9 January 2017

Hafiz Adewuyi

Diary of an unrepentant chocolate cookie addict

Below is a list of all the procedures that my poor set of off-white teeth had to undergo in 2016:

1. X-rays
2. Gum treatment
3. Pulp treatment
4. Cleaning (or scaling and polishing)
5. Tooth extraction
6. Temporary filling
7. Permanent filling

Some other keywords which I've also become more familiar with from my 2016 experiences are root canal and dry socket.

Ugh!

I should have suspected something was amiss that day at work in the first half of 2016. I had mistakenly bitten hard on a piece of candy I was licking and instead of the sweet getting shattered, I actually lost a part of my second lower right molar. It was strange but then, I just let it pass. It's not like I was in any unusual pain after it happened, so I was like: "okay, shit happens and life goes on. Bye, shattered piece of a godforsaken tooth"!


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The first time I ever visited a dentist in my life was back in 2005 as a teenager. For months on end, I had battled with this blistering ache in my right ear which no ear drop or painkiller had been to alleviate. The more we treated the ache, the worse it seemed to become. At some point, the family doctor had to prescribe some advanced painkillers which I had to use while in the boarding house. These ones would alleviate the pain for a bit - maybe a few hours at a time - then the pain would start all over again. I can remember several nights of staying awake all through the night in my hard hostel bed because the pain would not just let me be. Tears would pour endlessly from my eyes; apparently, that was the only respite available for me.

After several nights of pain-induced insomnia, I finally got an exeat from the school clinic to go attend to my issues at home. Family doc gave us a referral to a government hospital in Ikeja - whose exact name I cannot recall. A day after, mum drove me off to the hospital and once in, we were with the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist in about an hour.

I remember my encounter with the ENT doctor as being very terrifying. He bent my head to the side and directed his handheld torchlight into each of my ears, one at a time. I was scared of what the diagnosis would be and was really surprised when he turned up to say my ears were in perfect condition. Say what! He then went on to ask me if I had a persistent sore throat or a toothache. I can't remember my response to this but he ended up redirecting us to the dental section of the hospital. What a day!

We filled a couple of forms and after another hour, I was in a room I remember to be pretty dark, reclined on the dental chair, mouth wide open and under the scrutiny of the man in white. It did not take long for the dentist to announce my verdict. My last right molar was damaged beyond recovery and would have to be extracted. This was hard to believe for me since all along, my brain interpreted the pain as an ear pain and I never once suspected that my tooth could be the culprit because eating for me was as normal as usual. Either the pain did not increase when I was eating, or I did not notice.

Anyway, what choice did I have but to agree with the specialist? He went ahead to perform the extraction procedure on the last tooth on my lower right jaw. Of course, not before he had duly injected my gum around that area with several shots of local anaesthesia. The procedure was pretty short (say 15 minutes) and painless; just rather uncomfortable. I mean, having a full-grown man pull your tooth with all the muscles in his forearm has got to be like that, even if your nerves have been numbed. Once done, he asked me if I wanted to keep my tooth to which I shouted no because I was feeling traumatised. He promptly threw it into the trash can.

All of a sudden, the earache that had made my life miserable for several months now was nowhere to be found. For the next few weeks, I lowkey expected it to resurface because I could not just fathom how my tooth would be bad and in place of a toothache, I would have an earache. Weird!

After the procedure, I remember feeling like my jaw was swollen. I had to look in the mirror severally in a bid to reconcile the dissonance between how my face felt and how it looked. My jaw looked just fine from the outside. The most accurate way I can describe it is it feels like you're carrying around a dead piece of flesh that is still connected to your body.

Also, that day, I used a vending machine for the first time ever. Mum bought be a PET bottle of Sans Cream Soda for my trouble. I was not to eat any peppery food for the next 24 hours. Also, I was to rinse the extraction site with warm salty water twice a day for the next three days or so. The extraction site was almost fully healed after about two weeks and fortunately, the ear ache never returned.

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I had a flawless dental life from the time of my 2005 extraction up till August 2016 when I started feeling a dull ache in my ears. Thanks to my experience from 11 years before, I knew at once what the problem was. For some weeks before that, I had noticed that each time I brushed my second molar, a meaty taste filled my mouth. However, I neglected it since I could live with it; until the pain started.

An earache which started as dull intermittent ache quickly became unbearable and two weeks after I first felt it, I desperately reached out to the in-house medical team at my workplace who then referred me to a dental clinic in VI.

When I got there the next day, I was informed that once again, another molar - the one just beside the one which was initially removed - had to go; decayed beyond recovery. If only it had been detected on time, I might have been able to save it. Alas! The first and last times I had ever visited a dentist before this day were back in 2005 when I had my first dental surgery.

The specialist, after due examination and clarifications, went on to perform the following procedures on my teeth that same day:

  • X-rays
  • Scaling and polishing
  • Gum treatment (for gum infection)
  • Tooth extraction (for the damaged molar)

Let me not talk about how my bill at the end of the whole ordeal made me wish I had not agreed to proceed under pressure from the urgency that my jaw pain had created. Before leaving, I was given some drugs as well as instructions to rinse the extraction site with warm salty water before and after each meal. If I failed to do this, I would end up with a dry socket, which would turn out to be more excruciatingly painful than the initial ache from the decayed tooth.

Before I left, the nurse also taught me how to brush my teeth correctly using a teeth model on the clinic's front desk - I asked. If their technique is the WHO ordained one for brushing your teeth, then it means that I had been doing it totally wrong for my whole life prior. What!

Follow-up consultation came around two weeks later and you won't guess who ended up being diagnosed with a dry socket. I wasn't feeling any pains as they had said I would with dry socket. Also, I had been almost perfectly meticulous with the recommended rinses, save for a few misses. Anyway, to the detriment of my bank account balance, I had to undergo another 'cleaning' routine to rescue my jaw from irreversible decay. Argh! 

I read on the internet a few weeks after this that more often that not, dry sockets usually right themselves and need no additional treatment. Of course, the patient would have to endure some pain plus a couple of weeks delay in healing due to the loss of the initial blood clot. I felt swindled.

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I intentionally bought a cheap scaling and polishing deal from Dealdey in December 2016, just to make it straightforward for me to consult with a different dentist. I had been having scary symptoms in one of my upper left canines for a few months and the thought of losing another tooth - especially in such a key position - was terrifying.

In the penultimate week of December, I visited a clinic at Surulere to redeem the dental cleaning deal. Scaling and polishing went fine and I was also informed that I had several cavities that need to be treated and filled. Ugh!!!

Between the last week of December 2016 and the first week of January, I had about four cavitated teeth treated at Platinum Dental Surgery in Ikosi, Lagos. Everything went smooth and fast plus the whole procedure was pretty affordable - actually hugely discounted - and so far so good. There have been no complications. 

I am grateful for all the dental experiences of 2016 because they have left me with the following nuggets:
  • use a mouthwash at least once a day (my last bottle finished two months ago)
  • book a scaling-and-polishing session with a dentist once every six months (Dealdey will always make this easy and cheap to do)
  • brush morning and night (every morning I wake up and remember I didn't brush the previous night, I have to deal with a vivid imagination of how the bacteria were busy munching away at my teeth all through the night)
I honestly think I've had enough dental interventions in my short lifespan. I also feel like the black sheep of the family since no one else in my nuclear family has ever had dental complications. 

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2 comments

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12 January 2017 at 13:18 delete

2 extractions, 1 root canal, and an upcoming filling. I guess those credentials qualify me to make an informed comment.
The night before the root canal procedure, I almost went crazy with pain. I was forced to find out on google if pain could cause brain damage. Thankfully, there wasn't much correlation, but I still had the fear that I might be the first recorded case. U can ignore every other thing but a toothache.

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18 January 2017 at 06:39 delete

Haha. Thank God you survived that. Thanks for sharing

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