Looking for the things in life that make us happy


on 27/02/2014

If you haven’t had one of these procedures perhaps you should read no further and maybe children should also be barred from reading it.  (Maybe it should have an M Rating!)

As a follow-up to Mischa’s dental problems, I thought it might be a good idea to write about my dental experience and as usual, there are often other memories that bubble to the surface when one is going through a pretty big dental job.  I’ve not gone for regular check-ups for many years; only when I’ve been forced to because a filling has fallen out and a gaping hole in my tooth made the visit to the Dentist imperative.  I felt that I had enough to deal with with my other health problems and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!  If I’m honest I could say that I’m just a ‘sooky la la’.

Episode 1

However, a tooth became quite sensitive and so a visit to the Dentist became necessary.  Our former Prime Minister and her government introduced a dental scheme funded by Medicare for people suffering with chronic diseases.  The amount was $4,250.00 over two years and so I jumped on the bandwagon, had a number of fillings replaced some months ago and still had money to burn.  Lucky for me this tooth became a matter for concern just before the government decided it could no longer afford to fund this rather generous scheme which was to end shortly.  So in that regard I was ?lucky that the job needed to be done before that time.

But, my worst nightmare, the tooth in question needed a root canal!!  I had heard many rather hairy stories about this procedure and with shaking boots (sandals) and sweaty palms went along for my first excavation.  I was allotted 40 minutes for this first appointment and after plenty of Novocaine and much drilling, a temporary filling was inserted.  I was relieved but surprised that I had not broken any of my fingers with anxiety during this ordeal and that I was able to walk relatively calmly out of the “torture chamber.’’   As I was making the next appointment the Nurse asked the Receptionist to allow 90 minutes!!  “Ninety minutes!!!!!!!” I said in a rather loud voice, “What for, I thought that the worst was over”.  The Nurse calmly told me she was joking and that it was just 40 minutes.  “Phew!” To say that made me feel better is an understatement.  When I turned to walk sheepishly out of the waiting room I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw four pairs of eyes watching this rather pathetic woman hurrying out, no doubt wondering what all the kerfuffle was about.  I’m quite sure that my sookiness gave them the confidence to enter the dentist’s chamber of horrors…..Not!!!

I’m sorry to say that the Nurse lied because when I got home I checked the appointment card and there in black and white was written ‘90 MINUTES’.  Of course, I thought about it at length just before I went to sleep each night for the next two weeks wondering what he had in store for me that would take 90 minutes. 

Episode 2

I sat in the chair as Craig (Dentist) took Xrays and then placed a rectangular piece of blue rubber across my mouth and under my nostrils and clamped it into place around the tooth in question. 

Apparently this is in order to prevent infection.  Various other pieces of hardware were placed in my mouth and the drilling began once more.  One of the gadgets in my mouth would beep now and then indicating the depth of the drill.  The final beep indicated 18 mms!  Imagine that! 18 mms into the roots of my tooth and therefore into my jaw!  Apparently most people have three canals but you might have guessed it, he could only find two in my tooth and so followed more Xrays and more drilling to search for that elusive canal.  After about one hour of drilling and sucking out whatever needed to be sucked out, Craig was finally satisfied that I only had two canals and he then began the task of filling these canals, finishing off with another temporary filling.

After one hour and 25 minutes (I kid you not!) I was able to close my mouth and during all that time not a word was spoken by me!

I have to say in their defence that Dentists tell you what they are doing these days and don’t seem to expect an answer, just a grunt now and then will suffice.

Once again, no broken fingers and such a sense of relief to get up out of the chair.  I happily walked unaided, if perhaps a little unsteadily, to the reception desk to make the next appointment as there was still more to come.   The next appointment has an allotted time of 2 ½ hours.  This time I can take a book and the Nurse told me she will even make me a cup of coffee! (More lies, I had to buy my own).  I’m to have a crown on my tooth and so I could understand the time line and did not make a fuss of which I’m very proud.  Craig said the tooth might be a bit touchy for up to a week – more lies.  It’s now 10 days later and to say it’s been a bit rough is an understatement but at least it seems to be improving.

There is a highlight in all this pain, drilling and discomfort, not to mention high anxiety.  Well, you might ask, what could possibly be a highlight, apart from not having to pay for it which is a huge highlight.

As I was lying prone in the chair waiting for the Novocaine to numb my jaw (praying too, I might add for it soon to be over), I was facing the window which looks out over a main road on Bribie to the tall gum trees opposite.  I saw a bird fluttering to its roost right at the top of one of the trees and I thought it was just one of those pesky Ibis’ that are everywhere.  Then I noticed its spoonbill.  Very soon another spoonbill joined the first one and I was able to watch them fluttering their wings and taking turns to fly away only to return a few minutes later when the other bird would fly away.  I wondered if they were making a nest or whether they were taking it in turns to incubate their eggs.  I don’t suppose I will ever know; I guess it’s even possible the eggs had already hatched and they were sharing the feeding of their chicks.  I’m very grateful to them because it was a great distraction and I had never seen a spoonbill before and when I checked our Bird Book it looks like they might be Royal Spoonbills, unless another species has arrived on the island.    

I also learnt that spoonbills fly in V formation, sometimes accompanied by pelicans and can rise to heights of 3,000 metres on thermal drafts.

I mentioned before about memories of dental treatment when I was a child.  Take a deep breath because it’s quite a story and does not come from Ripley’s Believe It or Not.  When I was about 8, around the end of the 1940’s or so, I used to suffer with fairly frequent headaches and vomiting attacks.  Mum often took me to our family doctor, Dr Body! (no joke I promise).  I had my eyes tested and yes, I was found to be short-sighted and was prescribed glasses which made me the butt of jokes from my brothers when I displeased them, also when I didn’t; no wonder they called me a cry baby.  However, this did not relieve the symptoms of headache and vomiting, so the next thing to try was removing some of my teeth (I assume they were baby or first teeth but really, who would know?                                                            

If you can believe this and I assure you it is true, the Dentist and Dr Body arrived at our home where I was waiting for them on the table in the breakfast room.  I remember there was a grey Army blanket with a sheet on top, a pillow and my little body (no pun intended) lying there awaiting their ministrations.  The doctor administered chloroform; I can still remember the cone being placed over my nose and mouth and the awful smell and being told to count backwards from 10.  Didn’t fix the problem but I probably never suffered with toothache either.

When we were older we walked to the tram and rode to the dentist’s surgery on the first floor of a building where we were able to sometimes see a tram’s power line go past as the drill began its excavation. That was a drill to end all drills! No speed drills with water in those days and the noise was pretty loud and scary.  When the drill was digging and excavating, there was a train, a bit like Thomas the Tank Engine, situated on the metal structure above and in front of the chair which carried the electric line to the drill.  As the drill was started the wheels on the train went around. This was a momentary distraction and certainly no match for my Spoonbills.  No wonder many of us oldies avoid going to the dentist.

To continue with my family dental lore, my older sister Barbara was sent to the Dentist on her own for an extraction.  When she ran into the house after her visit, mum, as she usually did showed her softer side and had a hot water bottle waiting, the bed covers pulled back and the spit bowl waiting for her.  After a while mum wondered why there was no blood in the spit bowl.  The phone rang and the Dentist told mum Barbara was never to show her face in his surgery again.  Turned out the dentist gave Barb the injection (she thought that was it and the tooth was out!!)  She kicked the nurse in the stomach, got up out of the chair and kicked the dentist in the shins and ran all the way home.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the infamous feather duster made its presence felt.  Ouch!!

Episode 3

I actually felt quite calm as I attended the 3rd appointment.  The tooth was now dead and so I thought I wouldn’t require the needle and numbing agent.  However, Craig explained that he now needed to remove the old filling that was quite a big filling which went below the gum line and in order to smooth the edges of the tooth for the crown to sit on, he would need to numb the gum so that he could use the laser.  Laser!!?  But first lots of drilling and sucking to remove the old filling, then lots more polishing or smoothing as he said, suction, noise etc.  The blind was closed; the protective glasses were exchanged for glasses with red lenses and the lasering began. 

A trolley was then wheeled in with another computer and away we went with the next stage.  “Open wide” said Craig, “I now have to take photos”.  A camera is now introduced into my wide open mouth time and time again and I could see out of the corner of my eye on the computer screen that my crown was being gradually built according to a very clever program.

“Okay” said Craig, “you can now go and have a coffee or do some shopping for 45 minutes while your crown is being made”.  I wandered around the shops and then returned at the suggested time.


The rest was easy; a bit of sandblasting, some glue and the crown was attached.  Miraculously it fitted and I was free to leave. 

Thank you Prime Minister and Treasurer.  Medicare paid about $1800.00 and I hope I don’t need to return to Craig for a long, long, long time.  To say it was an ordeal is an understatement and I’m glad it’s over.

Because of the bone strengthening drug I have been having monthly since 2003, to have an extraction is a last resort.  It’s possible that the hole in the jawbone may not close over and would therefore allow infection to enter and the result would be quite drastic.  How much easier the option of extraction would have been.  Craig was extremely careful and so far I’m very happy with my tooth.  The gum has been pretty tender but getting better.

I wonder if you were able to read all of this without being bored to tears.  I might add that Mischa (our dog) had an anaesthetic for her dental work.


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