Zion Hodgkin Assistant Editor
With the entire state and most of the world on full lockdown, most people know the fear of being forced to leave their house for any reason. Even a quick trip to the grocery store or the gas station can be anxiety-inducing and sometimes cause full week of stress, overanalyzing symptoms, and self-diagnosing, especially for those with an autoimmune disease like I have, having been diagnosed with diabetes type 1 in my early twenties. Despite this, last week I had to go into a clinic every week day, and have someone stick their hands directly into my mouth.
I had made an appointment over two months ago to get a tooth pulled. It was a lower molar, the furthest one back, and it had been causing me pain incrementally for about three months. We looked into having it filled, but the dentist said that it was too far gone, it would be safer at this point to just get it removed. They took an x-ray, and had me make an appointment with the Oral and Facial Surgery Clinic in Farmington. There was a pretty extensive waiting list and appointment was made for March 31st. As that date crept closer, the COVID-19 pandemic started to get worse, spreading rapidly across the world and closing businesses and schools across the country. A week before my scheduled visit, I still hadn’t heard anything from the clinic, so I decided to give them a call. I was met with an answering machine, freshly recorded, stating that the office was closed until further notice due to the pandemic. By this time, the pain in my mouth had become pretty terrible, and the thought of waiting weeks, or potentially months longer before I could do anything about it, sent me into a panic.
I called around to other dental clinics in the area, to see if there was anyone who could help me, and discovered that the Strong Area Dental Center, though not open to the general public, was still available to take people who needed emergency procedures. Luckily I fell into that category. I called on Thursday, April 2nd, and they were able to get me in later that same day. They took a look, noticed that there was some infection, pulled my tooth, and sent me home with a recommendation to take ibuprofen over the next week. The rest of that day and the day after went great. The pain had already lessened and I was incredibly grateful that I wouldn’t have to deal with the infection any longer.
Then the weekend started. I woke up in the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It was worse than the time I had jumped face first into the water at Mill Pond Park and broke my nose, worse than the time I had three wisdom teeth shatter when I was getting them removed. There was immense pain at the extraction site, but on top of that, I could feel a throbbing in my entire face. My top row of teeth also were really painful, swollen, and incredibly sensitive to the touch.
I immediately called the dental clinic to see if I could speak to an on-call worker, but nobody answered, and the answering machine relayed the fact that they were closed for the weekend. The next two days were absolute misery. Turns out the extraction site had turned into a dry socket, which happens when the blood clot that builds up to allow for healing becomes dislodged.
On top of that, the oral trauma from the extraction had caused a horrific sinus infection, causing my sinus sacs to swell up, applying pressure to the top of my teeth and gums. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even watch TV because I was in so much pain. All I could do for 48 hours was stare at a wall in painful delirium, cry, and then stare at the wall again. I was begging the clock to tick faster, begging for sleep to pass some time, begging the sun to rise on Monday morning so I could call the dentist again.
On Monday morning, I called Strong Area Dental Center as soon as they opened and they allowed me to come in immediately so they could take a look. I pulled on some rubber gloves and headed out, barely able to see the road through the blinding pain. Once I got there and got in the chair, the dentist checked and saw that I did, in fact, have a dry socket. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be an easy fix. They were going to have to apply a numbing medicinal salve to the area for the next five days.
As the world became continuously more terrifying, and stopping to get gas spelled out a potential death sentence for my weakened immune system, I had to drive two towns over each day that week, to sit in a waiting room with other potentially ill people, and have a dentist stick his hands in my mouth every single day. Throughout this, I did my best to avoid contact with anyone besides my dentist (though I was afraid of him as well to a certain extent), but traveling and being in a clinic made that damn near impossible.
Now, a week after my last dentist appointment, my mouth is healing up nicely. My sinus infection on the other hand, has persisted, fluctuating from incredibly painful to relatively mild. All I’ve wanted to do is to finally stay at home, cut out the rest of the world and protect my weakened body. Instead, I’ve had to consider calling up the doctors to start the whole process over again.