Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Just a Simple Drill and Fill

Overall my first filling went pretty well.

The start, on the other hand, was a little rocky.

I sat and the assistant tilted the chair so that my head was below the rest of my body. Then, from my right, she reached in with a long, cotton-tipped swab and rubbed it around the working area inside my mouth. Within seconds that area and the right corner of my lips were numb.

I wasn’t nervous at all; I had grown up around dentistry, had been in the orthodontist’s chair many times, and an oral surgeon had removed all four of my wisdom teeth in one trip. The last thing I felt was nervous.

From my left the doctor reached across me and injected a local anesthetic, and I didn’t even feel a pinch. I thought I could tell that he withdrew the needle from fairly deep into my jaw, but I could be wrong.

The doctor stepped around behind me and the assistant stepped over to a nearby counter.

Within seconds I felt like I had been breathing nitrous oxide, but they had administered no gases. Then it went beyond that and I was very lightheaded and dizzy, similar to when I almost passed out giving blood on an empty stomach.

“Um, am I supposed to feel dizzy right now?” I said, now starting to feel a little nervous.

“No,” said the doctor and the assistant as they huddled to each of my sides in almost perfect unison.

Their reaction, though not lackadaisical, was calm and professional. Nobody started yelling, “We’ve got to stabilize the patient, stat!”

“I guess maybe lightheaded is a better description, but it’s very strange,” I said.

“We don’t usually expect that. We can get you some oxygen, if you like,” the doctor said. I would have thought that would be more up to him, not me. Upon reflection, maybe he was considering how much more that would cost me in the end. I had mentioned to them on my last visit that I would have preferred some warning that a newer oral cancer screening method might not be covered by my insurance.

I didn’t feel any worse, so I let it ride a bit. “No, not yet.”

“Well, we’ll leave you reclining like this until you tell us you’re feeling better.”

They let me sit a few minutes as the doctor finished recounting his adventure on a local courtroom jury, an event that had postponed my original appointment. After I told them I was feeling much better he tilted me into an upright position. “We need you sitting up to help that work better,” he said, referring to the local anesthetic.

After a few minutes, the doctor said, “Okay, we’re going to get started. Now, you tell me if you feel any pain at all.”

They worked together almost wordlessly as the doctor drilled and filled my tooth. Only during the last few moments did I feel the tiniest bit of pain, and it was similar to the sensation of a sensitive tooth biting into ice cream. I held back a laugh as, after the last few times the doctor withdrew his hands, the assistant touched the end of a pointy device to the filled tooth. On its handle was a translucent, dark amber shield, to protect her eyes, I guessed. It reminded me of a prop in a low-budget sci-fi movie.

The doctor instructed his assistant to “put a note in there about the lidocaine”, and then told me that they could use something else the next time I needed an injection. I can only guess that he meant Novocaine, which I have had before without any side-effects.

I appreciated the notation, but despite the relative smoothness of the proceedings that day, there are still many places I’d rather spend my time, so I’m going to make sure I stay out of the dentist’s chair as long as possible.

2 Responses to Just a Simple Drill and Fill

  1. Sounds like it was “mostly painless”!

    Here’s something about lidocaine vs novocaine:

  2. Dave – Interesting. In my research I had not seen this, “It (Lidocaine) sets quickly and when combined with a small amount of epinephrine (adrenalin), it produces profound anesthesia for several hours. Lidocaine is still the most widely used local anesthetic in America today.”

    I’m wondering whether maybe the epinephrine is what made my heart race and made me lightheaded. There are so many other “caine” drugs listed on that page, however, that I have no idea what the doctor actually used on me. I ran this post by my dad, to see what he thinks.


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