The hands of the clock near 2 a.m., I have to be at my desk at work at 8, and yet I am sitting at the laptop, typing this blog. One eye is on the screen, the other is on a bottle of hydrocodone I filled at Walgreen in the evening. Soon I can take another dose. The back of my mouth and the hinges of my jaw hurt like mad right now, since I spent about two and a half hours in the dentist’s chair after work today (I know it’s after midnight, but in my mind it’s still Thursday night).
So how do I resemble the inimitable and invulnerable (or so we thought for years) Hunter S. Thompson? I’m writing with an eye toward taking narcotics. (I don’t smoke, I don’t own a muster of peacocks, I no longer drink–and never cared for Wild Turkey when I did, I hate guns, and I look idiotic in sunglasses, so the good Doctor of Journalism hasn’t been my role model.) But I’m sitting here with a bottle of Sierra Mist and the hydrocodone bottle flanking the keyboard, waiting until I can take another two pills. I am always conscientious about waiting the prescribed period of time between doses whenever I use prescription narcotics.
After going nuclear yesterday about terrible customer service I’ve experienced earlier in the day, and rehashing bad experiences from the past, wouldn’t you know someone throws me a curve! I scheduled my July 1 appointment around Memorial Day, and when the dentist’s receptionist left voice mail messages reminding me the date was coming up, I called after hours on Wednesday and said I had to cancel the appointment. Due to my financial condition, I would have to cancel the appointment.
SEMI-TANGENT ALERT: A major symptom of depression is neglect of personal hygiene. Remedies are usually easy when the depression lifts–a shower and some clean clothes, and you’re ready to face the world. Dental hygiene is different. Undoing the damage from inattention to your teeth is expensive and can’t be solved all at once. When I decided to finally do something about repairing the years of damage caused by my neglect, inattention, and apathy, the biggest roadblocks for me were pain and expense, in that order. Until I saw an ad during the local news portion of Good Morning America last year, I did not know there was such a thing as gentle dentistry or sedation dentistry. I “auditioned” two or three dentists before making my first appointment for dental work.
And here’s the curve which balances the horror stories I described in my last entry. I came back from my 10 a.m. break, and there was a message from my dentist’s receptionist. The doctor was willing to work out a $15-per-month payment plan with me for what my insurance doesn’t cover, and the appointment was still mine if I wanted it. I called and said I’d be there after work.
(Since I’m complimenting him so effusively, I don’t think he’ll mind my posting his name. He is Joshua Clark, DDS, and his practice is High Street Dental. You can find his Website here, and if you schedule an appointment, mention this blog.)
My previous experience, a deep cleaning, was a good one. I won’t lie and say it was fun, but Dr. Clark and his assistants and hygienists eased me considerably through the process. Before the appointment started, Dr. Clark asked me if I had ever used nitrous oxide before.
I laid my cards on the table. I have undergone general anesthesia three times (tonsillectomy, plastic surgery, and gallbladder removal), so I’m sure I’ve used it legitimately. I told him that I have used it recreationally.
TANGENT ALERT: Once was shortly after I moved to Boston. When I lived in Boston U.’s student ghetto, I was coming home from work one night and there was a party in full swing in one of the houses around the corner from my apartment on Commonwealth Ave. I merged into the crowd and was soon part of the revelry. Besides two kegs of beer, the centerpiece of the living room was a tall metal cylinder. The hosts had attached a long rubber hose to the nozzle, and people would insert the hose into their mouths, and the person controlling the flow would adjust the gauge as people gestured, usually by making an up-up-up motion with their flat palms. I took my turn, and felt the room spin round and round. I staggered back from the tank, and I remember someone catching me under the armpits and seating me in a chair before I fell. (I did learn from watching a woman taking her turn at the cylinder that it’s prudent to go to the bathroom beforehand.)
That was my introduction to nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, chemical formula N2O. One of the people who lived in the house was an anesthesiology student at Tufts Medical Center, and he “borrowed” one of the tanks for the party. I had known about laughing gas, because I knew some kids at Marietta High School who loved to use whippits, but I had never tried them at that time.
My other prolonged experience was about a decade later. I was visiting a friend in St. Louis for Thanksgiving, and wondered why his best friend and the best friend’s girlfriend seemed to buy Reddi-wip five or six cans at a time. I was naïve enough to think they just loved pumpkin pie. It was Thanksgiving, after all. But that didn’t explain why they would let them soak in a kitchen sink full of hot water for several hours.
My friend’s friend was an able tutor. Put the nozzle in your mouth, spray while inhaling, and keep spraying until your lungs were full. The whipped cream was now a useless glob at the bottom of the can. Reddi-wip (sometimes called “giggle cream”) uses nitrous oxide as a propellant, I learned. I did as instructed, and all of us were in a living room with deep shag carpeting. I remember noticing that my vision cleared up totally to 20/20 for that minute. There was a lifting feeling, almost like I was straying from my body for a minute, and I lay back on the floor, keeping a firm grip on the shag carpeting, like I was hanging on during a fast ride. There was total silence in the room. I looked around, and everyone was lying on the floor, unmoving, intent on the ceiling, each in his/her own thoughts, and loving it. It was over a minute before I felt like I was coming back to myself. No hangover, no craving for seconds, and it would clear my system in minutes.
BACK ON POINT AT LAST: Dr. Clark fed me an almost continuous supply of nitrous oxide through a rubber nasal mask during the procedure. He used a long Q-Tip to apply a topical gel, and during the procedure this evening I was totally oblivious to the fact that he had injected my gums with Novocaine. At worst, it felt like he had nicked a canker sore. My shut-eye last night was minimal, so I was soon fast asleep, but I was “with it” enough to respond to requests like “Tilt your head back, please” or “Open a little wider, please.” He pulled several wisdom teeth, did a thorough cleaning, and when he was finished, switched the nitrous to pure oxygen to bring me around.
My tongue and lips felt very thick, and I was slurring my words. This wasn’t because of the nitrous, but because I had two big pieces of gauze in my mouth. Both Dr. Clark and the receptionist assured me my lips and tongue looked normal, which was good news. I felt like I was wearing those brightly colored wax lips that kids used to like to wear on Hallowe’en when I was in grade school.
Nitrous’ effects clear when you walk out into fresh air, so I was able to walk to the nearby Kroger to pay my electric bill and buy my July bus pass. (As you’ll recall from my previous entry, Fringe Benefits Management Company’s people are too busy playing Farmville and Sudoku online all day to call me to ask why my bus pass came back to them, and ask if there was another address they should use.) Steph could see the residual effects of the nitrous oxide in the way I almost drifted into the front room when I came home.
More importantly, she was quite pleased with Dr. Clark’s handiwork. Two or three appointments, and the work will be completed.