Some people go on a “Tour of Homes.”
Recently, my daughter took a “Tour of Dental Clinics.” It started with a sensitive tooth a week before her regular visit.
She described the tour as follows:
“The sensitivity turned into an ache, and then excruciating pain radiated through my jaw. I went to a medical clinic for antibiotics and pain medicine. I hoped they would hold me until my check-up. I had too many meetings and commitments to be sick. I needed sleep.
“Midnight: Still not asleep, I moaned, kicked the blankets off, crawled out of bed, applied more gel, more heat and took more medicine. No relief, no sleep. My husband gently said, ‘You need to go to the dentist tomorrow instead of Bible Study.’
“’They need me! I will wait,’ I stubbornly responded.
“1:30 a.m.: Still awake, still in pain, and I’m mad. I have four kids, a part time job and volunteer positions. Zero sleep is ridiculous.
“3 a.m.: I resign myself and text my Bible Study leader with the bad news. Before dawn, I trudge downstairs to moan and pace and consider the pliers. I prepare myself for pain the rest of my life, or that the dentist will pull all my teeth.
“8 a.m.: My friend at the dentist’s office called to say, ‘You can see the dentist at 10.’
“I pace. I cry. I wait until my chauffeur can take me to the first stop of my ‘Tour of Dental Clinics.’ Through the doors of a crisp, modern dentist’s office the receptionist who chirps, ‘How are you today?’
“I melt into tears and hold my cheek. ‘Just hand me your insurance and ID cards. I’ll do the rest,’ she said.
“While the dentist looked at my x-rays, I tried to remain calm. He suggested I needed to wait until the infection subsided before he could take action. I burst out in tears. He called the oral surgeon to schedule an extraction and asked, ‘Would you like some pain pills?’
“Noon: My chauffeur stopped at the outdated, dark waiting room of an oral surgeon who looked at a new set of x-rays. ‘I don’t extract a tooth if it can be saved by a root canal. You can get an appointment with an endodontist … in three days,’ he said.
“More waiting? More tears. Sympathetically, my friend called another endodontist to see that day. The oral surgeon called in a prescription for stronger antibiotics.
“3 p.m.: We arrived at an endodontist’s office with an obvious taste for modern art. He tapped my teeth and took yet another x-ray.
“’You need a root canal,’ he said, started the gas and prepped my mouth. With a dental dam and bite block in place, I ignored my phone when my chauffeur called to ask how long it would take.
“After 5 p.m. the endodontist, pulled off his gloves. I can’t finish the root canal today. The infection won’t stop bleeding. He invited me to return. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue my tour of dental offices, but I knew I didn’t want a half-finished root canal. He printed off three more prescriptions. By 7 p.m. my chauffeur had been to the pharmacist twice for me.
“9:00 p.m.: Dosed with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain medication, I fell asleep.
“The next afternoon: Alert and lucid, I drove myself to the endodontist’s office to conclude my root canal. My chauffeur returned to his day-job and I ended My ‘Tour of Dental Clinics’ free of excruciating pain and hoping I never take another such tour ever again.”
Joan Hershberger is a retired journalist who lives in Parkers Chapel with her husband. She may be reached email@example.com