Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dowsing and Dental Procedures, or, Dental Doozies Part II

So at my second visit to the endodontist, the assistant came in to examine my teeth before the endodontist put in his appearance.

She was quick, somewhat unfriendly, not very good at explaining things, and seemed in a hurry.

She looked in my mouth, said "hmmmm" a lot.... Then she got out a little thing that looked like the top third of a toothpick. It was red and pointy and looked like it was made of wood. I didn't get a good look at it, though, as she simply poked it into the swollen area of my gum, which was between my back two molars, while stating "I'm going to stick this in here in the swollen part. It will help identify the source of the infection."

What? How? I thought...

But I didn't get a chance to ask about it, because at that moment she held the x-ray thingy up and commanded me to open so she could take the x-rays. So I opened my mouth and she crammed the x-ray film into my mouth (this gal was anything but gentle).

This particular endodontist uses newfangled digital x-ray equipment. Instead of the old-fashioned cardboard x-ray film holders (horrible and uncomfortable things), they use plastic digital x-ray plates attached to wires that go to the computer and immediately show up on the computer screen when the x-ray is done (also horrible and uncomfortable things, but at least you can immediately see if you need another x-ray).

After installing the horrible and uncomfortable digital x-ray plate in my mouth, she remembered the lead apron she was supposed to have put on me, and spent another minute or so installing that -- having to manever it around and under the wires extending from the digital x-ray plate to the x-ray computer display.

All of this caused much jostling of the little red toothpick that was still sticking out of my gum, with the other end poking the inside of my cheek. I was quite uncomfortable. On the verge of tears, actually.

"Sit up!" she commanded, and I leaned forward a bit so she could position the x-ray machine next to my jaw.

Zap. The x-ray itself was mercifully quick. Then she pulled out the digital x-ray plate, and pulled out the red toothpick thingy.

She pointed to the x-ray displayed on the computer and said, "See, it's pointing to the back tooth. That is where the infection is coming from. That tooth will have to be removed."

I looked at the x-ray, and indeed, the little toothpick thingy appeared to have bent inside my gum and the very tip of it pointed toward the back tooth - one I previously thought was fine.

But I'm thinking, "Wait a minute, here - that thing was jostled all over the place and anyway, what the hell does a little piece of wood know about where infection is coming from?!?"

So I asked her, "How does that work?"

She said, "It follows the infection."

Not a very thorough explanation, so I tried again.

"OK, but exactly what does it do?"

"It tells where the infection is."

At this point, her explanation was sounding rather circular. Perhaps, I thought, my questions were just poor. So I tried again.

"OK, it tells where the infection is, but how does it do that?"

"It follows the infection."

Great. You said that already. Now I'm getting annoyed. [Did I think that, or did I say that? I think I just thought it... but I'm not really sure].

"But, *how* does it do that?! How does it "follow the infection' -what does that mean??" I asked, in probably not the nicest voice, but managing not to yell.

"Look," she said, visibly angry with me, "I've been doing this for 15 years. I know what I'm doing. It's the back tooth that is infected!"

"OK," I said, "I understand that. I just want to know how that little toothpick thingy works!"

"It follows the infection," she repeated.


I gave up.

The endodontist came in. By this time I was pretty frustrated, but I didn't get much of a chance to ask him any questions about the little toothpick thingy. He explained all about the root canal issues. I explained that I was fairly upset at the prospect that the back tooth was also infected and asked his thoughts. He said it was hard to tell, what with the problems with number 19, and that we had two options: try to re-do the root canal, or have the oral surgeon extract the tooth. At this point, I really did not want to deal with the endodontist's office any more than necessary. And besides, I was starting to think tooth #19 wasn't really worth all this effort. Extraction was starting to sound pretty good.


So he wrote me a prescription for antibiotics, and off I went to see the Oral Surgeon.

I'll save that tale for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, have any of you ever heard of this toothpick procedure? I've tried looking it up on the interwebs, but without knowing anything about it - the name of the procedure, the name of the device (I'm sure it wasn't actually a toothpick.... was it?), or how it's supposed to work, I haven't had any luck finding information about it.

Does anyone out there know what this toothpick thingy is called? How it works? Whether it's scientifically based, or simply voodoo?

Frankly, it reminded me of dowsing.


Cora said...

Weird! No, I've never heard of the toothpick thingy. And I'm pretty certain you are not the first person to ever have inquired about how it works either. She was just being difficult. What a crab bucket!

Gwen said...

We called dowsing "divining" and it's the first thing I thought of when you mentioned Ms. Crabass's toothpick method.

Man, tooth stuff sucks. I can't wait to see how this all turns out.

LOLA said...

I'll ask my daughter to ask her friend Walter, who has been accepted to medical school and has the answer to many questions. Maybe he can figure out what the toothpick thing is, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that it works with near-infrared light.
Infinities of love for your mouth,

Melly said...

She sounds like a lovely woman.. ;)

Scope said...

Your honor, permission to beat the witness about the head and shoulders until either A) A scientific explanation is provided or B) satisfaction is achieved regardless.

LegalMist said...

Scope - permission granted!

Gaston Studio said...

If the medical person I'm seeing doesn't answer all of my questions to my satisfaction, I'm outta there!

LOLA said...

"Scope" it is, pun intended. I think the toothpick thingy is a tiny scope that uses near-infrared light to detect infection. I will not give up on this until I have the answer.
Lola, who is so sorry for you

The Dental Maven said...

Hi Legal! Thanks for alerting me to your post. The little tooth-pic thingy is called "gutta percha." (gp) You can check it out on the net, but suffice it to say, it's typically used to fill the root canal space during a root canal procedure. You likely had a "fistula" (an opening where the infection was draining) on your gum. When a fistula exists and we want to identify where the infection is coming from we use the gp for that too. Since the infection eats the bone away from your tooth, the gp, (being bendable) when inserted into the fistula can follow the track of the infection to its source...and the gp shows up on an x-ray. It's not easy to explain without drawing a picture...but if you want me to, just drop me an email, I'd be happy to! Also, and I'll get grief from my endodontic friends for this, re-doing root canals in 2010 is much less common due to the low success rate. We typically opt for removal of the tooth and implant placement. That has a much higher rate of success. Hope that helps!!!

LegalMist said...

Dental Maven -- Thank you for the rational explanation!! (But, why couldn't the dental assistant do that?)