Ins & Outs

It’s Thursday, 7 days after The News.

Ins & Outs

With all the attention being paid to the exit side of my digestive system the intake side apparently felt a bit left out.

This morning I woke with pain in one of my molars. From experience (I’ve had four root canals and an implant) it’s the type that usually increases in intensity over the next few days until you’re begging for an emergency dentist appointment.

Well I figured I’d nip this in the bud and called the dentist’s office. Fortunately they could see me in the morning. When I got there I explained to the dentist what I was going through on the cancer front and so if there was any suspicion I needed a root canal or other procedure let’s get it done. Tooth pain is the last thing I need right now.

She probed the tooth and surrounding area and couldn’t find anything. Sigh. This is my common experience with dentists. I don’t think it’s their fault – my teeth tend to fail in a way that is often not immediately obvious on x-rays or inspection. The dentist suggested that I wait a day or two and see if the pain resolves, but let’s put in a hold appointment for tomorrow just in case. As we were walking down she asked if I’d like to see the endodontist just to get another opinion. I figured why not? As it turned out the endodontist could see me in a couple hours.

Told the endodontist the same thing I told the dentist – I’m starting a cancer diagnosis journey so if there’s any hint of an issue let’s get it taken care of. After a bit of probing and using some CO2 dipped cotton he was able to determine that there was a problem with the molar in question. As he was getting ready for the root canal I told him that my lower molars on the other side are cold sensitive so please don’t splash cold water on them. He looked at me and declared “Impossible!” The two molars and the pre-molar on the other side were all root canals, and there’s no way they could be temperature sensitive. I told them well, they were, and I had stopped allowing anything cold on that side since sometimes it felt like someone was jabbing an ice pick in a tooth. He started examining those teeth and started mumbling about referred pain from the upper teeth. Eventually he got back to prepping me for the root canal. Really I didn’t want him to look at the other teeth – just not get any cold water on them.

During the wait for the anesthetic to get me good and numb the endodontist decided he’d probe around the temperature sensitive teeth again. It had become a personal challenge for him to figure out what was going on. He asked his assistant to get more CO2 dipped cotton and started applying it to the lower molars, then the upper molars. Eventually he went back to the lower molars and the mirror of the one he was doing the root canal on, and I started to get that sensation that inevitably would build up to a huge pain spike. So I raised my hand and he immediately removed the cotton with a puzzled look.

By this time the side of my mouth he’d be working on was numbed up and so he started the root canal. I have to say I don’t know why people are afraid of root canals. The tooth pain you have that necessitates them is horrible. The root canal itself is at most a bit uncomfortable since you’re holding your mouth open for an extended period. But it doesn’t hurt.

Half way through the endodontist exclaimed “Aha! Do you know what I see here? You have four canals in this tooth! I think I only saw they did three on the other side!” He went on to explain that most people have three canals, but 10-15% of people have four. Lucky me. And it’s highly unusual for someone to have four canals on one side and three on the other. So there was probably a fourth untreated canal in the problem tooth. He suggested that if I had an hour to come back and he’d redo the root canal. (That root canal had been done at a different practice.)

I’m really hoping that the endodontist is right and the reason for the temperature sensitivity is that the root canal was incomplete. I’ll have to see how my schedule looks with all the cancer diagnostics but would really like to let the endodontist test his theory.

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