I am not a fan of Novocain shots. Well, actually, I’m not a fan of any kind of shot or situations where a needle pierces my skin (which is why I am tattoo-free). But I can handle the quick prick of a vaccine needle or one inserted to draw blood for various testing. I have donated a pint of my blood 15 times over the past few years, and while that can sometimes be a little more painful, once the needle is inserted and blood is flowing freely, I don’t think about it anymore. But Novocain? I know that I automatically close my eyes when a hand moves within my vision which I know is headed for my mouth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the shape/mechanics of the equipment that provides the shot, but in my imagination, it’s like a miniature caulking gun with a big trigger.
So, eyes automatically close, and I feel the pressure against my inner mouth as the hand of the doctor moves in. My body automatically tenses from knees to neck in anticipation, and when the shot hits, I let out a groan of displeasure. (This is pretty much my normal routine when getting Novocain.) A moment later, when the sensation of pain has subsided, I relax, almost telling myself how proud I was to have made it through. And then, ping, the needle hits me again! I grabbed the ends of the armrests with my hands and let out a louder groan. I hadn’t seen that coming and I wasn’t happy about it. And then, ping, ping, ping, ping – another 4 shots administered with less than 10 seconds between and each one now causing me to lift up my butt from the chair and each groan getting successfully louder and more intense in sound. And in between each shot, from #2 through #5, Dr. Kim acknowledges my discomfort by saying, each time, “I know, sweetheart”. It was a good thing my mouth was open with his hand and his device of torture filling it, because there was a not-so-ladylike response I’d have had to fight to hold in had I had the option to say it.
His hand and torture tool finally leave my mouth, and I suspect that I was glaring at him by then. However, I just let him do what he had to do as quickly as possible so I could get out of there before I lost my cool. Once he was done sewing me up and leaving a large tail of thread in the front of my mouth, he set me up for another appointment and told me I had prescriptions for more of the same antibiotic and mouthwash at my pharmacy. Well, since I still had the mouthwash, and since a visit to my PCP on November 3rd indicated that my sinuses were quite red (this may have been the result of the surgery), she had sent a prescription for 2 weeks of the same antibiotic (for which, if you’ve been paying attention, already know that I had to wait 20 minutes longer after I pulled up to the drive-thru window at the pharmacy). I simply chose not to pick them up after this oral visit.
A few days later, sharing the details of this visit with my bestie, I first became aware of the feelings I associated with his repetitive comments of “I know, sweetheart”. Honestly, as I thought about it, I felt very much like he was being condescending and patronizing towards me. I was able to think of alternative variations of statements if he was attempting to calm me. As I said to my bestie, I wasn’t offended in a sexual way by the repeated use of the word sweetheart, but thought that, not only was it not at all appropriate in this kind of setting, it also could feel a little creepy to a younger patient who would feel uncomfortable having a stranger repeating a personal term of endearment. I realized that I would like to share those feelings with him, not in a way to criticize him but to help him. However, of course, I was not even in the room without his assistant present, and I didn’t want to embarrass him by saying anything in front of her. I thought I’d have another opportunity when I went back for my follow-up visit.
In between that visit and the next one scheduled, I developed another, new problem on my lower left jaw. It felt like something was sticking up from my jaw, near the front of the sutures. It felt like a piece of a toothpick, maybe a third of the length of one and half the width. It didn’t hurt and it wasn’t terribly sharp. I still wasn’t chewing on that side of my mouth, so I wasn’t worried about it breaking off. But still – we’re now a month past the surgery and I’m still having issues?
When I went back on December 1st, I had a different dentist. If he gave me his name, my brain didn’t retain it. I knew he was a different person because, while also of Asian race, he was taller and wore glasses. I actually took charge of this appointment in terms of how I wanted and expected to be treated. I explained my low tolerance for pain in general, my intense dislike of Novocain, and that I needed to know what was going on each step of the way to avoid anxiety and an unpleasant experience. He explained to me that there was a fragmented piece of bone that was sticking part way out of my gum which was dead and not attached to anything that mattered. He said that I would only need one shot of Novocain and that the process would be simply to grab the piece of the bone above the flesh and “wiggle” it out. I asked if I needed to have Novocain and his response was to the effect of “I wouldn’t get it, but I have a moderate pain level.” I asked him to give me a moment or two to think about it. When I’d thought about it, I had one more question and asked him how long it would take, in his opinion. He told me that it should only take a few seconds and so I elected to forego having the Novocain shot. And so he began.
I felt his hand in my mouth although I couldn’t feel the wiggling. Before 10 seconds were up, he removed his hand from my mouth and I asked, “Is that it?” It wasn’t… of course it wasn’t! He said that the bone was pretty tight within the flesh of my gum and he had gotten some movement, but he didn’t want to wiggle too hard and rip the skin. He went back in the second time, and again, seconds later, he pulled his hand out again. I made eye contact with him and he told me that one more tug was all he needed. Well, I was at a disadvantage, so I had to let him continue. Next thing I knew, he was showing me this tiny little piece of bone that had been causing all of the trouble. It was over, and I did it without Novocain! He told me there was the tiniest little hole that needed to heal, but it should be completely healed within about 3 days. No additional antibiotic prescription needed (thus, no more waits at the pharmacy to get it filled). He suggested a salt-water rinse after I ate for a couple of days but I didn’t need any further follow-up unless I had any problems.
I walked out the doors to my car and was overwhelmed with a sense of relief that, unless something else developed, it was finally over! No more schlepping to and from Bethlehem! No more sitting in the drive-thru at the pharmacy only to be told, when it was finally my turn, that the prescription wouldn’t be ready for another 20 minutes! It was finally time to be hopeful that full healing would come, and that my Medicare plan would cover replacing my lower denture which no longer even fit the profile of my lower jaw, much less stay in place with adhesive! The relief was almost palpable! The journey was over!
9 thoughts on “Jody’s Jaw Journey – Part VII”
A wonderful chronological series. Quite the ordeal. I wish I could always take your pain away. Love you, sis!
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Wow, what an ordeal! And how in the hell do they miss a random shard of bone?
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I totally get this and I have dental fear so every word resonated. I’m hoping it’s over for you and you are on the mend at last. what a horrific ordeal
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Wow! What an ordeal! I used to be a dental assistant, and I can assure you the look of the Novocain needle is scary looking if you do not like needles. Oral surgery is not fun. I would not call any experience pleasant, but I was sorry to read yours was exceptionally less than. I am glad it is behind you.
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When I was still under my parents’ roof, any dental surgery I had was under anesthesia, so I never witnessed the Novocain injection because it was done once I was under already. I was told by one professional that the reason the shot burns is because the medication is pushed too quickly into the gum. He also used to grab my cheek on the side where he was going to give me the injection and start to wiggle it with his fingers and then kept doing so as the shot went in. It hurt, but just a little. Hopefully, this will be my last experience with Novocain in my face for any reason!
It is correct that burning means it was pushed in too fast. You should feel a pinch, but not burning. Some dentists use wiggling the cheek to distract from the pain. A really good dentist will massage the jaw to help the Novocain flow, and it often does distract the mind, and feels good once the needle is removed. I hope that’s the last shot you ever need in your mouth, too!
I really hope you don’t have to go through such a painful medical ordeal again! Glad it is behind you now, but what a ride!
I have never had Novacaine and really don’t want it now! I have been fortunate to have really good teeth. Praying it stays that way.
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You are one of a few lucky ones who apparently did not have your wisdom teeth removed, as well as possibly your back molars. The trick to Novocain is two-fold, but doctors are lazy. First, use the hand not holding the Novocain needle to jiggle the cheek around (provides a distraction) and second, be patient and push the plunger down slowly instead of all at once. When the Novocain is rushed like that, it will burn like a motha!
Congrats on having good genetics and good dental hygiene!
Well let me correct myself, I did have my wisdom teeth out but apparently I was put to sleep before they gave me any kind of shot in the jaw, for I never remember a shot. Thanks for the congrats i thank my great-grandmother for her good teeth. 🙂 My siblings all have had cavities, so they were jealous every time we went to the dentist. LOL!
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