24 August 2012

ROOT CANAL ODYSSEY PART 1 (The Tooth Hurts aka The Toothache Was Actually Worse Than The Root Canal Procedure)

"Faced with the choice of enduring a bad toothache or going to the dentist, we generally tried to ride out the bad tooth" ~ Joseph Barbera

"Tried that, didn't work" ~ Elina M Kasah 

As some of you may know I had been struggling with a chipped tooth with exposed nerve for quite some time, and recently the recurring pain had grown increasingly unbearable to the point where I could no longer ignore it. Don't get me wrong, I have no problems going to the dentist - the problem was the damage it can do to another part of my person (the wallet!). But delaying the inevitable was not a good idea, so 2 weeks ago I went to see Dr. Yap and the diagnosis was that a ROOT CANAL was in order. Extraction was NOT advisable as this was my 2nd upper right premolar, and its loss would be VERY noticeable. Although a part of it was chipped and a large part had been replaced by dental filling for aeons, the root and back portion is still viable for a salvage & rescue operation (a crown is also necessary, but that's another story!).

After a week of on and off toothache (and hearing stories about others' root canal experiences), I took the plunge and made the 1st appointment. And thus, our story begins...


Wednesday, 22nd August, 4.55 pm: Arriving at the dentist with 5 minutes to spare before my appointment, I noticed there were already 5 people in the waiting area (a father and young son duo, two ladies, and another professionally dressed lady furiously typing on her laptop). I thought the dentist was probably running late with his treatments (it happens) and was prepared for the long wait, so I grabbed the first English language magazine from the stack of magazines at the corner of the waiting area.

After about 10 minutes or so the treatment room door opened and an elderly couple came out (insert false teeth jokes here). I continued reading, but was surprised when a few moments later the dental assistant opened the door and called my name. The collective gasps from the people waiting in the room reflected their surprise and annoyance (no doubt) about me going in before them but who was I to argue? (I had an appointment, they were probably walk-ins, I guess). Dr. Yap wished me a 'Selamat Hari Raya' (Eid Mubarak) as I made myself comfortable on the dental chair (an oxymoron?) and without further ado, the 'ordeal' began...

[Now, before I continue with the riveting story (^o^), let me explain something about the medical community in Malaysia (ESPECIALLY professionals who trained oh, about a gazillion years ago) - most doctors have little to zero bedside manner, and dentists especially DO NOT LIKE to be asked questions about procedures and treatments and such. I remember when I was much younger (definitely less than a gazillion years ago), the dentists I visited were often surly and unhappy that a school-going patient was asking questions about every step of the treatment being done (I was always an inquisitive child) and so on. Even a few years before I became Dr. Yap's patient the dentists I visited were just slightly better. So imagine my pleasant surprise when on my first visit he explained every step of the treatment and answered all my questions patiently. Another surprise was when I found out he was my ex-housemate's best friend's husband (segue Disney's song 'It's a Small World'). So what I'm saying is that Dr. Yap is an exception to the above and HE.IS.GOOD. And a colleague who became his patient at my recommendation can attest to that. So can her family. LOL]

Back to the story. First, Dr. Yap removed the existing filling. This part didn't hurt. Then, the 'search for the root opening' began. He asked me to raise my hand if I felt any pain. I took a few deep breaths, and after a few seconds of prodding and probing into the tooth, the next poke almost sent me into orbit!!! HOLY @#$%^&*() {}[]|\:";'?,./...  (He's lucky I just jolted in the chair and didn't raise my right hand, or else HE would have been sent into orbit!). The pain was good news though, as that meant the nerve was already exposed and it would make it easier for him to do the treatment. He also didn't have to anaesthetise the surrounding gum area (which would have complications, I'll get to that later) and instead just directly injected it into the soft tissues in the root itself. I had to rinse out the excess anaesthetic and BOY was it bitter (and numbed my tongue for a while). After that he did the root canal
procedure (go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_canal for details) which didn't take long at all. After finishing, he packed the root with disinfectant and other stuff, sealed the cavity with temporary filling and dosed the area with clove oil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_of_cloves). YUCKKK!!! As I didn't feel any lingering pain Dr. Yap was fairly certain he got everything out (if the gum had been anaesthetised then this would have been hard to determine). I also have to take antibiotics for the next four days in case of infection. 

By no means is this over as my next visit a week later will be to further clean out the tooth to prepare for the next part of the treatment which I shall call 'Screw & Fill' (hee-hee). So far there's been no pain (HOORAY) but the sensation of the tooth being 'violated' remains - the area is a bit more sensitive to chewing motions (as expected) and I do have to be careful not to eat hard/tough food or at least avoid chewing them on the right side. I can still taste the clove oil now and then, but that should be gone in a few days. At least I had this done during my long Eid leave and have more time to recover.

So! First part done and two more visits to go - hopefully they will be uneventful (but not too much as it would make for a boring read) and pain-free. Bouquets and brickbats are welcomed; as I haven't written anything this long(winded) before your feedbacks, comments and criticisms would help me improve (we can always hope). 

to be continued...