Monday, February 17, 2014

Looking for love and dentistry on Valentine's Day

I wish I had a better story for how I knocked loose a tooth in my head. Like, I went sky-diving, or I  fell into a drunkard's fist whilst trying to stop a bar fight between three prosecutors. But the real story is, I was cheating on my diet by pigging out on a cinnamon bun, and it was so good that in my enthusiasm, I bit down on the fork.  Apparently, really hard. That's when I heard a weird crack, followed by the pain.  And then all of a sudden, my tooth was loose. Loose like when you were a small kid wiggling that first tooth so you can grab a buck off the Tooth Fairy. Except I'm an adult and this was a permanent tooth. I couldn't quite determine just how loose it was because touching it was excruciating.  But it was definitely looser than it was before I had sank my teeth into a fork.

That's what you get when you try to eat a fork.

Well, that was no good. No more cinnamon buns for the rest of the night.  no more eating anything actually, as though the Diet Gods were enacting their punishment on me for cheating my diet on a non-cheat day.

Do you also have those recurring nightmares about your teeth falling out? It seems to be common. What do these disturbing dreams mean, anyway? Now my nightmares were coming true.  All the was missing was the zombie apocalypse.

This was upsetting. It was exciting to lose your teeth as a kid, heck, you even felt productive, like you accomplished something, but now as an adult I did not want to have that kind of a smile.  My vanity was panicking. Have I mentioned that I had pretty much the most perfect set of teeth you can get without having to get braces?

I wasn't sure what do to, so I tried to get help on the Internet.  The Internet is not a very reliable place to get medical advice.  Usually the first search results you get is Yahoo Answers, which are full of useless answers from non-experts who have no business giving medical advice and will one day be sued for it.

The semi-reliable sites all said pretty much the same thing: "See a dentist immediately for an emergency evaluation."

Well, this was going to be a problem.

There is no dentist in Cambridge Bay. I'm pretty sure there is no dentist in the entire western half of Nunavut. Instead, a dentist comes to town several times a year. I actually heard there was one guy who is a musician by day, and a dentist on the side. He does a few dental trips to the north each year, and that funds his music career. Otherwise, the nearest dentist was in Yellowknife, a $1500 flight 800 kilometres away.  So, that was not going to happen.

Not knowing what else to do, I decided to drink a glass of milk.  But we had no milk. I stopped drinking milk a while ago because I got tired of the way the milk here sours quickly. Instead, I drink almond milk.  There was, I saw, Rob's coffee cream, but I couldn't stomach the idea of gulping down 18% cream (that costs $5 for 500mL, no less), so I tried watering it down.  Unfortunately, I forgot to use the filtered water and used tap water instead.  Warm tap water. I have complained before about the tap water.  So, my "milk" tasted disgusting.

But there was nothing else to do that night. So I went to bed, with fears that the tooth would come off in the middle of the night and I would swallow it in my sleep. I did not, however, and the next morning, my tooth was still there, wobbly as an anarchist.

In a moment of inspiration, I tried calling my dentist in Ottawa, the one that I have been seeing since I was a little girl with loose teeth.  It turned out his office was closed on Fridays. I should have been a dentist.  I tried calling the on-call phone number for dental emergencies, which connected me to a receptionist in an Ottawa dental office with terrible English.

Me: "Hi, I live in Nunavut and I don't have access to a dentist. I was wondering if I could speak to a dentist about my loose tooth?"

Receptionist: "You want to book appointment?"

Me: "No, I can't, I live in Nunavut. I just want to talk to a dentist..."

Receptionist: "So you want to book appointment with office?"


Receptionist: "With appointment? I book for you."


Receptionist: "Oh.  Then why would you want to book an appointment with the office?"

At that point I was so frustrated I was tempted to tell her to learn English or get out of my country, but there would be some irony there, with my own bullied childhood experiences.

Eventually she handed me over to a dentist who spoke only marginally better English.  When I explained my situation, he suggested I not eat anything until I saw a dentist. That wasn't going to happen. My next dental appointment, with my English-speaking dentist in Ottawa, was in August.

Eventually I gave up and walked over to the health station, which has no dentist, but does have nurses. I wasn't sure if they could do anything for me.  Was I going to need mouth splints? Could I get ones that look like really cool grills? The kind that rappers wear? With diamonds?

The nurse who met with me was a friendly woman with a Newfoundland accent. Pretty much every non-Inuit person here has one of those. You kind of just pick it up, even if you aren't from Newfoundland.  I explained to her my problem.

the health station
"Is your face swollen?" she asked me.
"No, actually," I replied. "It's just the tooth that is sore."
"The side of your face looks kind of swollen," she observed, looking at me.  "Looks kind of lopsided, like one side is swollen."
I was suddenly reminded of how I look when I run on the treadmill. My jowls.  One cheek flops up and down; the other one doesn't.  Great, maybe I not only have a root canal problem, but also Bell's palsy.
"No, it's not swollen," I finally said.  "I'm just ugly."

In the end, the nurse just told me to watch out for possible infections, and gave me a bottle of painkillers, which I was only supposed to take after eating food.   Which was going to be interesting, since the dentist told me not to eat food.

I couldn't eat food anyway. It was too painful to have anything touch my tooth.  Rob was supposed to cook me a Valentine's Day dinner, but now it seemed that eating solid food was a luxury I couldn't afford.  This fact was particularly difficult for me to bear. I am an emotional eater. I have a tendency to figuratively feed my feelings, to eat my emotions.  It's why I married a chef.  In my mind, I see food as love.  And now that I could not eat, I felt so lost.

"Can you at least drink fluids?" my mother asked in an email.

I replied:
We are discussing different ways to let me eat my Valentine's day pasta dinner.  One option is to puree it in a blender, like the way Rob used to for the toothless old people at the retirement home.

The other option is to have Rob chew the food for me, and then drop it in my mouth, like the way a mama bird feeds her baby birds.

Luckily, I could still drink beer.

On a whim, I decided to see if I could book an appointment with the dentist the next time he was in town. I called the number the health station had told me to call.  I got an answering machine that told me that the dentist would next be in on January 12. That was not helpful.  I eventually found out when the dentist was coming through the hotel where he was booked to stay.  His next visit would be March 24.  By then, my tooth was either going to be completely fine, or already too far gone.

Oh well. Hopefully it will heal. Until then, someone else is going to have to cut my steak for me...and possibly chew it for me too.

all I want for Valentine's Day is my two front teeth