It's not about the house.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gatta Bargain

I wasn’t going to write this, because I’m really not sure I’m up to laughing about it yet. I was, yesterday, but then the Novocain wore off.

My plan was to google what happened and just post a link and tell you ha ha. But when I googled it, the only links that come up are to hi-falutin’ journals of endodontics that I would have to subscribe to in order to gain access. And even if I were rich (and sick) enough to pay money to read what I’m sure would turn out to be scary details about my damaged face, I certainly wouldn’t expect
you all to do the same.

So here goes:

I asked him when I got there whether I would for-sure be having a third appointment, or if it depended on how things went in this one, and he said no. He said that, actually, he was pretty sure he could get the whole thing done today and still have me out of there by 4:30. Huzzah!

The first hour was quite pleasant. He put this little chomper thing between my teeth this time so I didn’t even have to keep my own mouth open. And if it made me understand how all those creepy dentists get away with molesting their patients on the table, well, so be it. I actually fell asleep for a little while (I wasn’t worried: Dr. German’s gay, remember?), and my nap was refreshing enough that I was even dreamily planning a loosey-goosey blog post about how I recommend everybody do this at least one time in their lives.

But then.

I woke up when he called in the other doctor. The instructor. Dr. German was concerned because no matter how long he poked around in there with the teeny little file (it looks like twisted wire – like the neck of a coat hanger – only really, really, really small), he kept coming up with bits of the rubber stuffing.

The rubber stuffing, by the way, is called “gattapurcha.” That might not be how it’s spelled (and I don’t feel like googling it), but it’s how it sounds. I know, because I heard it a hundred and fifty million times. Most trades have secret lingo and abbreviations for long words that they use regularly: “turps” for “turpentine,” “sem” for “semi-colon,” “reval” for “revaluation,” “etc.” for “whatever it is you do for a living, you’ve got your secret lingo and you know what I mean.” But these guys just looooved their gattapurcha.

“I keep getting gattapurcha,” Dr. German said. To which Dr. Teacher replied “How much gattapurcha?” “Just a little gattapurcha, but there should not be any gattapurcha.” “Perhaps there is a shelf of gattapurcha [huh?].” “I did not know that was possible with gattapurcha [you and me both, buddy – do you like the way it sounds?].” “We must be sure to extricate every last vestige of gattapurcha.”

Or what? I lay there thinking. Because me, I’m fine with leaving a little in there. Unless I would die or something. Would I die? Because I’m beginning to lose confidence in the notion that it is even possible to extricate all traces of that g.d. gattapurcha.

(See? See what I mean about abbreviating words that we use all the time?)

Dr. Teacher told Dr. German to try this and try that and try the other thing, and if none of them worked to call him back. Needless to say…

So Dr. Teacher gloved up and went in. He was serious, too. He lowered me so far, and at such an angle, that I started losing feeling in my toes. He didn’t mind knocking the top of my head with the corner of his chair. And he didn’t care so much whether he caught my hair between his belly (which was not big, so it’s not like this was unavoidable) and the edge of the table. Or chair. I keep forgetting that it’s actually a chair.

Dr. Teacher did not have the gentle German touch. He grabbed my left cheek with one gloved hand for leverage and trowelled away at my bad tooth with his right. Jab-jab-jab. But still, for all his vigor, I couldn’t feel what he was doing. And maybe his energetic style would bring the procedure to a close sooner than expected. I lay there, thinking of the Dirty Jobs episode I watched last night, in which Dirty Boy gets attacked by fire ants, so he goes behind a bush to take his pants off and rub lotion on his Dirty Bits. I wonder if I could get that on demand. I should probably just buy the DV—

Snap. Jab-jab-jab.

Hey! Ouch, down here! I thought that, what with the Novocain and its heart-pounding goodness (which Dr. German had assured me was perfectly normal, because they put epinephrine in it – and doesn’t that seem like a great thing to pump into a person before she goes through a frightening ordeal? but anyway) I’m not supposed to be feeling anything, is that correct? Well I’m feeling something all right, and it sure as hell ain’t Dirty Boy’s firey you-know-what. I started to raise my hand to put a stop to things, but Dr. Teacher did it for me.

“Why is it bleeding?” Dr. T. inquired. “Suction, please.” And Dr. G. complied. And complied, and complied.

You understand, they are working inside my tooth. A tooth that had a root canal eleven years ago. A tooth consisting of nothing but bone, and long-dead bone at that. Calcium deposits. Dust. And it is bleeding.

And it hurts!

Just to be sure of what was going on, Dr. Teacher poked around for another little while and made it bleed some more. He could not quite suss the situation, so he stuck the file in to where the blood was coming from, left it there, and told Dr. G. to take an x-ray. Then he left. Dr. G. took the x-ray, popped it up on the computer screen, and went to drag Dr. T. back in to show him.

While he was gone, I raised my bleeding head to look. What I saw – very clearly, even though I have no radiological or endodontic training – was the digger-thing sticking in through the top of my tooth and then out through the side. About four inches into my bleeding gum!

(Okay, so the four inches I’m talking about was just up on the screen. It was only about a centimeter of bloody gum in real life. But still. Out through the side of my poor tooth.)


Well, when Drs. G & T returned, the talk was all “perf” this and “perf” that, but I knew what they meant. They couldn’t bring themselves to abbreviate to “gat” for “gattapurcha,” but “perf” for “perforation” was just fine.

So blah blah blah. Two more hours of taking care of the perforated root, and then packing the other two with temporary stuffing to be finished off the next time. Because oh yes, there will be a next time after all.

I have to give Dr. G. his props. He played along with the “perf” game as long as Dr. T. was in the room, but as soon as we were alone he told me what happened and how he’d treated it. He even drew me a picture. He wasn’t pointing any fingers, but I assured him I knew exactly when it happened, and that he was not the guilty party.

He told me that the special hard stuff they use to cover over the perforation is called MTA and costs $150 per unit. He showed me the “unit.” It’s wee. He said, because the perforation was so low down in my root, and because you’re supposed to use the MTA starting from a safe distance below it and continuing right up to the tippy-top, he had to use three units of it just on this single root. So this procedure is working out to be a bargain.

It – the re-treat on tooth #30 – cost $725 soup to nuts, no matter how long it takes. If we subtract $450 for three units of MTA (plus who knows how much more for rubber gloves and other sundry things, but we’ll just call it $450), that leaves $275. For what is shaping up to be twelve hours’ work, that comes out to… just under $23/hour.

Sheesh, maybe I should hire Dr. German to work on my house! I couldn’t get a plumber or an electrician or a painter for that kind of money – and all of them would have charged for the materials. Plus, these labor numbers don’t even take into account the services rendered by Dr. T.

Which is just as well, I think. Because I’m not at all sure I want him getting paid.


Sandy & Michael said...

omg (see I can do it too, just like a teenager). But seriously, aaaah! That was a cringe inducing post. I was literally tapping my desk with my fist in anxiety. I'm amazed I was even able to read it let alone that you were able to write it.

This is one of the reasons I'm very very glad I was put under for my wisdom teeth extraction.

hope you're not feeling any pain now.


Sparkle Plenty said...

Oh, ege! This is just WRONG, and it actually makes me po-ed (abbrev. for word we use every day) on your behalf. This Dr. Teacher needs to be taught many lessons about many things. Grr. Feel better. Watch lots of Dirty Chap stuff.

Charlie said...

okay i know you told me this yesterday, but much much much worse today...maybe you could have spared the deets in the blog?

Charlie said...

they made YOU pay for the MTA?
now, i am not a lawyer, although I was raised by a pack of them...but I'm thinkin' you needed 0 MTA before Dr. Teacher got there....

EGE said...

No no, they didn't make me pay for the MTA -- that was my point. Sorry if I wasn't clearer. My brain's not right. I sent a pretty important email this morning with a pretty stupid typo in the very first sentence. I probably should've waited for that until tomorrow.

Sandy -- thanks for they sympthy-cringe. I actually am feeling pain now, lots. I'm going to take a really BIG pill and go to bed and watch...

Dirty Chap. Thanks, Sparkle!

Anonymous said...

now I see a big check coming. not only did doc teacher not help you, he actually caused more pain and the need for more dental work, and more pain. what kind of waiver of rights did you have to sign when you entered this torture school of his? write down exactly what happened and the exact quotes of those involved and save them until you are all fixed ;). then see a lawyer who will work on contingency and see how nice do teacher will be when he tries to convince you not to being suit. he might pay you and give you his pats tickets.

Anonymous said...

oops, that should be DOC teacher

jen said...

ugh. and, also, gross. You are really hitting it home why the dentist sucks.
Gah, and ouch!

EGE said...

Anon -- nah, I'm not the lawsuit kind of gal. I did sign something, and it probably mentioned that this could happen. But even if I didn't: I hurt, but I don't hurt enough to justify any more pain-in-the-hassles.

And Jen: Yeah, I was so wrapped up in my own world of hurt that I didn't even think about how gross the whole thing was until people started commenting.

Sorry about that, y'all!

EGE said...

if the tara who left the link here was the tara that I know, then I'm sorry, but it looked like spam so I deleted it.