Acting on the wise advice of everyone who's gone an a long trip away from home, I've been spending the past few days (apart from fixing my papers and embracing my new role as an OFW) catching up on my dental work.
Much as I like my dentist as a person, I am one of those who considers a session in the "hot seat" akin to a stint in purgatory regardless of what form of pain she chooses to inflict on me at the time. The less I see of her the better. Now that I've experienced getting a tooth extracted, I have revised my opinion - a visit to the dentist is not a trip to purgatory but a trip straight to hell.
One of my molars has been undergoing intensive root canal treatments for a while - probably another legacy of too much sweets as a child. A few weeks ago, after an x-ray, my dentist gave me the devastating verdict that the tooth was beyond saving. If I didn't want to suddenly wake up with the mother of all toothaches when I'm stuck in a place where all health-related services are notoriously expensive unless you're covered by Medicare, the molar had to go ASAP.
After going through all the stages in the dying process - denial ("Are you sure nothing can be done?"), anger ("I've been getting a root canal for months, what do you mean I have to get my tooth taken out?"), bargaining ("Maybe we can try for a few more treatments and I can have it taken out when I get back?"), depression ("I can't believe I am actually going to have a permanent tooth taken out at 31. At this rate I'll have a mouthful of false teeth by the time I'm 60."), and finally acceptance ("Fine, let's get this sucker out once and for all.") - I finally had my tooth taken out a few hours ago. The trauma is so fresh that I have yet to feel sensation return to my lips and tongue even as I type.
With all due respect to my dentist and all the other dentists in the world -- I really don't know how they can do what they do. I can't even imagine how they grow up wanting to do what they eventually do! How does one grow up wanting to become a dentist? I'm not saying it's not good honest work and a much needed skilled profession. It's just that that someone who actually wants to do this because he enjoys it must have an unacknowledged sadistic streak lurking somewhere. They definitely have it in spades over surgeons - who at least cut and inflict pain on patients asleep and wear the mantle of the but-I'm-saving-his-life syndrome to justify it.
Dentists do their work on a fully awake patient who can feel every twist, scrape, wiggle, and tug as they do it. Despite the advent of anesthetics and modern instruments, the prodding and the pulling that modern dentists do still eerily calls to mind untrained barbers doing the same thing a century or two ago.
At the sight of my dentist laying out the things she was going to need to pull out my one measly tooth, it was all I could do not to squawk in panic at the array of vicious looking sticks, picks, and pliers - not to mention that evil-looking hypodermic needle. The only way I could think of to get through the experience without being scarred for life was to keep my eyes closed. That way I didn't have to give into the urge to screech, "You're going to put THAT in my mouth!" every time my dentist picked up another instrument from her tray and approached my open mouth with it.
The extraction procedure was, quite thankfully, a textbook one despite my fleeting urge to go into hysterics.
An empty stomach did not deter me from popping two different kinds of analgesic right after the procedure to counter the sucker punch of pain that's bound to come once the effect of the lidocaine has completely faded out. The anesthetic is beginning to wear off, so I'm going to go get an ice cream now. Not being able to eat solid foods is a good excuse as anything to get a sundae without guilt.
Frankly, I hope I never, never have to go through anything like that ever again. Or should the occasion ever arise, I'm going to insist on a general anesthetic so I can sleep through every tug and pull.