Home > Life, Would I Lie? > Get this one in, STAT!

Get this one in, STAT!

lie1It’s somehow appropriate that I have an old military guy for a dentist.

In my case, going to him is usually like arriving at a M*A*S*H unit by helicopter. A quick triage with x-rays tells him what the problem is, and unless he knows he can’t take care of it himself, he ushers me right in and gets started. He doesn’t give me the opportunity to chicken out. I’ll bet in the Air Force he was the guy that used to push the young paratroopers out of the plane…


I am an unrepentant sugar addict from way back. In fact, of all the friends I’m still in touch with, candy is the one I have the fondest memories of — sorry, but an addiction is an addiction.
yellowIt hasn’t been until recently that I’ve come to appreciate having had dental insurance when I was growing up and a mother who revered dental health more than most do. At almost 80, she still has all her original teeth. Unfortunately, her fanaticism didn’t pass on to me….

greenWhen I go to the dentist now, it’s usually with my tail between my legs, shame in my heart, and a mouthful of trouble. Unlike most people, I actually have dental insurance, and I still put off my visits. I am the reason not everyone deserves well-care insurance. We don’t use it properly and it makes our eligibility rather pointless.

purpleAbout a year ago I started having tenderness in the gum surrounding a bicuspid root canal and crown that had been done about 4 years ago. I didn’t pay much attention, having had such things resolve themselves before. I started pushing on the area with floss, hoping to get it to release and I thought I had succeeded because the pain went away… until I felt a lump up near the top of the root and tenderness leading to my left sinus. I started fooling with that, too, but it kept getting worse.

"Capt. Tooth"

"Capt. Tooth"

With vacation coming up next week, I finally decided to try to get in to see “Captain Tooth”, a.k.a., Dr. Curtis Moore. This guy has an Alabama accent that sounds like he’s got a mouthful of novacaine. He wears the same hairdo he probably had when he was 10 and has hands that I’m sure are just under the acceptable size limit for a dentist, along with a nice soft belly to rest your head against as he’s jamming sharp spinning metal things into your teeth. He’s kind of like an old school car mechanic who actually understands the workings of the vehicle without having to rely on some hi-tech machine to tell him what’s wrong — He just knows….

redAn appointment slot opened up and I was able to get in within the hour. Thinking he might be able to just take something and poke my gum to release the infection and then send me home with antibiotics, I swaggered in, gave him a wink, and cheekily said, “Have at it, doc — just don’t make me cry”. It was when he asked if I wanted gas that I should have started worrying. He’s never offered me gas before….

“Nah, I’m much tougher than I look,” I said. I’d had a crown/root canal re-drilled by an endodontist for a similar problem before and it was a piece o’ cake. But this tooth is a single root with a porcelain crown. He’d have to work around it.

yellowOut came THE NEEDLE. I have to say, Capt. Tooth is a master with that thing. I still don’t know how he blindly navigates around all the nerves in my gums, but after nearly 50 years of dentistry, this guy’s got it down. I almost (ALMOST) look forward to getting his shots. 10 minutes later, I was numbed up and we were well on our way to “Elvis lip”.

The best part about this particular procedure (I thought to myself, pleasantly surprised) was that there wasn’t a lot of drilling, at least not the usual high-speed screeching kind that is the real reason I hate going to the dentist. I had to guess what was going on until a fellow dental worker came in to see what was happening. The tech who was assisting happily explained to her IN VERY GRAPHIC DETAIL that they were performing an “apicoectomy“.

Editor’s note: I just went online to search for a video example of the procedure and almost lost my breakfast Skittles! Watch it if you dare:
GAAHHH!! Who in the world would want to become a dentist anyway??

There was a final step in the procedure and I became aware that the novacaine was starting to wear off but I figured the worst was over. Apparently, I was…


The dentist pushed on something and my whole body stiffened until only my heels and the back of my head were touching the chair!

“I hate to have to do this”, he said as he quickly grabbed another needle and jabbed it into the roof of my mouth. Even without anesthesia, I preferred that pain to the one he’d just inspired. While we waited for the new numbness to kick in, I managed to eke out that “it’s that sort of feeling that incentivizes me to stop abusing my teeth…”

Photo 52

Me, currently known as "Princess Chubby Cheek"

A lot of emotional sweat, a few sutures, and an upper-lip filled with gauze later (I looked like the love child of Daisy Duck and Elvis), I finally stood up to leave and Capt. Tooth gave me a big bear hug on the way out… usually he just salutes me… “You’re very brave,” he said. Yeah, bull-tickies, I thought to myself. If I’d had any idea what he was about to do to me when I came in, I would have run out of there like my butt was on fire. It was just as well that he had maintained his stoic military demeanor until the job was done.

He called me later that night to see how I was doing and his first question was, “Am I still your friend?” Thanks to the pain meds, I thanked him and forgave him. I probably would have even without the drugs.

A couple days later, I still have a swollen cheek, kind of a “botox-gone-bad” look, and prescriptions for antibiotics and narcotics, but I also have the sense of relief that the stupid infection I’d allowed to progress to the point of needing minor oral surgery has been eradicated.

Therefore, I promise (fingers crossed behind my back where my wallet still contains 80% of what that procedure might have cost me without insurance) that I will never take my dental health for granted again!

And I pray that the next time I’m in this situation Capt. Tooth hasn’t retired… Bless your heart, you dear sweet man… I love you more than I hate you!


  1. August 15, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I don’t do dentist stuff. My mouth us MY MOUTH. Thank goodness my mom made me go for regular checkups since before we could walk.

    I even have a hard time with little kids and loose teeth.

  2. August 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Don’t get too comfortable with that attitude, Jessica…. Your day will come someday! Thank goodness for modern-day anesthesia….

  3. August 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Shall I send you reminders every 6 months to schedule a cleaning and check up?

    I now crave Skittles after seeing them scattered across my computer screen.

  4. Lee Anne
    August 17, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Hello My sister! Oh the pain! I had my first crown put in a couple of years ago- egads! Hope your lip explosion has subsided!

  5. Ted E. Kinson
    September 3, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I thought about this the other day when Christi and I were in a tourist trap and I purchased a Milky-Way and a bag of M&Ms. We don’t generally buy the “junk-food” but for some reason, just a week after I received my first $1200.00 crown, which is cheap these days, I felt compelled to celebrate, and I just brought Christi down the same decedent path with me. Her treat was the M&Ms while I savored every delicious bite of the Milky-Way as we watched the waves of Tropical Storm Danny pound the Maine coastline. I think I will blame your story for my fall from dieting grace. Do you feel guilty, or is there some evil Ellen Laugh that you are emitting right now?
    Loved the story, thanks Ellen.

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