Last Thursday morning I went in to have a certain problematic molar taken care of at the dentist's office before it got much worse. To recap briefly, there is a particular molar on the bottom-left side of my mouth that has been through hell: It's broken several times (once particularly memorable time while eating a German soft pretzel, of all things), it's been filled several times, and I've honestly lost track of the number of root canals performed done on it (somewhere between three and six in the last fifteen years). While getting the abscessed #19 tooth taken care of, it was observed that it was looking a little dodgy. To be somewhat more specific, the crown on it was loose and wiggling, and I started to notice a black line on the gum just below it.
The rest is going under a cut because I'd like to save people who don't specifically want the down-low the writeup. For those of you with relatively delicate constitutions suffice it to say that I hope I never experience that again in my life.
My usual dentist noticed that the crown on that tooth was wiggling more freely than a piece of steel and porcelin is supposed to; if you moved it with a tool or your fingertip you could see it shift slightly from side to side. This is never a good sign. However, the crown was not sufficiently loose that he could just pry it up and move on with the main show, as evidenced by his trying for a good ten minutes to do so with a variety of instruments. While cutting it apart it broke into five or six pieces, each of which had to be extracted separately. After scrutinizing the area he then proceeded to drill away the post and buildup to prepare the site to re-do everything.
And then flinched.
For reasons I'm not quite clear on he turned the flatpanel display above the chair on, stuck one of those very small video cameras on a white probe into my mouth, and showed me what the site looked like. It greatly resembled a war zone, or perhaps a Superfund site. What remained of the tooth was filled with a dark brown/dark amber/dirty yellow slime through which you could just see the white tops of the root canals' fillings. At the same time the most horrid stench made its presence known... authors write about the smell of corruption but one never quite knows what they mean by that. I do now. I couldn't escape it because it was coming from the freshly exposed tooth and headed right up my nose by way of the back of my throat. As near as I can tell the infection from the abscess broke the seal on the crown, got inside, and somehow worked it way between what was left of the tooth and the hardened polymer of the post and set up shop. And proceeded to eat.
"It seems we have a project!" Dr. Freeman said brightly, and set to work.
Frankly, I don't know what the hell he did in there. I had a suspicion that I was going to lose that tooth once and for all and after one of the more stomach churning experiences of my life was ready to get it done and over with so I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. Laying there in the chair was not one of the more comfortable experiences of my life, just about every joint that could seize up or cramp did so at least twice, and let me tell you it's hard not to sneeze when you have a mouthful of dental tools. Two hours later, he'd not only cleaned everything out (including the black gunk beneath my gumline) and saved just about all of the tooth that's left but he'd set two steel pins through the base of the molar and into the mandible to not only provide a carefully engineered structure for the new post to hold onto (he went into the physics of it at some length) but re-seal two of the root canals themselves. The new post was built up from scratch and I now have a temporary crown until the permanent one is fabricated and installed a few weeks from now.
Out of morbid curiosity, when I got back to the office I tried to stick some of the fridge magnets in the kitchen to the side of my jaw. They didn't stick. So much for having a new party trick.
That was a couple of days ago. In the interim I've been taking Advil like it's going out of style (six hundred milligrams four times a day to keep the inflammation down) and, barring something going pear-shaped which necessitated editing this post I should be doing somewhat better. I'm definitely not quite as tired as I was before, neither am I sleeping as much, so the extra energy deficit incurred by my immune system should be over now that the infection's been cleared up.