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» Sunday, May 21, 2017The Teeth of the Matter (and a Green Gables Digression)
If I've been absent, it's because I've kind of been in an emotional abyss.
We had Hair Day last Saturday and when I bit into the sandwich I made (mixed cold-cut sandwiches were the meal du jour), my left upper first molar felt uncomfortable. I'd been chewing on that side of my mouth all along, and the discomfort was unsettling. So when we got home and James set off to his club meeting, I took some ibuprofin and lay down—and after forty minutes not only did my upper jaw still hurt, but so did my lower jaw. It felt like the whole thing was on fire. I smeared Ambesol liberally on it, but the last time I used it was Christmas of 2014 and the tincture was weak.
At this point this is where most people roll their eyes and go "oh, crap, dentist visit—probably have a cavity; there's more money out the wazoo." Maybe a little "God, I hate novocaine" or "another morning of work missed." My dental phobia goes wayyyyyyy beyond this. And what might be the strange part about it is that it's not the dentist rummaging around in my mouth that bothers me (I ended up with two dentists rummaging around in my mouth on Wednesday, both of them with sharp tools, and I just lay there and commented). It's the fact that I have to have some sort of anesthesia to get the work done, and I don't like having it because I am terrified of not being in control.
I'm not sure where this fear goes back to, but I think it's when I had my tonsils out. I look at the sweet little commercial they have for one of the hospitals where a little girl is taken by her dad to the hospital and she's greeted by a smiling woman who gently takes handover and think it's ridiculous that the kid isn't wailing and thrashing. I pretty much remember every bit of my tonsil and adenoid extraction: I was put in a playroom with a bunch of other kids. Every so many minutes a nurse would come along and take one of the kids away and they'd never come back. It was like a horror movie. Finally there was just a little boy and me, and we hid under a gurney in the corner that had a sheet over it before the nurse came back in. I'm not sure if the nurse dragged me out or what, but the next thing I remember was lying flat on the operating table with the black, smothering ether mask coming down on my face and the nauseatingly sweet smell of the either and rubber.
(Even the post-surgical reward was a bummer. Back in those days the standard parent/doctor sweetener for getting your tonsils out was "you can eat all the ice cream you want." And then they brought me vanilla. Gross. They had to keep encouraging me to eat the ice cream to soothe my sore throat and I kept asking for chocolate or coffee, but all they had was disgusting vanilla.)
In any case, now masks bring out my lizard brain, or indeed anything that goes over my face (even those innocuous clear nasal canulas), or anything that actually "puts me to sleep." I've had friends that have had cataracts out, this surgery done, that surgery done, and they said "no problem; they gave me the good drugs." I don't want the good drugs; I'm always afraid I'll never wake up. Paranoia runs deep.
Anyway, over last weekend I went out and dumped 25 bucks on Sensodyne and two kinds of Ambesol (Orajel doesn't do the trick). The bathroom became littered with orangy-tipped Q-tips as I kept swabbing between the first and second molar with Ambesol after brushing my teeth. Monday at work I managed by carrying the gel and the Sensodyne with me, but it was a hard slog because the pain was quite intense, centered between the two molars. (The place next to it, where my second biscupid broke off years ago, was minimally affected, but that wasn't where the intense pain was coming from.) While I have years of experience with intense pain due to cramps that were so bad they made me vomit, teeth are another matter. The pain just doesn't go away, and it's a sign of something bad. And I know dental infections often get into your bloodstream.
So Tuesday I girded up my loins, logged on to Delta Dental (my insurance from work, which is very basic) and found something called Gentle Care Dentistry. I had a long talk with them over the phone, told them I'm a flake (it's the only word for it; other people do this every day—maybe they don't like it, but they don't have panic attacks over it), and they made an appointment for me on Wednesday. Tuesday night James said he thought his dental insurance might cover more than basics (a cleaning and a set of x-rays is all mine covers) and we looked up that info.
So went there, James' insurance was indeed better, talked their ears off while they got me comfortable, nice folks, and went through fifteen minutes and 4 plates to get a decent x-ray of the affected area (my previous dentist told me I have a very small jaw). Surprise: no cavity shows up! With the amount of pain I've been having, they expected to see a big whopper, but nary a sign. You would think this was a relief. One of the causes of my apprehension in going to the dentist is that I've never had a cavity, so never had to have a filling. I have no experience with novocaine or drills. I've had my wisdom teeth out, and that was a pretty bad experience, and I've had my teeth checked and cleaned which was no sweat. I liked both Dr. Sepe in Rhode Island and Dr. Holcomb in Georgia.
After much discussion and Janice the dental hygienist poking at my teeth with sharp tools, it was decided I just might have something going on under the gum line that wasn't a cavity. But because they couldn't see up to the roots of the teeth because my stupid sinuses are so low (they block the view) and couldn't see any trouble there, they were worried about doing a deep clean of my teeth because I might need to have a "flap." This means I would have to see a periodontist to have it done and my insurance wouldn't cover it twice. So they suggested I see their periodontist (also covered by James' insurance) and I was able to get in right after my appointment. Dr. Rudd noted on my referral that I was very anxious, so they treated me very gently, but, even after Dr. Tomaselli poked around in my mouth with one of those big long dental tools with a wicked wire hook on the end, he couldn't identify a cavity, either. He did find, however, a part of my first molar that caught the end of the hook portion of the tool, and I could feel it pull on the tooth, but no real severe pain like I'd been having.
The periodontist said the level of cleaning my teeth needed was not something he needed to do, but he gave me some special super flouride toothpaste that I'm supposed to use twice a day without rinsing afterwards, in the hope it may "build up" my teeth in the interim. Then I went back to the dentist and they gave me a herbal rinse that is supposed to get rid of germs, and I take that until they do the deep cleaning on the left side and then I have to come back for the right side. Yeah, what fun. This is what happens when you don't have dental insurance for years.
So in the meantime the pain has been off and on. It definitely centers on the left side of that first molar. It's very distinct. The gum where the tooth broke (next to it) is irritated, but doesn't hurt. And if I'm careful how I eat (let's say chewing hard is not an option now), I can keep the Ambesol off it. Thursday afternoon (after the dentist closed, of course, and they're not open on Friday) the pain got really bad with a combination of a bad headache. When I finished work I had to retreat to the bedroom with two extra strength Tylenol. It worked well enough that I could sort of eat: James made me a turkey patty and he also made me a frappe (milkshake, whatever).
Friday was my compressed day, and I slept in, and then spent early afternoon watching the documentary I found about Rocky Point amusement park. (I wasn't intending to go out at all, but I needed to get prescriptions refilled and since I had to go out anyway, I figured I might as well do something I liked, too, and stopped at Barnes & Noble.) I didn't use Ambesol all day, and we could go to Shane's barbecue for supper, since pulled pork is like something partially chewed anyway, and we even got to Publix without any screaming pain kicking in. Saturday morning I had a setback: despite eating only on the right side the oatmeal and yogurt zapped me and I had to resort to chemical means. But we got to Costco for milk and all the trimmings, and later on we supped at Fried Tomato Buffet where I could manage the rib meat and the chicken and dumplings.
Today I've had no Ambesol, but it's sore. I'm in a blue funk because I watched three episodes of the new Anne of Green Gables adaptation on Netflix last night, Anne With an E. The writer said that Anne's dismal childhood must have made more impact on her than has been acknowledged and promised a "grittier" Anne. I was of two minds about this as I began to watch: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, and R.H. Thomson look as if they could have come out of the book, and even the actors who play Rachel Lynde, Gilbert, Diana, and even Mr. Phillips have a certain authenticity. This looks VERY good; Green Gables is a little less idealized, and while the vistas are splendid it's a National Geographic splendor, not a Conde Nast Traveler splendor—it isn't an advertisement for PEI tourism as the Sullivan version is. And the idea of making it a little grittier? Well, Montgomery wrote the book back when plucky orphan tales were popular and she would not have dwelt upon the more sordid portions of Anne's life because it just wasn't done then. But it makes sense that the physical and emotional abuse Anne underwent would affect her much more deeply than is ever touched on by the book or the 1985 story. So when the story line from the book is made a bit grittier, that Anne might have nightmares about her past, that her first days in the community might not have been very sunny, I would be in favor of that.
But creating situations out of whole cloth to make it more traumatic? To embroider new situations just to add to the drama and to make a statement about today's society? Could that not be done within the confines of the story? But we get Anne sent back to the orphanage and Matthew racing headlong after her and being injured, an absurd bit of drama that appeared nowhere in the novel? To have Anne talk about sex (inadvertently) at school? To have Prissy Andrews' brother try to beat Anne up on her walk to school and have her schoolmates bark like a dog at her at the church picnic? To have the Barrys (and the rest of the church picnic) either act snobby to her or call her names? To have Anne get her period? To have her ignore Gilbert (who in this version saves her from Prissy's brother before she does the slate bit) just to fit in with the girls, or have her treat Jerry [the chore boy] in a shabby way? To have robbers invade Green Gables? To have Anne take the Cuthberts' name in a totally ridiculous scene that Marilla Cuthbert of the book would not have endured? To have Gilbert's father die?
Wasn't it bad enough when Kevin Sullivan had to make up horrible stories after his initial excellent effort and then well-made sequel that nevertheless contained imaginary Anne events although they were culled from later books? The writer claims that this adaptation will make Anne's resilience shine all the more; it seems more like she is some gross bullying tormentor who wishes to make Anne's already miserable life continue on and on without the loving support that the Anne gained in the novel: of good friends (except for Josie Pye) and good acquaintances like the minister's wife and Diana. Anne of Green Gables is a hopeful book: the story of an abused child finally blossoming in loving circumstances. Anne With an E continues to abuse the poor child once she believes she's arrived at her new home. If you told me writer Moira Walley-Beckett secretly liked to pull the wings off butterflies and trip small children in parks to make them cry I would not be a bit surprised based on the torture she heaps upon Anne in what should be her new life and more happy future. If she wanted to show the horror of child institutional and orphan abuse in the late 19th century why not write her own Dickensian original and leave poor Anne alone? What's next, 13 Reasons Why: The Anne Shirley Edition? In this version do we see Anne try to slash her wrists or use the strychnine Rachel Lynde was always blathering about on herself? That sure would be "grittier."
In the end, a waste of a brilliant cast and the parts that were true to the novel which were very effective. The first three parts were dark enough that I had nightmares all night about Anne being accused of a crime (stealing a big book that was meant as a gift) and I woke up wanting to watch something more cheerful. Like Rogue One, Silence of the Lambs, or a documentary about the Scott polar expedition.
Even the dentist is better than Anne With an E.