The Oddness of (Tooth) Pain

Posted: January 3, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

And now for something entirely different from my normal blog-fare…

A few nights ago I started experiencing some pain around the back right corner of my mouth.  I had recently (about a month ago) had a tooth removed in the area due to a crown coming off and the tooth being infected.  So I assumed it was some strange after-effect from that.  It was very strange, as it only hurt when I was sitting on my sofa and watching TV.  When I brushed my teeth, the pain went away instantly.  I thought maybe I had some food particles falling in the socket but I later realized it was just the toothpaste itself that soothed the pain.  The pain was bad enough that I had to keep getting up and doing the toothpaste treatment, but when I sat down it would hurt.  Finally I just went to bed and it seemed OK.

Next day, no incident, but at night the exact same thing happened.  Exact same circumstances, same pain and same remedy.  Very very odd, I have had severe toothaches in the past, but they always came in waves of pain, and were never so easily sedated by something as simple as toothpaste.  I took a couple Motrin and slept it off again.

The following morning, things seemed OK but by lunchtime it started hurting more.  I noticed that hot liquids were affecting the pain and would send sharp hits through my jaw.  Though I should have known better, the pain seemed manageable enough so I went to see a movie with my family instead of trying to see a dentist.  In hindsight I should have been calling dentists that day and making a move to get it checked out, but at the time I kept thinking I could handle it with my simple tricks.

By New Year’s Eve, things took a severe turn for the worse.  By mid-morning I was in excruciating pain.  I am talking mind-numbing, eye-searing, death-wishing pain.  And worse, unlike what I’ve experienced in the past, painkillers would not dull the pain, and it didn’t come and go in waves, it was flat out constant and unyielding.  I soon realized the only thing that could counter the pain was ice directly in my mouth around the area.  The odd part was that the ice would instantly calm the pain, usually a jolt of pain and the it would be managed.  Even a tiny piece of ice around the socked would help, but as soon as the ice melted, the pain would be back in full force – literally within seconds.  I tried to go a full minute without ice, and it just would show no respite.

I took a Hydrocodone pill that morning (never had taken one before), and it did nothing for the pain.  But worse , a few hours later after I was coming down from it, I started to experience extreme nervousness and panic.  I could not contain myself, and completely did not know what to do.  I started pacing back and forth like a madman, I felt like I couldn’t breathe so I jumped outside and started pacing some more.  All the time carrying 2 cups, 1 filled with ice, 1 to spit into.  By this time I had consumed so much ice and icewater, it was starting to make me sick.  The need to constantly swap in new ice was really driving me mentally insane and unstable.  At first I thought it was all the aftereffect of the medication, but now I am realizing that was just partially the problem.

At numerous points during the afternoon, the pain literally brought me to my knees in anguish and tears, leaving me cursing life and praying to God for forgiveness, yet wondering why any God would create such an incredible form of seemingly endless pain.   I had to force myself to remember to just breathe, and as others have expressed in their experiences with similar pain, a part of me wished I could just kill myself to end the insane torture.  As I mentioned, I’ve had bouts with tooth pain in the past, and while it made me miserable to no end, I’ve never experienced anything like this where there was simply no relief aside from the ice treatment.  What was even worse was the feeling of utter hopelessness that I wouldn’t be able to get professional treatment for 4 full days.

This being New Year’s Eve (Thursday), of course all the dentists in the area were closing up shop.  I tried emergency numbers, 24 hour dentists, anything in the area I could get someone to talk to.  Everyone was out til Monday.  Eventually, remarkably, both my oral surgeon and dentist called me back.  The oral surgeon prescribed anti-biotics and that became my lifeline.  I don’t know how I pulled myself through those hours waiting for the prescription to be filled but eventually I made it.  Eating was a joke, as I would try to remove the ice, take a bite, then quickly stuff the ice back in before the pain started.  It really didn’t work out too well and I barely managed to stuff some food down.

After a hair-raising trip to the local CVS which involved a lot of ice and covert spitting, and fears of running out of ice, I made it back safely home with the drugs.  The antibiotics didn’t really kick in (and in hindsight, the doctor probably should have told me to take a double dose at the outset, as I was later told by a different endodontist) until late that night.  So it was a long, torture-filled afternoon.  Pain, ice, pacing, fear, nervousness, that’s all I remember now.  My partner sent me to hit the treadmill to just burn off some energy, which actually helped.  I was so incredibly tired and hungry, yet still so wired from the drugs and pain.  The whole evening I was filled with fear of how I was going to get to sleep or even try to sleep when I couldn’t relax one bit.  I eventually took a bath for the first time in years, but even that didn’t help much.  It did soothe my body some, but my brain wasn’t accepting relaxation, and somewhere during the breath I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe, so I just had to get out.

I took part of an Ambien along with more Motrin that night to get to sleep.  I was afraid of mixing in too many new medications, particularly after experiencing the craziness from the Hydrocodone.  I took my glass of ice to bed with me, and proceeded to try to read and continue the ice.  Note at this point I had been pretty much putting ice in my mouth for about 14 hours.  I think the affects of this are still lingering on me mentally.  In any case, I started to feel the effects of the Ambien, as it made me completely unaware of what I was reading, and my brain seemed to form some completely different story than what was actually on the pages.  It was a really weird experience.  Due to the necessity for ice, though, I was unable to fall asleep soundly.  I would drift a bit but then the ice water would fall out onto my shirt, or the pain would wake me.  Somewhere along the night, though, I started noticing that the pain seemed a bit lessened and I could last a little longer before putting in more ice.  At first I thought it was just wishful thinking, but eventually I realized it was real.  FInally somewhere around 5am I actually got a few hours of real sleep, and it was wonderful.

Next day I woke up and life seemed so much better.  The day went on with very little ice, and I thought I might be out of the woods.  That night I went to bed with NO painkillers whatsoever, a bit risky but the drugs were really driving me a bit batty.  I was able to get ahold of my dentist, who then recommended I see an endodontist immediately (we both agreed it seemed most likely the issue was an infected tooth next to my previously extracted tooth which would require a root canal).  The doctors I talked to of course would not be available until Monday at the earliest, and so the waiting continued.

Which leads to today, where the pain started coming back in the morning.  Not as sharp and powerful and all-consuming as it was on New Year’s Eve, but certainly enough to serve as a reminder of who is boss.  More importantly it’s left me with this strange anxiety that I can’t put my finger on.  Every single activity that I would normally enjoy or do to relax I have been unable to.  Any idea that sounded fun I would start but within moments would have to stop as I would feel claustrophobic, or nervous or annoyed by it.  It’s as if my entire life has been flipped around and inside out and my patience for just about anything has been taken away.  In retrospect I think it has something to do with the pain itself, the way it seems to be just lingering in the back and ready to hit me whenever it chooses.  I think the fear of the pain, the fear of the constant ice game back and forth has rendered me unable to relax into some form of normalcy.

Finally I turned to typing on this blog, which seems to have some form of therapeutic quality, or at least has kept me fixed on a single activity for the first time today.   I’ve  finally been able to sit quietly for an hour without jitters or leaving or getting irritated, though the irony is the topic is just all about the pain.  And even still, I have to take a deep breath every now and then to keep myself centered and not get overwhelmed by feelings of claustrophobia (for lack of a better description).  This tooth pain has taken me to new levels of pain and torture, and sadly, I don’t feel any wiser or stronger because of it.  I feel broken, violated and completely consumed by it, and the effect it has had on my daily well being, and I guess the only thing I’ve really learned is to not underestimate the signs again.

36 hours until Monday.

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