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It happens to dentists too!

I was on vacation. Monday morning after an uneventful couple of hours of surf fishing, I sat down to enjoy some yogurt and blueberries. Well those cold blueberries made one of my molars say “Ouch, stop that!”  I thought, I had new retainers, I didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday night, I must have clenched a lot last night and I have a sore, sensitive tooth.  I decided to forgo the retainers Monday night and the cold sensitivity was gone Tuesday morning but now it kinda hurt to chew back there. Just a little, but it was there.  A few Advil and a half hour later I’m good   But it came back, then there was a little ache in my jaw, then a little radiating pain towards my ear and the coup de gras, I started feeling the tiniest heartbeat in my lip. Now all this developed over the next few days and all the time that tooth was tender to touch, still just a little. So about Wednesday evening I made my preliminary diagnosis that I had irreversible pulpitis and your favorite dentist ( at least in the top 2) was in need of endodontic therapy! Yes, the dreaded root canal was in my future!  All along I thought it was my back tooth that was the culprit, but with some skilled tapping with the blunt side of a fork handle I found it was actually my first molar!  That tooth had been crowned for almost 20 years if not longer with never an issue.  But now Advil was my best friend. 600mg 3 or 4 times a day and certainly before bed and remember to chew the fish on the other side!  

I made it back home and Monday morning I was my first patient ordering an X-ray of the offending tooth.  Dr Johnson and I discussed the radiographs and symptoms. We confirmed my preliminary diagnosis. A small amount of begging and some schedule shuffling and I had an appointment on Wednesday afternoon and that nagging little pain turned that “dreaded root canal” into the “I can’t wait to get one”!  2 o’clock Wednesday finally came and at 3 o’clock my tooth had been instrumented, obturated and temporized. The root canal was over and I headed back to the office to finish my day. The tooth was still touchy for the next 2 days but I could tell it was improving. Saturday morning I declared myself well enough to try chewing on that tooth again and happily I was correct and was pain free.  

I share this because it illustrates how suddenly these dental emergencies can occur.  Sometimes there are warning signs, sometimes not.  If I had felt swelling, I would have sought care at a minor emergency clinic and asked for some antibiotics, but some OTC pain meds kept me comfortable until I could see my dentist.  But the biggest takeaway here is “Don’t Fear the Root Canal” or “An Endodontist can be Man’s Best Friend”!

Till next time!

C. Mark Fort