Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Mind the Gap
Back in August, I damaged a tooth.
We were up at Camp Dynamo in San Marcello Pistoiese, in the huge glass-walled mensa where we ate three meals a day with all the kids and staff. The children were encouraged to chant loudly and accompany themselves by banging on the tables. In fact, the ritual of every meal was to clap our hands and chant in unison:
Buon appetito ragazzi, buon appetito ragazzi, buon appetito ragazzi, buon appetito ragazzi!
Se non avete capito, buon appetito, buon appetito; se non avete capito, buon appetito, buon appetito!
Buon appetito, piatto pulito!
Glass walls, concrete floor, extremely loud. You could hardly hear the conversation at your table. And yet on the day I was eating a bit of meat and bit hard into a piece of gristle, I imagined I could hear a ghastly wrenching sound. I certainly felt it. Not pain, but a sensation of the tooth shifting in a way it was not designed to shift. Uh oh.
In the bedroom I shared with another actor, I had a look in the mirror. None of my teeth looked out of whack, and there was no pain, but I resolved to check in with the family dentist immediately upon returning to the states. Especially since, soon after, the tooth began to feel newly sensitive to hot and cold, a sign of a dying nerve. Crap.
The day before the flight home, the pain started. Abscessing. Oh, excellent. Having been through an abscess once before, I knew what was coming, and come it did. Maybe even worse this time. The pain of an abscessed tooth cannot be addressed without professional dental help, and even then it can only be medicated while you take antibiotics and wait for an expensive procedure to be done.
Plus, I can't take Vicodin. In 2010, I wrote here about that problem. What I didn't actually come out and say in that blog post is that Vicodin made me suicidal. I won't risk taking it again. So I medicate by alternating Advil with Tylenol, which is pretty hard on ones body and not all that effective. The thing about the pain of an abscess is that it can, in fact, alter your consciousness and your judgement to the point that hammering a screwdriver into the space between your teeth seems like a reasonable way to ease the pressure; and, failing that, you might try laying in the alleyway behind the house in hopes that a garbage truck will squash your head and end the whole business.
Antibiotics eased the pain of the infection, and on September 18 a root canal was performed, the old tooth used as a temporary crown. It turns out it was very temporary indeed. Driving home from Las Cruces one evening, I put a french fry in my mouth and bit something much harder than any french fry -- even a really really really super crispy one: it was my crown, my old tooth, leaving a gap in a very prominent position among my upper teeth. Absurdly, in panic and shame, I tried inserting it back into place, with nothing to hold it in position except the neighboring teeth. The neighboring teeth had their own problems and weren't about to take responsibility for their unglued peer. It soon came out again and I resigned myself to grinning like a jack-o-lantern until I could make it back to the dentist.
At this point in the story, let us remind the reader that our employment at NMSU is still very new, and at the time of the root canal the insurance had not yet taken effect. There was, if you will, a gap in our coverage. The root canal was paid out of pocket (which was about as painful as the abscess).
And the new, also-temporary crown that was put in today comes at a cost, owing to another gap: that which the insurance is willing to cover, and what we will pay ourselves.
After waiting several hours, I tried eating something this evening, and the "temporary" crown came loose immediately. Unless I'm willing to fast until the 25th, I will once again be whistling when I speak, my tongue hitting the gap where tooth #7 once resided. It even occurred to me that I could swallow or choke on it, coughing and sputtering in my state of decay, little bits starting to fall off.
What kind of wine pairs well with jello?