Last Thursday I had a couple of cavities filled. Wasn’t brushing my teeth regularly, and was doing a couple of bottles of Pibb each day. I’ve since changed my evil ways.
Some years ago I thought I could conquer pain. Part of pain is fear. I thought if I could trust the dentist, and realize that the pain was not causing damage to my body, and realize that the pain was part of making things better, then maybe I could accept the pain. So, I tried it: I asked a dentist not to use Novocain. Yes, there was some pain, but I made it through the visit. I kept that up. Sometimes the pain was considerable. One time, the dentist said, “Nothing makes you holler,” or something like that. Another time, I said, “uhh, uhhh!,” in acknowledgment of the pain. That was years ago. I still don’t use a pain killer. Dr. Hendrix, my dentist here in Troy, whom I highly recommend, says I’m one of only two people in her practice who don’t use Novocain. But here’s the thing: there hasn’t been any real pain in years. It isn’t me, it’s the technology! I figured out long ago that the pain came because the drill bits got hot. Now, the stream of water built into the drill prevents the heat: very little pain! In fact, the pain from drilling is less than the pain from all those mysterious appliances the dentist puts between the teeth, and between the tooth and the gum. That’s where the future in dentistry lies: figure out how to cut down on the pain from those “accessories”, or whatever they’re called. Someday, people won’t even think of using drugs when they have a tooth filled.
Not using a pain killer has advantages. I don’t have to wait for an injection to take effect, or wait for it to wear off. After getting use to not using a pain killer at the dentist, naturally, I didn’t want drugs for other procedures. A root canal? Get real… of course I used a pain killer. But a colonoscopy? I talked the doctor out of giving me anything. Apparently, “full anesthesia” is common in our area. (Sedation for colonoscopy seems to be a controversial matter.) In my case, being alert was an advantage. The doctor asked me what those little black grains were. “Oh, I had some black rice the other day.” In a second matter, I had a swollen lymph node, which led to a biopsy, which was a bit tricky, because a shoulder nerve was close to the lymph node. I convinced the doctor to go with a local anesthetic, instead of a general. He said that ended up being beneficial, because he had been able to ask me about feeling in my shoulder, to make sure the nerve wasn’t being damaged. (Turned out I had something called “cat scratch fever”, which goes away with time.)