“My Story… ” Monday: Not Dental



You can find part 1 (The Jaw Clencher) of this story right here.



By the time I got to the dentist’s office late Thursday afternoon, I was in terrible shape. The hygienist took one look at me and knew something was horribly wrong.


I hadn’t slept for over sixty hours at that point. I couldn’t eat. I was enduring excruciating pain that came and went and brought me to my knees about every twenty minutes. My cheek felt swollen and tender and I suspected that I had WAY over-iced it, since that was the only thing that brought me any hint of relief.


The dentist reviewed my chart. I go there every six months, just like I’m supposed to, and there was not one thing they were watching on the right side of my mouth. I didn’t have any suspicious teeth or issues happening. She tapped my teeth. They didn’t hurt. She did an x-ray. They looked fine.


I described the searing, electric shock-like pain that didn’t respond to ibuprofen or even Vicodin. She sighed and said, “I don’t think this is dental. It sounds like nerve pain. It might be neurological.”


Wild-eyed, I asked, “So what does that mean? What do I do?”


“I’m going to send you to an oral surgeon, just to be sure. Do you want to try to get in there yet this afternoon if we can?”


“Yes. Please,” I replied.


I couldn’t get in until the next morning. Realistically, my appointment was only fifteen hours away. However, in that moment, it sounded like an eternity.


“What do I do until then?” I asked.


She gave me a prescription for Vicodin.


“I don’t actually think it’s going to touch your pain,” she said, her tone contrite, “but I’m hoping that, if you take a couple of them, it might just knock you out.”


I would have taken the whole bottle if I thought it would put me to sleep.


It embarrasses and shames me to write that, but it’s the truth. I had reached my first breaking point and I was ready to snap. Lack of sleep was taking its toll and this horrific pain was starting to make me hate the hours and minutes of every day.


I filled the prescription, took two, and was able to sleep for two hours that night. That was good, but, when I emerged from the cloudy, drug-induced haze, I was in more pain than ever. Pacing the house at two in the morning, ice pack on my cheek, I remembered the hygienist’s words:


“If it gets too bad, you need to go to the ER. Seriously.”


But I convinced myself it was not, in fact, THAT bad. I could wait for the oral surgeon.


Friday morning came and I went to meet this next doctor.


He banged on every single tooth with the back of that little mirror. He had me bite on a stick with each pair of teeth. Nothing hurt me. I actually broke the stick because I bit so hard– it still didn’t hurt.


They took full panoramic x-rays of my mouth.  (sidebar: By the end of this story, you will be appalled by how many x-rays I had. I know. I am, too. Please don’t point it out to me; I can fret enough about it without the reminders. Thank you much!) The x-rays showed nothing but healthy, normal teeth. He did a close-up of the rear, right-hand side of my mouth.




“It’s not dental,” he told me. “At this point, you need to see either an ENT or a neurologist, and I’m leaning toward neurologist.”


He handed me a card. “This is who I recommend.”


I nodded, thanked him, and started to leave, feeling defeated.


I was just so tired. 


By this point, I was no longer hungry. My body had given up on eating. But, oh, how I craved sleep. And just a moment’s respite from the horrible pain.


As I turned to leave, the oral surgeon said, “I almost want to give you an antibiotic, but, really, there’d be no reason. I have no evidence to support it. So I think this is the right step.”


I nodded, smiled weakly. Honestly, I was glad he wasn’t prescribing antibiotics willy-nilly. There are too many doctors doing that and too many patients asking for them.


I left the office.


My husband drove me to the neurologist’s, thinking perhaps I could get in sooner if I went in to make the appointment in person.


I sat down across from the medical secretary and, smiling, she told me, “Well, let’s see… oh, here we go! Dr. M. can see you on October 28th. How’s that sound?”


It was October 4th.


I started to cry.

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8 comments to “My Story… ” Monday: Not Dental

  • Katie

    This sounds horrific! I don’t know how you coped. I am cringing just reading this.

  • Laraba

    Oh how awful!

    It is Oct. 28th and you sound functional so I assume SOMETHING happened to get you relief earlier!

    I am something of an expert on x-rays so don’t worry about that! Plain old x-ray use very little radiation, and x-rays of the head usually use less because there is less material to transmit through. (I have a PhD in materials science and have done a lot of work with x-rays.)

  • 60 hours without sleep?! I don’t even know how you were functioning never mind being a mom. So thankful you’re feeling better now — much easier to follow along with your story, knowing you’re okay :).

  • Heather

    Um yeah 24 day wait seems no bueno to me. :/ but then I would not have waited 60 hours to go the regular dentist. I’m more of a this pain is definitely abnormal we’re going TODAY type of pain manager.

    • I’m not sure it qualifies as waiting 60 hours, really– fact is, I didn’t think it was anything significant at first. And, really, I already knew I had a dental appointment coming up, so it seemed pretty ridiculous to me to call just to get in one day earlier.

  • earleyml

    Wow! I just don’t know what to say. I can’t imagine this. Glad to know it all works out.

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