Gentle Listener, I want to take you on a journey.
A journey of pain.
It is a journey I have been on in the last week or so, and I felt that it would be selfish to keep all the pain to myself – considering that there was such an incredible amount of it – so I decided to chronicle my pain to share with you.
2pm – Whilst eating a roll for lunch, I get a twinge in my upper right-hand second premolar, on which I had root canal treatment three years ago. This is not unusual, as it occasionally twinges. I think no more of it and cheerfully finish my roll.
6pm – On exiting my office into the cold, I get another twinge in my upper right-hand second premolar. It is a slightly more intense twinge, up in the gum. Hmm, I hmm, what dark force is this? But it’s Friday evening and no time for dental concerns, and I go and get drunk with my best friend.
10am – Through the blur of a mild hangover, there is a dull ache in the root above my upper right-hand second premolar. Hmm, I hmm, this is the same upper right-hand second premolar in which I was getting twinges yesterday. Let’s try eating something on it. I eat something on it.
2pm – The aching bud above my upper right-hand second premolar has blossomed into a delicate tree of unpleasantness. It is very sore to the touch and, every now and then, I get a cold, icy ache flaring up towards my eye socket. This brings back happy memories of actually having the root canal treatment and being able to feel the dentist shove a rod so far up my face that I felt it nudge said eye socket. I buy precautionary painkillers.
9pm – Despite the precautionary painkillers, the sharp, twisting sting above my upper right-hand second premolar is now throbbing. I cannot even think about touching it. Eating on that side of my mouth is inconceivable. I take more painkillers and try to go to sleep. Lying in bed feels like this:
5am – I am still awake. My mouth and cheek are alive with the sound of pain. I have taken two more doses of painkillers. I finally fall asleep from sheer exhaustion at around 5.30am.
7am – I am woken by a fiery shot of pain so intense that it makes me sit bolt upright like I’ve had a nightmare in a film. A blue fire licks at my root and burns my cheek. I tearfully call the NHS emergency dental number and, through a fabulous spoonful of luck and the wonders of our National Health Service, I get a dental appointment at the nearest hospital at 9.30am.
9.30am – I stumble to the hospital. I see Dentist Norman. I hope Dentist Norman will tell me I’ve just got a bit of food stuck between my teeth, and send me home with some dental floss and a sticker. Instead, Dentist Norman tells me I have an infection at the top of my root canal, the root canal on which I had treatment three years ago. He gives me two sets of antibiotics and tells me they should kick in within 24 hours. I wish Dentist Norman a happy Valentine’s Day, and crawl to the nearest pharmacy where I collect my drugs, after almost passing out over the counter, and hunch outside like a junkie on a comedown and shove drugs into my shattered mouth.
6pm – Pain. I live within it. I have never been without it. Crunched in by my cell of pain, my non-painful life does not exist. Work, play, friends, food, hopes, dreams, YouTube, have gone, all crushed to pulp by my pain. I don’t know what day it is, I don’t know where I have been or where I am going. The pain is like someone jabbing a rusting steel rod up into my root and twisting. I slurp some lukewarm tomato soup and lie in my death bed like a broken, drugged dish cloth.
7am – I have had a few hours sleep. Twice in the night I sat up in bed mournfully eating half a slice of dry bread to line my stomach before taking more painkillers. This morning the pain has clearly decided to branch out, and has spreads its thorned wings to my lower jaw, my ear, my eye socket, my nose. I weep snottily through fears of the antibiotics not getting off their arses to take my pain away.
1pm – I curl weakly in bed clutching an ice pack to my cheek. Every time the ice comes into contact with my skin, the pain instantly fizzles and dies for two glorious, beautiful seconds of pure relief, before roaring back into my face like some sick prank. Electric shocks of pain are now gripping my eye so that it feels like the lower rim of the socket is shattering. Lighting bolts of pain crack along my jawline. My cocktail of codeine and ibuprofen is no longer a match for the pain, serving only to faintly dull it for 20 minutes or so, before giving up and letting the pain grin its hideous grin. Through the blue bars of pain and the doped-up haze of all the drugs, I seriously contemplate stumbling out into the road in my pyjamas and asking someone to drive into me.
7pm – And then… a miracle. The electric shocks are not so intense. The throbbing is not so powerful. The feeling of a rusting steel rod being twisted into my root is not so acute. Could it be that the antibiotics have finally woken up and decided to do their one job???
9am – Instead of spending hours of fitful consciousness writhing in pain, I woke only once to take painkillers. Otherwise I have slept like the dead. I check on the pain. Yep, there it is. But it is a different pain. It is as though the pain in my root above my upper right-hand second premolar has got bored with being above my upper right-hand second premolar, and has wandered off to explore other parts of my face instead. My back lower molars are agony. The bridge of my nose is throbbing. My eye socket – and this is probably my favourite of all the pains, that feeling that the delicate ridge of my eye socket is being drilled by a needle – is bursting with pain. But my upper right-hand second premolar? Not so bad at all, thank you.
2pm – After spending yet more hours in bed, the pain is slowly but surely fading, like a tide going out. A tide of needles, fire, and bombs.
7pm – I manage to eat something that isn’t a) Heinz tomato soup; b) dry white bread; c) my own fist. I haven’t taken a painkiller since 1pm. The drugged wooziness is slowly lifting, leaving in its place an exhausted, crippled shell, like a woodlouse that has fallen asleep in the sun.
10am – I have slept for nearly eleven hours. I take no painkiller. The pain – all the pains – is sinking, all the time sinking. And what commences instead is a spectacular painkiller withdrawal involving me shouting and then crying at two of my best friends, trying to itch the twitching feeling of unrest deep inside me somewhere, and writing ‘Never take up heroin’ on the fridge.
And now, a week on, the pain has all but gone, and the tooth of doom is being whipped out imminently. I want no part of its heinous cruelty anymore. I have been advised that the infection will only return, and that does not interest me one jot, so out it must come.
And what advice can I give you, after going through my journey of pain? Keep the number of your friend with the fastest car next to your bed.