The dental technician couldn't believe the first x-ray she took and required me to undergo a second. But the second x-ray in fact confirmed what she saw in the first: the entire tooth had decayed and there was nothing left to salvage, nothing that could be capped. It had to come out.
I've never had a tooth pulled before, at least not since I lost my baby teeth, so I didn't know what I was in for. The dentist arrived in the room, and asked if I were sure that I was ready for this, but I didn't really have a choice in the matter - the pain had to end.
The toothache, which stated on Monday and turned particularly intense on Tuesday, had kept me up literally the entire night before. I could not ignore the pain and fall asleep. I tried the over-the-counter pain relief medicines I had available to me at home (Tylenol, Advil), I tried soaking the tooth in Listerine, I tried practicing zazen, and I tried focusing on my breath as I laid in bed. But the pain had just kept getting more and more intense. There was a temporary respite between about 3:30 and 4:00 am, where the nerve may have finally fallen asleep or just got exhausted, but by this time I was too stressed to fall asleep quickly and by the time I finally got comfortable, the pain started up again.
"Pull it," I told him, and it did not go well. He numbed me up with Novocaine so the procedure was not physically painful, but the tooth was stubborn and did not want to come out (it had been in there a long time). Although it was not painful, it was emotionally traumatic to have someone inside my mouth pulling and prying to no avail. Finally, the tooth shattered under the pressure of the tools, and the dentist had to pick out the remaining shards from the root canals and socket. Yes, there was blood.
All told, I was there for about an hour. I was given a prescription for antibiotics (penicillin again, having just finished a regime with penicillin to ward off possible infection from the burned and blistered foot) and some pain killers, which as it turns out, I don't really need. I now have what feels like a big gaping hole where the molar used to be and I've been told to try to keep my tongue from exploring it so that it can heal properly. There's a dull but tolerable ache, and I'd just as soon not anesthetize myself but instead live with the actual experience - at least this teacher, unlike the toothache before, is one I can be with.
And after last night's sleeplessness, passing out tonight will not be a problem.