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.