spontaneous root canal

I have had a toothache for a few days. Doesn’t that just sound so Victorian? In the modern era, who gets a toothache, really? But this was a toothache, an ache under and around a tooth that’s been giving me problems lately. It’s the second-from-the-back tooth on the right side of my mouth, which had a root canal six years ago, and a crown that recently came off for no apparent reason. It started aching on Saturday, and by Monday, I was in real pain. By Tuesday, it had started swelling. I had thought maybe the crown needed to be adjusted at first, but when the swelling under my jawline started, I knew something was very very wrong.

I went in to my dentist on Tuesday, and found out what that was. An X-ray revealed an infection around the roots of the root canal, and a need for immediate action. My dentist referred me to the same oral surgeon who did the root canal on the other side of my mouth, and arranged for me to go over immediately. I walked back to my office, packed up, explained I was leaving, and drove over to the surgeon’s office to find out my fate.

It turned out the infection was rather severe, and the root canal would have to be re-done. Immediately. I shrugged, and said, “Let’s get it over with,” and lay back to begin the process. For those of you who have escaped root canals, they’re pretty brutal – the entire tooth is basically gutted. There’s drilling and a sort of excavation process almost down to the jawbone…and although I was under local anaesthetic, it was still extremely unpleasant.

I left shaking a little, with a prescription for antibiotics and Vicodin. I picked those up at Vons on the way home (and got in a little grocery shopping while there) and immediately took the pills and went to bed. I managed to play with Ben a bit, but between the painkillers and the pain, I wasn’t in good shape. I passed out early, woke up at 6am, and realized I was still in pain. Not as much as the night before, but enough that between the pain, and my still swollen jaw, I was in no shape to go to work. I took another painkiller, went back to sleep, and napped through enough of the day that I actually felt much better when I woke up.

But since then, I have been recovering. The swelling from the infection is down, and I was actually able to use both sides of my mouth to chew my dinner tonight – for the first time in days. My tooth aches again from eating, but overall, I know I’m getting better. And while I still have another session at the surgeon in a week, the worst of it is over. It was just very bad over the last couple days.

Overall though, I’m thankful to live in a time and place where we have such advanced dentistry. In the Victorian era, I’d have suffered horribly for weeks and then probably lost the tooth. In Los Angeles in 2010, I have fantastic health care available to me (albeit with a co-pay), and can get a problem this severe fixed, while nicely anaesthetized against the worst of the pain. Two hundred years ago, if you lost your teeth to decay, that was it, and you ended up having to pre-macerate your food before eating it, with little table implements designed for that purpose. As it is, I have a mouthful of teeth, which were straightened out with braces, filled and capped when needed, and are generally in good shape. I live in the 21st century in a Western nation. I may have had a rough few days, but I’m still extremely lucky. And now, I feel that last Vicodin kicking in, so I’m off to sleep.

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