Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dental Records

I spend most of my time on this blog talking about my life as a performing singer-songwriter. Occasionally I talk about general topics that relate to virtual worlds and the like. However, this morning, I'm writing only to distract myself from the pain that is emanating from the entire left side of my head. Why, you ask, am I in pain? Well, yesterday, I had two teeth extracted.

A Brief History of My Mouth
I'm just one of those people who was genetically predisposed to having shitty teeth. I've always taken good care of my teeth. I brush twice daily. I floss often. I use mouthwash. And still, like both of my parents before me, my teeth have never been great, and as time goes by, they certainly haven't improved on their own. I think I had my first root canal when I was about 23, and that was after a good number of cavities that always required fillings when I was a child. It could be said that my current teeth woes are in part the result of all those fillings in my youth, but that speculation is pretty pointless at the moment.

Anyway, over the years, I've had at least another 4-5 root canals, crowns, and in addition to the typical wisdom teeth removal, one extraction of an unsavable tooth. That extraction was done very well by Dr. Richard Schell here in Redondo Beach, and he did a great job. More on him later. It was all the way back in 2003 when my dentist told me that I had several teeth that still had to go, but another ten years went by before the teeth themselves insisted on my dentist's plans.

Swollen Sunday
It's truly amazing how fast these things can arise. On Saturday, I was feeling terrific, and had a very fun brunch with my family (including my lovely niece, who I hadn't seen in far too long). By Saturday evening, though, I was noticing that in the back left corner of my mouth, there was a foreboding throb going on. Not precisely pain, but definitely a discomfort. My general plan for all things medically related is to sleep on it, and hope my body can work some mystical magic that makes it go away on its own.

That didn't happen this time. Instead, I awoke on Sunday, and the back of my mouth was badly swollen. As in, abscessed. The back molar, which was basically a stub of a tooth that had been previously root canalled and then broken, along with the impacted wisdom tooth behind it that I'd never had taken out, was looking and feeling really badly. It was time to stop fucking around, and do something. We've all heard stories of people who let an infection go too long untreated, and ended up dead (or wishing they were).

Dr. Schell to the Rescue
Not only was it Sunday morning; it was Cinco de Mayo, which is pretty much a bullshit holiday and an excuse for people to drink, but is widely observed here in Southern California. At 8:30AM, I called Dr. Schell's office, and as expected, I got their voicemail. I also left a message on their emergency line (hey, it was feeling and looking like an emergency to me). What I didn't expect was that Dr. Schell called me back within about 15 minutes. He told me to get some fresh hydrogen peroxide and let it soak in my mouth around the affected area, and told me to come into the office the next day. Well, the H2O2 helped a lot. The swelling came down considerably, as did the discomfort. That, along with some ibuprofen, let me spend the rest of my Sunday feeling more human. Dr. Schell also advised that if surgery was going to be possible, I couldn't eat or drink anything the next morning. Noted.

On Monday morning, I called the office and got an appointment for 11AM. Conveniently, Dr. Schell is located in the medical center just around the corner from my home; I walked there in five minutes. Upon arriving (and assuring them that I indeed had not consumed any food or beverage that day), they pretty quickly took x-rays and evaluated the situation. Dr. Schell agreed that both teeth had to go (confirming what my dentist had told me a decade before). I called Kat and told her I'd need a ride back (they don't send people off on their own after surgery, which makes sense to me).

Two minutes later, I was on my back in the OR, and I do recall them putting the oxygen mask over my nose. Then, nothing. The next thing I knew, I was getting up from the table, and Kat was there to help me in my semi-conscious state to get to her car and back home. I have little recollection of that part; the effect of anesthesia on short-term memory is pretty weird. Apparently, I asked her the same questions 12 times, which she patiently answered. The rest of the day was pretty rough, but the Vicodin helped.

Getting My Smile Back
I won't be smiling much for a couple of days. If the pain didn't preclude my desire to smile, the swelling in my jaw would prevent it regardless. But I am feeling pretty optimistic about recovering quickly, and about the fact that this procedure, which has been overdue for a decade, is finally done.

By the way, as you may have noticed, I included no pictures in this particular blog post. You can thank Kat for that... she pretty much insisted that you don't need to see my swollen bloody gum sockets. Sorry for those of you who are disappointed. Oh, and my ibuprofen (which I've turned to today instead of being all whacked out on Vicodin) has now kicked in and I'm feeling a lot happier than when I started writing. So, yay for me.

A final note: this was my second experience with oral surgery by Dr. Schell, and both times I've been very impressed. Good staff, nice office, helpful bedside manner, and good follow-up. He's a nice guy who really does seem to care about his patients. If you need extractions, implants and so on here in the South Bay, he's a great choice.

Richard Schell, DDS
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
510 N. Prospect Ave
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 937-2992

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