A year or so ago, a dentist noted that my back left molar was slightly cracked. It wasn’t terrible, so he said we could wait and keep an eye on it.
Four months ago, a different dentist noticed the crack and recommended the tooth be capped ASAP. He explained that if we didn’t cap it, we would be running the risk that the tooth might cleave in half, destroy the root and leave me toothless and haggard.
(I may have overinflated that memory, but it was something along those lines.)
Either way, I didn’t go to dental school, so I said ok.
The dental office was booked out and we needed insurance pre-approval, so it took a bit to get that appointment. But finally, the day came, so off to the dentist I went.
It’s worth noting here that I don’t tend to handle dentists well. I birthed three children without medication, but bring a needle or drill close to my mouth and I start hyperventilating and trying to melt through the chair.
Still, I didn’t want to end up toothless and haggard, so I went to the dentist, plugged in my tunes, and tried to make the best of a bad situation. I left an hour later with a shiny new temporary cap.
So far so good.
The cap lasted 48 hours.
Then it fell off.
I called the dentist, who advised me to put Vaseline on my tooth nub and press the cap back on. That didn’t seem like a very medically appropriate solution so I asked the dentist if he could put it back on, but he said that wasn’t necessary. Besides, they were pretty booked up.
I didn’t go to dental school, so I said ok.
A few days later, the tooth didn’t feel so good. And the cap kept falling off. So, I called the dentist and asked to come back in so they could recement it.
Unfortunately, the entire office was on vacation and unavailable that week.
The next Monday, I called back and told them I needed to come in immediately. The tooth was hypersensitive and uncomfortable. They were not pleased. I’m not sure if the hyperventilating and dental angst had damaged my credibility with them or if they were just having an off day. Either way, I pushed and they relented.
When I went in, the dentist looked at the tooth and said that I should keep using Vaseline to keep it on. He said this would be better because re-cementing the tooth at this point could make it difficult to get it off when I got the permanent cap on at the end of the week.
I didn’t go to dental school, so I said ok.
When I came in to get the permanent cap placed, two weeks after the temporary cap was placed, the nurse wiped the tooth off with gauze and put a disinfecting solution on top. Then she moved to place the cap. I stopped her and asked if she could please clean the tooth first, since it had been exposed, secured with nothing but Vaseline for two weeks. She said that wasn’t necessary.
So, I asked the dentist. He said it wasn’t necessary too, since the disinfecting solution would stop any possibility of rot.
I didn’t go to dental school, so I said ok, even though, at this point, I was really starting to doubt whether this dentist had gone to dental school.
I got the cap on, and promptly moved to Italy. Within two weeks, the tooth was aching. It ached after I ate. It ached at night. It ached when I chewed hard things.
I emailed the dentist. He didn’t reply. I waited a few days and tried again, then again. Finally, I got a response. He said it sounded like the tooth may have undergone too much trauma and was now dying. He said it would likely need a root canal.
So there I was, in Italy, with a dying tooth, from a dentist who probably didn’t go to dental school.
It took some time to find a local Italian dentist who could help me out. Finally, I found one who came recommended and who could speak English, which is good because all I can do in Italian at this point is order a cappuccino. I scheduled an appointment, kept my tooth clean and tried to only chew on the right side.
While I waited for my appointment, I tried to look on the bright side. After all, I’d never been to a dentist in another country. This could be a cool cultural experience. Plus, I didn’t need to be a baby about it, right? I mean, people get root canals all the time, right? Just because my tooth was dying didn’t mean that it needed to be some kind of symbol for my own mortality and rapidly dwindling time on this planet. I mean, it could just be a root canal, right?
Then, miracle of miracles, the tooth stopped hurting.
It happened slowly. First it got less sensitive. Then it stopped throbbing. And finally, I could chew on it again!
I messaged the Italian dentist and let him know that it looked like I didn’t need his services after all. My tooth had healed. The human body is an amazing thing.
“My dear,” he told me, “I appreciate your optimism. What a wonderful perspective. How positive and upbeat you are. Mama mia – it’s a miracle.”
Actually, that’s not what he said.
Instead, the Italian dentist very kindly informed me that it sounded a lot like my tooth had died.
As in dead.
Just like that.
Somewhere in the last few days, the poor little guy had given up the ghost and I hadn’t even noticed. And now it was time to exhume the body.
Anyway, all that to say that I have an Italian dental appointment tomorrow. I’ll be driving there, in the manual Fiat Panda, which is sure to be an adventure. It’s in the Pisa city center, which is a massive tangle of curvy, narrow one-way streets and vehicle restricted zones. I won’t be driving into that (hard pass) so I’ll just park on the outskirts and navigate the 15-minute walk through downtown on foot (maybe I’ll even swing by the Leaning Tower just to say hi. And then I’ll see what Italian dentistry is like.
I just hope the Italian Dentist went to dental school.
To be continued….