Er…no. No, they don’t. And I have every right to feel nervous about going to the dentist for my sixth injection. Every reason to feel worried by now.
I hadn’t really geared myself up in preparation for this root canal. The first bit of dental treatment I would have had for such a long time. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but it would be routine, I felt. No one likes injections- or so I’m led to believe- feel free to correct me otherwise.
I have a fairly high pain threshold and pretty much measure all pain with the same ruler, that is, just like the pain of childbirth, it will end, eventually. If fact, ever the control freak that I am, I administer my own pain by pinching the back of my hand very hard, while the long needle goes in. No one hurts me. Only me can really hurt me, does that make sense?
So I take a deep breath in, then out and at the same time fall just short of drawing blood. The Tooth fairy technician withdraws the needle. ‘Everything ok?’ I open my eyes to see her smiling reassuringly. ‘Yes’, I release a sigh, knowing that the worst is over.
We wait some minutes for it to kick in. At least ten. Throughout she asks me whether all the ‘expected’ areas are tingling, to plain downright numb? Not really, I reply. I can still feel sensation. I can run the tip of my tongue across the subject tooth and all its neighbours, feel contours and ridges. And when I place the tip of my tongue inside the troubled tooth, it is tender.
We wait another ten. But there is no change. A little puzzled, but not overly concerned, she administers another injection. I still tense and pinch myself in anticipation. The only blessing is that I don’t feel it pierce in the same way as the first. I did feel something, but the edge is mostly off. I rinse my mouth as per routine. She gives me some sugared water as I feel a little airy headed and am shaking lightly.
We wait for a further ten. While waiting, she excuses herself to catch up with paper work while I wait in the dentist chair. ‘Thats ok’, I say. This was a forty- minute appointment, and we have used ten in taking an x-ray to decide what needed to be done, and another thirty waiting for the injection to take effect. But to no effect.
Finally, she tests again. My jaw is heavy, my gums feel heavy. The left side of my bottom lip is tingly, but I can still feel sensation in my teeth. She touches the tooth with her standard dentist inspection instrument. Yep, sensation there, definitely where there shouldn’t be.
She expresses, in her clipped eastern European tone, that it’s a little peculiar. She explains how and where she has administered the anaesthetic, how it should be working on the nerves, what I should be experiencing; all the boxes that I am not quite ticking. And the real proof of an uncooked pudding; that I can feel sensations within and around the key tooth. Perhaps I have an anatomical variation, she suggests, i.e. the anatomy of my jaw is atypical. Yet, I have never experienced this before and I have had my fair share of injections.
Not put off, she tries injection number three. She tells me injection number one would have had my arm numb in no time.
Fifteen minutes later, she is apologising. She is an experienced dentist, she reassures, however, perhaps she is doing something wrong? We are both apologising. Sorry, that my nerves won’t behave. Critically, I can still feel tenderness. And how much time has passed? She had asked me earlier on whether I had had anything to eat that morning. I hadn’t. Could that be contributing, she wonders. “I’m sorry I cannot carry out this work on your tooth.” She tells me to take care on my journey home, it could be that I am yet to be affected by the potency of the anaesthetic. And have a nice hot, sweet drink.
So one hour later, I am back down at reception, slightly numb with compromised speech, making another appointment and explaining my tale. Both receptionists look at each other then back at me. “Be careful. The effects may still be kicking in”. They repeated pretty much what the dentist prescribed; to take it easy. Have a sweet tea. I would if I liked tea.
I started to thaw over the next few hours. The only other thing I felt was a deep disappointment at the lost opportunity to get my tooth sorted. I would have to endure discomfort at some point in the immediate future, all over again.
I returned a week later. I am not one to carry anxiety, so I was fine all week prior, reserving any thoughts about it until the morning of my appointment. And on the day I prayed not to go through a series of injections like the last time, all in vain. I even Googled my peculiar experience that morning, before I left for the appointment and I found seven reasons why they may not have worked. 1) anatomical variations 2) Technical errors 3) Anxious Patient 4) Inflammation or infection in the region 5) Defective anaesthetic solutions 6) Having red hair 7) Having joint Hypermobility.
Well, 3, 6 and 7 I can safely rule out. Certainly, my dislike of dentists would never keep me up at night. Could it be one of the other four? Though I have not suffered from any severe pain during the interim. I read about some unusual nerve connections possibly being present -typically on the lower jaw, where my tooth is situated- which could mean there are extra nerves supplying feeling for a particular tooth. As I understand it, when the dentist suspects that extra nerves are present, additional local is needed in the right position. However, the dental nerve within the lower jaw is buried within dense bone, which is where I start to see the similarities with pin the tail on the donkey, equipped though she is, to deal with what may be going on.
I was aware that she would be reviewing the anaesthetic solution for this very appointment. She had mentioned trying a different batch. On arrival, she informed me that, not only was it from a new batch, but it was also stronger.
So ditto everything I could do to manage the discomfort of the needle, just like my first appointment. Ditto the wait in the chair, for the injection to take effect. And sadly, ditto the results. With heavy sighs from us both, she tried a second time that day- clearly trying from different angles. Finally, it felt like we were getting somewhere. The whole side of my jaw felt like a block. She took her prodding instrument and asked me to open my jaw, which was a challenge in itself. She touched the tooth.
And that’s where we are. I have an appointment booked for ten days time. My dentist has arranged for her colleague to administer the injection, after which she will take over, and carry out the root canal. Five injections in total, and not an ounce of treatment. Like I said at the beginning, I’m reminded of the well-oiled, old saying…
Wish me luck. I’ll fill you in.