Friday, August 24, 2012

Dentists and suffering

The dental industry, in its aim to keep things clean and dry and healthy before dealing with taking impressions of a mouthful of teeth (or the lack of them), or in its aim to do other terrifying things to their patients, seem to forget that these things can actually be very traumatic to the people receiving them.  

I don't normally have a great deal of problem with going to the dentist.  I've had so many things done to me over the years that I'm fairly composed, normally, when it comes to sitting in a dentist's chair.  However, over the last few months I've made several visits to the Dental School here in Dunedin, because, as a pensioner, it doesn't cost me an arm and a leg to have my teeth attended to when I go there.  I'm very happy that Dunedin has the Dental School - don't get me wrong about that.   But I'm getting a crown replaced - it broke off a couple of months ago due to wear and tear, I guess.  It's taking longer than it would to have it done by a private practice dentist, of course.  That's the way things go at the Dental School.  And the young fellow who's looking after me is doing pretty well, all things considered - he's a fourth year student.  

But today, prior to taking an impression so that the technicians could make a new crown, he did something I don't remember having had done before: to dry the area between the gum and what's left of the tooth (what the crown will hang onto, along with a couple of pins that have been inserted in it) he inserted a tiny tubular-type material in under the gum, like a very small rubber band.  Poking this up into the gum was like having something poked under your fingernail.  I'd had an anaesthetic, so it shouldn't have been sore, but it was very sore.  Worse, two of these tubulars have to be inserted: the first does one thing, the second something else.  (I was a bit brainless by this time, so found it hard to take in what they were actually doing.)   I guess the first kind of expands the gum area so the second one can be held in place to keep things dry.  I'm not sure. 

Anyway, after this had happened, I had the impression-taking device stuffed up into my upper set of teeth for around five minutes; apparently the material that takes the impression doesn't dry quickly.  That was okay - survivable.  

Finally, relief when the impression thingee was removed, and then the two tubular bits.  Except that that supervisor felt that the impression wasn't quite good enough because there was extraneous gum getting in the way.  So...believe it or not...we went through the whole process again after the offending gum was removed - burnt off, in fact.  You could smell the burning flesh.  By this time I'd had two more injections, and being injections into the area that was already sore they were very painful in themselves.   (Perhaps it wasn't coincidental that our church house group last night was looking at suffering!)  I've always tried to avoid anaesthetics if I can when at the dentist; I find they leave your mouth more sore afterwards than if you don't have them.  The pain of the moment is of the moment; when you recover from being anaesthetized, you still have the pain that you didn't experience so much of earlier on.  If that makes sense. 

Anyway, the process started all over, and I was offered still more anaesthetic, but I just wanted every over and done with - Get on with it!  So up into the gum went two more rubber bands, and then the impression thingee was stuffed up again for another five minutes (and if you think I'm exaggerating about the 'five minutes', I'm not).  By this time I was very desperate to get out of that chair and out of the building.  

Why do they need to use these bands?  In the past, as far as I'm aware, they've always cleaned very thoroughly around the area before sticking anything like a crown or a temporary (I'm onto my third temporary for this series) onto what's remaining of the tooth, and that's always been effective.  I've rarely had any problems in terms of infection.  This current idea of stuffing stuff up inside your gum verges on torture that Torquemada would have enjoyed applying.  Even with an anaesthetic, it's painful, and what makes it more painful is having someone tell you to sit still because moving about makes it harder to work.  Okay, mate, let's swap places for a few minutes!  

Anyway, I'm still alive.  I have another temporary stuck in which hasn't fallen out while I was having a meal with some friends tonight.  (Though I was being cautious...)   I could have had the tooth taken right out and be faced with yet another addition to my denture plate, as happened last time something along these lines occurred.  

Count it all joy, my friends, when suffering comes along...says James, though I think he was referring more to people being persecuted for their Christian faith.  One of my questions at the study group last night was, how do we be joyful in the middle of suffering?  If I was supposed to learn how to do it today, I missed the boat, I'm afraid. 
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