Face Your Fears, Part Deux


About two months ago, I had mentioned in a post that it was time to get over my somewhat rational fear of dentists – or at least they work they do – and get the ball rolling with an exam and whatever else the dentist may recommend.

Today was that day. And the results of my visit were anything but favorable.

I went to a local office that has a sparkling reputation on Yelp! and is also where Anthony and my mother-in-law go for cleanings (she usually takes him so they get it done at the same time).

After filling out what seemed like an endless questionnaire regarding my personal health and dental visits, I was called into the back where I took a seat and had a series of 18 x-rays taken.

Things are definitely different now – they are digital. The last time I had them done, you still had to bite down on a small piece of plastic or cardboard whose corners felt pointy when the nurse stuck them in under your tongue. Then they had to develop them. Now you bite down on a device that transmits the image to a computer. So far, so good.

Then the dentist sat down next to me, introduced himself, went over the x-rays and pointed out everything that was wrong in my mouth (aside from the occasional profane language that slips out of it). Next, he let me know what he thought should be done first based on the severity of each condition.

Yeah. There’s that much. Fuuuuu…

It was during this consultation when I explained my fear and he told me that, of course, it wasn’t uncommon. He also told me how some of his patients were actually worse than me. (For privacy, I won’t go into details.) But the fact that I was sitting there speaking to him and preparing myself for whatever treatment he thought necessary put me way ahead of those he mentioned. I was already on the field ready to play; they hadn’t even shown up to the clubhouse.

His first recommendation was simple: bonding my two front teeth, both of which were a bit jagged at the bottom and could possibly chip at any moment. He also explained that this would be a great way to ease myself back into the patient’s chair and dental care as a whole.

And that’s where we started. I asked if I could listen to music during the procedure and he had no objections. In fact they supply their own if you need them but I’m not sure what kind of music I’d be listening to and I’m pretty picky with my headphones, so I used my own earbuds and thank goodness for Spotify Premium and my iPhone.

He told me to raise my left hand if I felt any discomfort during the procedure and amazingly, I didn’t. As he and his assistant blazed through the process of bonding my teeth, Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil kept my mind off of what was doing on inside my mouth. About the only thing that got to me, despite the volume level being somewhat high, was the scraping of the bonding material from the teeth. I feel myself cringing just typing about it.

(Listen to the album here)

And that was it. I had gotten this far and with only a few beads of sweat on my forehead and maybe a slightly left watery eye. And naturally, a sore jaw that is still sore. He told me that if I can survive this procedure with no anesthetic then the next one – a pretty big one – shouldn’t be an issue. He also referred me to an oral surgeon who will be handling the extraction. I’ve seen him before and he’s good, at least from what I can remember with the twilight sedation I was under.

Even so, I’m still worried about the next thing since I’ve never had it done. And after that I’ve got a laundry list of other things that needs to be checked off. Strangely, the tooth with missing parts wasn’t the worst one. Sure, it will still have to get extracted but the x-rays showed that another one that I knew was slightly chipped had worse damage to it, and that’s the next thing to be taken care of in a few weeks.

We had planned on taking a road trip to San Francisco this year but unfortunately, it looks like the summer will be have to be scheduled around all of my procedures. Additionally, the job gives us three paid Summer Days that we can take for three-day weekends if we wish. Those plus my remaining sick hours and possibly some vacation days will most likely used for days I need to have work done.

Then there’s paying for all of this. Even with insurance, it’s goodbye, Vacation Fund!

But at least I’ve taken the first step toward having better dental hygiene. It will take some time and money to get it all right but I know it will definitely be for the best.

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Face Your Fears


6425b286c9f1ca14ba538f0e8d20ff45Next week is the start of our vacation in fabulous Las Vegas. It’s something that we had planned for months and saved up for, and we have a list of things to accomplish while we are there, some free and some not.

Either way it’s happening and nothing is going to stop us from enjoying some time away from home and office, and just be a family. Our list is long. It will be [mostly] conquered. You will see pictures on Instagram.

But the one thing I’m not looking forward to when we return is something that I really should have done sooner: visit the dentist. You see, I’ve got a few teeth – well, one is a partial tooth – that need some TLC or perhaps even an extraction. The last time I put off a dentist visit was years ago when I had a tooth literally rotting away and at one point, cold air entering my mouth (when I would inhale while speaking) would produce excruciating pain. I can’t even describe it but I know I couldn’t speak much. My coworkers secretly loved it I’m sure.

While one of the teeth in question has yet to reach that point, I don’t want it to. The other tooth is chipped and will need some care as well but nothing like the other.

Now you’re probably wondering why I just don’t go right-effing-now to get it done. There really isn’t a reason why I shouldn’t – I have dental insurance and plenty of sick days at work. But the answer is simple: I am afraid.

I fear dentist offices. Everything about them. The sound, the smell, the feeling. I will go to the doctor and have every exam possible done to me without hesitation. I will give blood without a second thought. But the dentist? I have to be forced.

In fact when I had to get that rotting tooth extracted, I paid the extra $300 to be put to sleep during the procedure. It was money well spent considering I didn’t have to expose myself to all that freaks me out. I remember counting to three and then waking up, asking the dentist if they had done anything at all. It was nice.

But the fear is still there, and with good reason.

Today, there are several kinds of people who work strictly on teeth. The dentist is for check-ups and cleanings. Your oral surgeon specializes in pulling teeth. Orthodontists straighten them out.

And when I was growing up, orthodontia was starting to take off. I mean, every freaking kid had braces and yours truly was no exception, in addition to wearing neck gear and a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth (later removed by Ann’s boss, an orthodontist).

Before I could have my braces put into place, I had to go to the dentist to get four teeth extracted. Yes, four. Two top, two bottom. And they were not in any condition to be extracted, meaning they had pretty much taken up residence and had no fear of ever being removed.

That all changed.

Remember, this was the time before oral surgeons and other kinds of specialists so my dentist was the one who had to do it. And when I think of that day, it’s pretty traumatic. There was blood all over gloved hands. Grinding and crunching sounds. Tools banded around the teeth to be extracted. Feeling the pressure of the teeth being pulled from my jaw (and I don’t handle physical pressure well). The dentist sitting what seemed to be literally on top of my while be tried with all his might to remove these four teeth. And of course, seeing the tooth in all its glory being held by a pair of pliers and seemingly six inches long. It all seemed cartoonish, but gone horribly awry.

I’ll be honest about this. That experience traumatized me for life. If not for this, I would have no problems happily skipping myself to a dentist for any kind of routine work. But as it stands now, that experience really messed me up and I won’t go until I’m at a point where things can’t wait any longer.

It’s stupid. It’s most likely not good for me. But then again, neither is drinking soda but I’ve already stopped doing that. (Seriously, stop drinking that garbage. It’s got no nutritional value and is a shit-storm of chemicals in a can. STOP. IT. NOW.)

So I’ve decided that upon our return from vacation, I need to face my fears and get this shit taken care of before it gets to the point my last extraction reached. I’m not sure how many people I will have to see or what, but I know that sucking it up and being a man about it is the only thing I can do.

Here’s hoping that nothing happens while on vacation or at the very least, I win $300 on the slots to pay for the twilight anesthesia.

Because I’m gonna need it.

Broken 


That’s pretty much how I feel after today’s unplanned visit to my doctor.

The tendinitis that’s been bothering my right wrist/thumb turned out to be a little worse than another doctor had diagnosed. I kind of figured that was going to be the case because the pain is still there and only seems to be getting worse.

In fact, this doctor — my on-again, off-again sawbones — did a much more thorough exam that included my squeezing his fingers and a lot of poking and prodding along the areas where I feel the pain. He confirmed that’s it’s definitely tendinitis and recommend a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

I’ll get it sometime. Today wasn’t that day.

Also worth noting is that the compression band I’ve been wearing on my wrist isn’t doing much good because most of the affected area is in my thumb. He suggested one that not only covered my wrist but thumb as well.

As far as the cause of it, he believes it to be a work-related injury because I can’t honestly tell you anything I might have done outside of work to bring it on. I’m 46 and my extreme sports days are far behind me (as if they ever existed) so he’s probably right. When I think about everything I do and have done at my job it’s easy to see how it could be the cause. Plus, throwing around 20-lb. boxes of frozen dough in the Bakery every night probably isn’t helping me. The job is very hands-on and physical with little time to take it easy.

In short, it has broken me.

Now the fun part. Because I’m in the Bakery, I’m constantly putting on and taking off gloves. It’s gotten to a point where putting a glove on my right hand is a painful experience, one that is repeated all night long. There’s no way I can get better if I’m doing this, plus wearing a compression sleeve on top of that. I haven’t even mentioned how many times I wash my hands in a typical shift (let’s just say it’s plenty).

And if it doesn’t get better then surgery could be in my future. Just what I always wanted! (Can you sense my sarcasm?)

If I get a doctor’s note that limits my workload, I really don’t know what I would be doing because everything in a grocery store is very physical. I know for sure that my current position would be out that’s since what broke me in the first place. Bagging and front end duties would also be impossible. I just don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out when I get a note from him on Monday. The only logical solution would be to get a less physical job and trust me, I’ve been looking but nothing is turning up. Even so, writing with a pen tends to inflame the injury, making it hard to do. Heck, even moving it in the wrong direction will make yell with pain. It’s no fun at all and makes me grumpy. We’ll see what happens.

I also found out I gained about 15 pounds between visits (about 7 years) so he wants me to work on bringing that down as well as getting some blood work done. I’m on it.

But there has to be some kind of good news amongst all this, right? Well there  is. I’ll just let this tweet summarize things.

So…there’s that.

Goooooodnight, everybody.

Composed on my iPad using the WordPress app and SwiftKey, because it’s not as painful as typing on a traditional keyboard 

Now What?


Whenever I’m absent from blogging for an extended period of time, I always feel the need to explain myself. Here’s my excuse this time. Okay, several excuses.

First, my only pair of glasses broke. Not only are they my backup pair but they are also an old prescription that no longer really help my eyes to see much better. They broke on the hinge and while I sort of temporarily fixed them (and wearing them now), they are nowhere near as good as my previous pair which suffered a similar fate. Both of them are old so I’m not really shocked that either broke but still, viewing any device or looking at a monitor for an extended period of time with my backup pair causes eye strain and not wearing them only makes it worse.

Second, I’m suffering from a case of tendinitis in my right hand which makes using a full-size keyboard somewhat painful. The pain starts in my thumb and goes past my wrist and hurts like a mother when bent in certain directions, most of which I try and avoid. I’m also wearing a compression sleeve around my wrist per my doctor’s directions. There’s very little I can do about it to make it better and all I know is that having it in my dominant hand really stinks. I can’t even throw a baseball. I’m trying to do most of my work using my left hand to carry and lift but favoring that side causes fatigue by the end of the day. To make matters worse, my hand is in unbearable pain when I wake up in the morning. I can’t seem to win this battle.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m writing this post on my iPad using the WordPress app and SwiftKey keyboard which utilities Swype. I just swipe across the keyboard and it (fairly accurately) predicts the words for me. And despite its ease of use, my hand still hurts.

So there you have it. My absence was caused by things I can can’t really control. More posts will come when my wrist starts to feel better and I get new glasses but until then, don’t count on any regular posts.

For some, that’s actually a good thing…

Tinnitus and Me


It’s been about a month since my last post so I thought I’d make an appearance to let everyone know I’m still interested in doing this. The time away was much needed.

Now let’s get to the heart of things and why I chose today to write, and it’s something I guarantee you didn’t know about me.

Do you know what I have in common (at least according to Wikipedia) with Phil Collins, Vincent van Gogh and Adolph Hitler? I know, it’s an odd combination but I sort of wanted it that way.

Tinnitus.

Tinnitus, which I believe to be  Latin for “pain in my ass,” is a condition in which a person hears constant (read: it CANNOT be turned off) ringing in their ears. While generally described as “ringing” the sound is more of a never-ending tone that is nowhere near the sound of a ringing bell.

So how would I describe it? Not easy. It’s kind of like asking a color-blind person to describe the color they cannot detect.

But to put it succinctly, it’s extremely annoying and at times downright painful.

And that’s why I’m writing: to get my mind off of it for a bit. While the ringing in my ears is constant and oftentimes very loud, I’ve learned to tolerate it and keep it in check so that it doesn’t drive me nuts. And it will if you let it: while trying to sleep or just enjoying some quite time to yourself, that ringing is relentless and aggravating.

Yesterday things started to get worse. I had a rumbling inside my right ear which only got louder as the day went on and by today, it was ridiculous. But this noise is one that I think most can associate with: it felt and sounded like when you get water in your ear with the notable exception being that, if the condition is flat-out at its worse/intolerable, certain noises at certain pitches will bring you to your knees.

Take this example. Years ago, Ann’s grandfather (may he rest in peace) took us out for her birthday. In what I still consider the worst case of ear rumbling I can ever recall, I had to excuse myself from the celebration because the sound of the utensils hitting the plates was bringing tears to my eyes. My ear ringing and rumbling, accompanied by a headache, was just too much to handle. Yes, it hurt that bad and I spent the entire time in the car.

Fortunately, today’s case isn’t that bad but I am still suffering a little: equilibrium slightly off, loud noises bringing a little pain, moderately watery eyes. It’s no fun but I’m getting by.

Now it’s time for some Q&A.

How long have you had tinnitus?
For as long as I can remember or at least from age 10. It’s much easier to ignore when you’re a kid because, well, you’re a kid. Time moves fast and you haven’t a concern for much else besides Hot Wheels and coloring books*.

How did you get tinnitus?
I don’t know. Licking too many frogs**? Maybe I’m just lucky. I hadn’t attended any concerts at the time I first noticed it so I can’t blame it on that. But I’m quite sure attending many shows in my teens, accompanied by constantly being plugged into my Sony Walkman cassette player with Dolby Noise Reduction didn’t help. But I can still hear fine.

What do you when to combat it when it acts up?
Well, not a lot. For the most part I just let it run its course and in a few days I’m all better. But one of the things I’ve noticed is that when it does act up (the pain and rumbling at least), is that I speak at a lower volume. I do this for two reasons: 1) it’s hard to tell how loud I’m speaking with one ear not functioning right, and 2) the vibration inside the cranial cavity will aggravate my ear and cause the pain/ringing to act up again. The best thing I can do is avoid loud noises and try to block it out by listening to white noise apps on my iPod. The noise works to a point but despite it all, if I concentrate hard enough, I can still hear the constant ringing.

No, having tinnitus is definitely not a lot of fun. But you know what is?

CAM00204

Sitting on a brass turtle outside a Chipotle restaurant.

*Hey, I grew up in the 70s.
**And no, I never licked a frog.