My parents, both of whom have numerous teeth filled with silver due to excessive soft drink consumption in their youth, made the decision when my sister was born in 1981 to not give her a soft drink unless she asked for one. She never asked for one, and at 34 years old, still doesn’t drink them. When I came along in 1990, my parents made the same decision. At 25 years old, I, too, have never willingly consumed a soft drink. A few accidental tastes here and there, yes, but none of those ended well for my taste buds. Or for the people in the path of my spatter.
Well intentioned though my parents were, keeping me from developing a lust for soft drinks didn’t stop cavities. In fact, I had three more filled yesterday and am due for two more to be filled next week.
It’s been so long since I’ve had a cavity that I forgot the entire process. Like any medical process with which I’m unfamiliar, I was afraid of it, an emotion that only increased the closer it got to the moment of truth. As I pulled in the dentist’s office parking lot yesterday, my prayer was, “God, please let everything go normal, and please don’t let me have a negative reaction to the numbing stuff and suffer a seizure or stroke and die or be permanently brain damaged. Amen.” I even had images in my head of my family and friends visiting me in the hospital in a vegetable state, standing over my bed and saying things like, “I just can’t believe it. It happened so fast. You know, you just never know when your life can change like that…”
Obviously, I survived (assuming next week also goes as planned), even though the shot I received in my bottom gum stung something fierce – unlike the shot in my top gum – and the dentist had to remind me to breathe. When I started breathing, he had to coach me again. “Uh, deep breaths. Not quick, panicked ones.”
I left the dentist’s office at about 10:45 a.m. with their assurance that the numbness would wear off in about an hour. By 4 p.m., my bottom lip was still ignorant to feeling. A quick Internet search (because that’s always reliable…) revealed that some numbness can last anywhere between two and four hours, or even days. When I texted Cory and told him I was having trouble talking and joked that he might get lucky and my numbness last into the evening, he responded, “Or forever.” Oh, he’s a riot…
In case you haven’t been numbed in awhile, or are lucky enough to have never been numbed, here are a few lessons I’d like to impart from my experience:
- Dentist’s office staff almost take on the role of mouth physical therapists, insisting on continuing to talk to you even when your tongue involuntarily lolls over to one side and scrapes against your teeth.
- You’ll be afraid to smile because you’ll be self-conscious that you may appear as though you’ve had a stroke.
- You should own straws. Unless you don’t mind not drinking from your water bottle for two and a half hours. Even after that, you can just drink from one side of your mouth.
- Both sides of your mouth form an eating team. They serve necessary functions that you don’t appreciate until one of them is gone. You’ll be reminded of this when you can’t taste food on one side and when the only working side gets fatigued from all that laborious chewing. The hindrances to shoving food in my mouth was the worst part for me.
- Don’t worry about how chapped your lips get. After having your mouth open for the entirety of your office visit, your lips will be a little crusty and will only increase their crustiness while you wait for the numbness to go away. It feels too weird to apply lip balm, so don’t sweat it until at least most of your face has feeling in it again.
I hope these dentist visit life hacks will benefit you when you need them most. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to buy some straws.