight rise from the gums, but it hurt like hell. I was becoming a bit scared, along with frustrated, and I hoped I wasn’t doing irreparable damage to either my mouth or to my lovely new choppers.

(And they ARE lovely. The doctor did a fantastic job. Nobody could possibly tell they weren’t real teeth. MY WIFE has been particularly complimentary concerning them, and she just wouldn’t bullshit about it. If they looked gruesome or phony, she’d let me know.)

After a good ten minutes of trying different pressures and angles, I felt it move enough to know I could now get it out. I increased my efforts and pushed hard, and it finally popped off of the implants. The relief was immediate and immensely pleasurable.

There was a small bit of mouth gunk in the part that had been contacting the gums, but nothing overwhelmingly alarming. I gave the surface a good brushing to clean them up. I looked at my gums. Not a pretty sight with the stitches still there, metal sticking up from the two implant sites, and the general sickly look of moist body tissue that hadn’t had air touch it for a good 72 hours, but nothing that made me feel I should place an emergency call to the good doctor. I swished a bit of mouthwash over the area, and immediately felt less anxious about things.

I’ve now had the teeth out of my mouth for about twenty minutes. All soreness and all feelings of being swollen have vanished. I haven’t felt this good all weekend. I hope the dentist can make the fit better on Monday. I’d much rather keep it in – barring pain – than have it out. Aside from cosmetic concerns, without the teeth in, my jaw can close far more than it ever has before in my life. There are, of course, no lower teeth for my uppers to contact to stop progress, and it’s a very weird and sick feeling. I don’t like it, at all.

I now have my teeth in a little plastic box they gave me for storage. I’m going to keep them out until I need them to eat. Just dress me in a bear costume and call me gummy.

(OK, I guess folks think it would have been a good idea to remove my sense of humor while they were removing the teeth, but those folks are just stoopid.)

This wraps up whatever this was. I’ll talk to you later in the week to varying degrees depending upon how well my teeth fit by then.

MONDAY, September 27, 8:50am

I'm in work, and just out of the dentist's office. He made a few adjustments - shaved down the denture here and there - and it feels better. He wants me back on Wednesday to adjust it more. I guess it's going to be an ongoing process, at least for the next week or so.

I think it's sort of like when you wear a pair of shoes that are tight and uncomfortable. When you take them off, you feel better. When you try to put them back on, your feet have swollen and they feel worse than they previously did. So my gums are feet and my teeth are shoes. It's probably a good thing I'm out of drugs.

I'll be back later this week with an update, including the grody surgical photos. Be still your beating heart!

Soon, with more dental stuff.


Cricket said...

Great post Jim. Only you could squeeze as much laughter out of a pile of unpleasant sounding dental work. Well done. Hope the new choppers serve you well.

haphazardlife said...

Ouch... No, really, no need for more dental stuff. I hate dental stuff. Dental stuff makes me very uncomfortable. And shuddery. Ugh.

- Jazz

Jinksy said...

Good heavens - I've read some marathon blogposts in my time, but yours takes the biscuit- or the cake - whichever would put the least stress on your new choppers! LOL :)

Uncle Skip, said...

"...dress me in a bear costume and call me gummy."

Good one!

I wonder if my dentist and the implant specialist will share their photos with me?

Jeni said...

I know most of the feelings you've been describing in this post -been through the dental process but not fortunate enough to have had the implants. Instead, I'm left with upper and lower denture plates. The upper fits quite nicely, but the lower, not so much. Not much that can be done about that I suppose. I'm just relieved that I no longer have to endure the removal of the teeth process ever again though.

But this was really a very good post, Jim -great information for someone considering having this procedure done, ya know. (Maybe you could be the dentist's poster boy?

Craig said...

Mmmmmmm. . . pus. . .

You know, I thought I had some nicely grody dental stories in my bag, but now I know, I've just been splashing around in a puddle. You, sir, are navigating the deep waters of dental grodiness. . . (and I haven't even seen the photos yet. . .)

Michelle H. said...

Well, the pus part was grody, indeed. But it's good to hear your mouth is healing fine - minus infection and all. Of course, that first photo makes you look like a serial killer. Can't imagine what the dentist photos will look like. Don't scare off too many kids at Halloween :)

slommler said...

I am glad to hear that you are healing normally and I have to say your teeth are looking good.
I have only had my wisdom teeth pulled and I was totally out of it during the time. That was great! Of course I woke up with much pain but soon the oral drugs kicked in and I was much better!! Ha!
After hearing all about your dental journey...I don't want to lose any more teeth that is for sure!!
Serious pain and puss put me off of that idea...I will keep what I have!

Shrinky said...

It's true, smiling really DOES give you a lift (as I can attest to, having just read your post). Love how you can squeeze out humour from even the most direst of situations. The pic of the finished result looks almost worth the pain - but I'm glad it's all behind you. Another classic post Jim, great writing!

Quirkyloon said...

Yeesh, I was scared THIS post was gonna have grody pics. No offense Mr. Sully, but I'll have to pass the on the grody pics.

*shudders* should've kept the big green goggles OFF. You could've gotten some free lasik work done!

See? I'm always thinking!


Brian Miller said...

only you could make me laugh about the dentist...

Daryl said...

Having had a major bridge installed (I am still insisting my teeth get a toll from any food that passes under the bridge) I recall that hurt and the inability to eat w/o pain .. oh yeah, dentist forgot to say 'eat only very soft food, no chewing for a day or three'

Hope you are painfree soon

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I pretty much was in a "holy f***!" state of mind from the phrase "...a laser was used to burn off a portion of my gums" on.

Good to hear that the procedure is just about done with.

Disgusting and disturbing or not, it was entertaining to read about.

IT said...

Always a joy to read about others misfortunes and misery.
My question is: will those implants set off the scanners when you go through airport security?

BTW - nice smile

Maggie May said...

Really sorry you've had such a lousy time with your teeth! But you look really good in the photo with your new choppers.
I am definitely squeamish with dentists but will come over & take a peek at the gory details when the pictures come.

The post I meant over at mine is Titled *A Sad State Of Affairs* 2 below the ballet dancer post. It was about a problem with a friend's sister in USA and I thought you'd like to comment about American law.Never mind! YOu've had other things to cope with.

Maggie X

Nuts in May

Buck said...

No, I was not paid for that endorsement. I really like the guy...

I wasn't paid for the endorsement I gave for my guy (who I also really like), either. I shoulda saved all those SiteMeter hits looking for "Dr. Thompson, P-Ville" and shown him. I'd have been reasonable: only five bucks per. The residuals (or whatever ya wanna call 'em) would have help offset the not-inconsequential cost of the implants. But there's just no justice in this world...

Eight years. Our stories in this space are remarkably and eerily similar. Except for the fact you got more and better drugs.

Sandi McBride said...

You and Mr Sorkin, huh? There's something to be said about writing with a buzz, the humor definitely stands out! I know you'll be glad to get the dentistry drill behind you, pal!!!

Karen said...

I've had my share of dental work over the years, so I can relate. When we were kids, my mom would take us to the dentist. When we left, we got to stop at the Mr. Peanut store down the street for one of those sticky, peanut caramel bars. I guess Mom never really got the jist of what might be helping all our trips to the dentist.

Angela Christensen said...

Aiyiyi...who else could make me read this stuff? You are a WRITER, my friend. Thanks for putting that down on, er, paper. You may be adjusting to your dentally- and nicotine-shifted life, but you're makng us laugh our asses off while you do it.

Angela Christensen said...

Oh. PS:
Thanks for turning me on to The Whitest Guy in West Africa. Our younger son is living there for the time being (although closer to Accra than Dakar). Good connection to have, and passable writing, to boot.

Saz said...

whoa...boy have yu had a week of brave too...pain in the heD CAVITY AND FACE IS SO AWFUL, SO IMMEDIATE L CANNOT ARTICULATE Sufficiently how god awfil it can be...apart from med free childbirth l'll pass every time...

hats off to you...but keep smiling them thar teeth are fab!!!

saz x

Merisi said...

Hey, I am still searching for the gross photos!!!!! *giggles* You are great looker, though!

Could you please be kind enough to ask Dr. D’Amico if he also offers bed and breakfast for out of town (from Beyond the Pond) patients? Also, what is the nearest international airport to Watertown? I hope to get appointments in the low season (whenever that is), what with intercontinental flights being made even more expensive by the mighty Dollar espousing a few weaknesses lately (to say it mildly).

So pleased you are now complete again,
dear Suldog,

lime said...

that's a very groovy set of new choppers ya got. and only you could get this kind of hilarious mileage out of pus, pain, pills and a bunch of other things starting with other letters.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Ya know something? My brain is always producing dolphins! Dolphins make me smile and then I get more dolphins. It's a genial circle really. You know, instead of a vicious one.

Hope the adjustments tomorrow do the trick, especially where you're out of the good stuff!

Gaston Studio said...

I envy you for having the courage to endure those years in order to get to the final result... a mouth full of beautiful teeth. I doubt I would have maintained your sense of humor!

GreenJello said...

I'm totally curious, with you being a Voice Talent and all... does the new set of choppers affect the way you talk? Did it mess with your enunciation at all?

Teeth look great, by the way!

Land of shimp said...

Ow, ow and more ow. However, modern dentistry is actually great stuff, isn't it? We can solve a lot of problems that were once unsolvable.

Enjoy the percocet, Jim. I'm mildly allergic to the blasted stuff so I never see the appeal. For me it's just "dulled pain, extreme nausea and vague itching." Sounds fun, doesn't it? You could menace me with that stuff.

I hope you heal swiftly and I'm glad the dental journey is nearly at an end.

FN Mike said...

Bring on the GWAR! I mean, GORE!

Nick said...

Clearly, if dentistry issues are ever discussed at Congressional hearings, they need to call you.

Uncle Skip, said...

I feel quite fortunate because most of my discomfort occurred before the procedures, rather than during or after. My biggest complaint was that they didn't happen fast enough.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Gosh that was a post to get your teeth stuck into! LOL
Great account of your recent dentistry and you certainly have been through a lot of pain and discomfort.

Well that's yer teeth sorted out - when are you going to update the rest of you? LOL

Only joking ~ Eddie LOL scrambling for cover!

i beati said...

I need more pumping up I need this surgery so badly but my teeth are hard to extract and due to immune cancer I get very ill ..My friend says pump up with antibiotics then goI am so look like a million Boston on a tear!!

Chris Stone said...

yikes! glad i stopped by before the grody surgical photos!

good to hear things went well.

Ericka said...

ugh. hope you're feeling better!

Ruth and Glen said...

Gotta love those percocets! Happy that your ordeal is finally complete and you're no doubt over your pain by now.