Living in Society

On Opioids

Lettuce for my neighbors, May 25, 2021.

Beginning with pain in my tooth after biting a piece of cheese last Thursday, it only got worse.

By Friday afternoon I was ready to see a dentist, although because it had become so late in the day I couldn’t get in until Monday morning. It was a sleepless, uncomfortable weekend because of the pain, even with Ibuprofen.

It was tooth #14, the same one on which I had a root canal in 2018. At the end of eight hours of diagnosis, including a three dimensional X-Ray, the endodontist determined the large root had cracked open and re-doing the root canal would provide no positive benefit. I went back to my regular clinic where they extracted it.

After the morning visit, I went to the pharmacy to get a prescription for pain killers and antibiotics. I knew it was serious medicine when the pharmacist asked to see my driver’s license. The guide to medication said, “Even if you take your dose correctly as prescribed you are at risk for opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse that can lead to death.” The handout mentioned death a couple more times. I waited until I returned home from the extraction to take the first pill.

I intend to get off the opioid as soon as I can tolerate the pain.

I have a couple of things to say about the episode.

First, both clinics were very accommodating to get me in for the emergency procedure. The fact that I get a regular checkup created a health care infrastructure upon which I could rely with the onset of unexpected pain. I sent each clinic a thank you note for going above and beyond normal expectations.

I’ve had dental care most of my life, since I grew teeth. I also worked at the University of Iowa Dental Clinic and had work done by students. I’ve learned to pay attention to what the practitioner says and does. Understanding each step of the process as we went along relieved any anxiety I may have had. Local anesthesia highly recommended.

Over the weekend, in my sleepless delirium, I had a dream that I went to the garage and extracted the tooth myself, and with ease. In real life, the top part of the tooth broke up during extraction because it had become brittle. Each of three roots had to be extracted individually. The one that had cracked open proved to be particularly difficult. Moral: don’t try to extract your own teeth even if you think you can.

The episode took six days out of my life and just today I got out in the garden to work for a while. I’m supposed to take it easy for a couple of days. I’m not sure I know how to do that, but will try. While I’m on opiods, there were only twelve pills and I don’t plan to get more.

The drug did ease the pain.