Author’s note: I looked back at this post and realized it was very long and probably boring to my readership that does not care about my gums. I decided to add some helpful images for your entertainment.
So, those of you who have known me medium-well for more than a year or so may be aware that I have Weird Gums. There’s this part of my gums that occasionally, for no apparent reason, becomes swollen and painful. This happens maybe once every three or four months.
Note: these are healthy gums. I did not want to burden you,
gentle readers, with pictures of gross gums
About one in three of the times, it gets really bad and spreads onto the roof of my mouth, which makes eating virtually impossible (unless I add a generous coat of Anbesol a few minutes before the meal, which works decently, but who really wants minty Anbesol-flavored spaghetti, know what I mean?).
I don’t know why it happens; it just does. It seems unrelated to any particular trauma. I did not poke it with a Dorito. The only trend that has emerged is that more often than not, it happens around my period. The swelling lasts about 3-7 days, depending on severity.
The trickiest part is getting in to see the dentist when it’s actually at the peak of flare-up. It started swelling yesterday, and this morning it was really quite poofy, and it had spread so that my whole upper-left gum area was tender and swollen. Denny suggested that I try to get an emergency appointment today, just to make sure it’s not something serious before we go to Portugal. I called the dentist’s office before I left for work, and my beloved Dr. Fung was all booked up today.
My favorite denist, Dr. Fung
I wanted to see him because 1. he’s cool, and 2. he’s the one I’ve seen about this issue before, so he’s familiar with my history. Instead, they asked me if I wanted to see Dr. Ajala. I guess he must be new, because I’d never heard of him before, and he’s not on their website. I said ok, but I was a little nervous, because I’m shy around new people and it’s a pain explaining this stupid gum thing over and over.
Well. Fortunately, I was able to get in immediately, because an appointment for 10 minutes from the time I called had opened up for Dr. Ajala. So in I went. I explained my situation to the assistant, who tapped my teeth with a blunt instrument, then froze them with some stuff called Endo Ice. Results? Yes, it hurts when really cold chemicals get put on your teeth. From the Endo Ice website, I gather that the purpose is to determine tooth vitality. Dude, I could have told her that I have plenty of tooth vitality, and the problem isn’t my teeth anyway, it’s my gums. I didn’t like her very much. She also insisted on a (probably superfluous) X-ray, and she didn’t even have the good manners to ask if I’m pregnant. I’m not, but it’s polite to ask before you shoot radiation into someone.
It was a lot like this, only it was an x-ray of my mouth and not a chicken
Dr. Ajala showed up then, and he was pretty nice.
Note: Not actually Dr. Ajala, but he sort of looks like
Djimon Hounsou. He’s got the little mustache and everything.
He’s Nigerian and he washed his hands very thoroughly. I have a hypothesis that the dentists wash their hands in front of the patients rather than in a prep room somewhere because it gives patients the psychological impression that the whole experience is very sanitary. I explained the situation to him, and he proceeded to poke around at my gums a lot. He later revealed that he was searching around for something lodged up in there. Sheesh! There is nothing lodged up in there! If it were that simple, don’t you think I would have addressed that issue all the other 600 times this has happened? All he accomplished with that was to make my gums bleed. Oh, and he also determined that there was nothing lodged up in there.
This is kind of how I felt
In other hilarious turns of events, he was too shy to say the word “menstruation” or anything related to it. He asked several times about this gum problem’s relationship to my “monthly hormonal.” Hah! “Monthly hormonal.” That’s an adverb and an adjective, no noun at all! But I knew what he meant, and I didn’t make fun of him for saying it because he seemed so shy about the whole thing. I figure there’s no need to irritate the man with the pokey tool. I asked him if he thought it was an infection, and whether I should have antibiotics before I go. He said no, it wasn’t an infection. Then I pointed out my swollen glands to him. He made me do this thing where I smashed my chin down to my chest, which pinched my tender glands against my jaw bone, then he prodded them. “Ow ow!” I yelped. He said, “Sorry, sorry.” He was really terribly polite. I’m not sure that’s the most orthodox method of examining glands; every other doctor I’ve had has just massaged my neck a little.
That’s an important talent for a dentist, I think. Good old Dr. Ajala made me feel affectionate toward him even though he made my gums bleed, perhaps unnecessarily, and pinched my tender glands against my jaw bone and prodded them. That is a true gift. I bet his root canal patients leave the office saying, “Man, that sucked when he was twiddling my nerves like he was making macrame, but he was so charming about it.
In the end, he prescribed me some penicillin, which I think is a good idea. I was having some sweats and shivers this morning, which was probably due either to caffeine withdrawl (going to the dentist first thing made me miss my usual coffee schedule) or a mild fever due to infection. Honestly, it would probably be cheaper and easier to get antibiotics in Portugal, but this way at least I don’t have to learn how to say “Help, I believe I have an infection of the gums that may or may not be related to my monthly hormonal” in Portuguese.
Author’s note: slow days at work are so great.