Saturday, April 06, 2013

Lemme 'Splain About The Damnheadaches

    They are not going away.  Not ever.

     I never had just great teeth and to make matters worse, I tended to grind them in my sleep.  My dentist fitted me with a bite guard to sleep wearing in '95 or '96 and after a few months, it became obvious it was only making matters worse, by allowing me to bite down good and hard while grinding.  I stopped wearing it but it was too late.

     A couple of the upper molars on the left got very loose and in checking them out, the dentist realized one need root canal ASAP and the other was darned near as bad.  She redid the filling in the least-bad one and sent me off to the endodontist for the other.  They still hurt and were loose.

     Visiting West Baden Springs Hotel, 80% refurbished at the time and echoingly empty, my ex and I had lunch at the French Lick Springs Hotel, nothing fancy, nicely-made charbroiled burgers.  I bit down on a particularly crunchy bite and experienced a brief, incredibly agonizing pain, so bad I felt like I was jolted right out of my body.  We finished our tour after lunch; French Lick Spings Hotel was in full operation and it's a sprawling place with a lot of history, and there's a nice railroad museum just up the way that runs a trolly shuttle between the hotels.

     On the way home, I had the first migraine of my life.  (Before that day, I didn't even get headaches!)  The sun was almost down when we set out and it was nightmarish -- oncoming headlights caused stabbing pain, huge fuzzy balls of light that left glowing trails across my vision.  I was terrified.

     My teeth at upper left got looser and looser and would occasionally cause nasty jolts of pain.  One was pulled and it hurt horribly; the oral surgeon accused me of "histrionics" but it weas unbearable, despite having been numbed, and felt as if it took excessive force to remove.  Pain continued and the remaining tooth got looser and looser and eventually it had to be pulled, too.

     Meanwhile, I kept having horrible headaches.  I went from OTC remedies to my doctor to pain specialists and neurologists and worked my way though a long catalog of drugs, Vicodin, Imitrex, Abilify, one after another, singly and in combination, painkillers, antidepressants, off-label uses of all manner of drugs, and most of them didn't work any better than ibuprofen.  Some of them had terrifying side-effects.

     (Call me stupid.  It took me forever to connect the headaches and the dental problems.)

     Where my teeth were pulled wasn't healing.  There were splinters and shards of tooth (or maybe bone) coming out, hurting.  Some were so bad I pulled them out with tweezers, to stop the horrible jolting every time they were touched by chewed food or my tongue.  And there was the the strangest sensation, like a hole in my bone that the gum was trying to grow in -- the area just looked like a red spot.  The gum would heal some, and then a hole wold open in it and kind of drain and close again. My dentist couldn't make sense of it but wondered if it might possible be a very controversial (and possibly non-existant) condition called NICO.  This was pretty much a diagnosis of desperation.

     As for desperation, the oral surgeon and I had become a bit anatagonistic over the hole I was sure was in my bone.  It did not show up on x-rays, but, "just to shut you up," he agreed to look for it.  He numbed my mouth and opened up the gum over the bone....
    "Nope.  I'm right where you pointed, there's nothing."
    "Oh oo rwr 'ot!"
     "I'm not?"
     He sighed.  "Fine.  Here's a blunt pick.  Put it on the place."
     I did, with some fumbling -- the outside of my gum was numb but I was still feeling it.
     "That's farther back." Cutting, laying open the bone, "Okay, but there's a point where I'm going to refu--  Hey, would you look at that!"  To his assistant: "Get Dr. [Partner].  He needs to see this."

     It was a hole in the bone, a little over 1/8" in diameter, probably where a tooth root had gone through the bone -- and into a fairly major nerve bundle -- when I bit down on a crunchy burger, by then over a year earlier.  It was at such an angle and in such a position as to not show up well on standard dental x-rays.  If you knew it was there and were good at reading radiographs, you could just about see it.

     Getting that hole closed -- if it is -- was another long, long slog, with digressions into NICO and involving multiple surgeries by multiple oral surgeons, ENTs and endodontists.  At one point, one of the dental guys snagged a nerve and left that half of my face from the eye down pretty numb and hard-to-control, and the next knife-wielder in said, "I can fix that, I know what they did," and managed to do just that, while looking for any hidden ickies in my maxillary sinus.  Every surgery resulted in a month or more freedom from pain, just 'cos they were in there, rummaging around...and then it would come back.  Several attempts to close the hole failed; it went right through but didn't quite communicate with my sinus cavity, there was a layer of tissue intact and Ghu-only-knows getting at it via the hole in the bone.

     It was during that that time I gave up on the headache treatment and started figuring out they were related; they'd go away along with the pain in my face after surgery.  This was also when I learned that dental specialists and medical specialists act like members of competing trade unions and if you've got some problem that overlaps, it's nearly impossible to get them to speak with one another, look over the other profession's notes, anything: mostly, they want to argue over who's work it's not, and what a mess the other profession leaves.  It's very frustrating.

     Eventually, they got the hole in the bone closed and it mostly feels like it is staying closed.  That's dead, dead bone, and I have the radiographs to prove it; the bones in one's skull do mostly stop being active as you age and my left cheekbone's got hardly any blood in it at all.  Every once in awhile, at very long (and increasingly longer) intervals, a hole will open up in the gum back there and drain a bit.  Yep, it's probably inflammation, but it comes and goes and no high-zoot antibiotic or modern quackery will fix it; I've tried pretty much everything non-toxic.

     And I still get headaches.  90% of the time, two ibuprofens dull them for six hours.  9% of the time, it takes three.  1% or less of the time, I'm scrod and just have to ride it out.  From the premolar back on the upper left, I haven't got any teeth, haven't enough bone for dental implants and don't want to risk putting any bite pressure on that area with a partial plate.

     That's how it is.  It's not fixable.  No vitamin, no drug, no surgery will fix it.  I talk about it like you'd talk about the weather, or earthquakes, and for much the same reason.

     Please stop trying to tell me how to fix it.  I'll punch the next doctor or dentist who wants to go messing around in there (or at least flat refuse) and I get plenty annoyed at well-meaning non-medical types who offer advice.  It's just something I use for blog filler, or to explain why I am so darned clumsy sometimes: pain has a way of getting in the way of what I'm trying to do.


Erin Palette said...

As someone who also has chronic headaches (from allergies and sinus problems) and who is an utter coward when it comes to dentistry (seriously -- just come at me with that drill and I will go all Winston Smith on you), you have my utmost empathy and sympathy. There have been days where I have thought "Suicide has to hurt less than this." Fortunately, those migraines usually go away after 8-12 hours; if they lasted longer than that I might very well do something drastic.

I'm sorry you hurt so badly, and I hope that, someday, you can find surcease from pain.


Jeffro said...

Well, damn. That royally sucks. I sure hope there is a fix in your future.

Roberta X remotely said...

I have failed to communicate: I have had a GOOD outcome. It could be so very much worse.

Old NFO said...

Truly sorry to hear that Roberta, life is hard enough when one is healthy, much harder when dealing with something like this. Kudos to you for 'managing' your treatment to keep it down to a dull roar.

Jeffro said...

Madame, you have certainly made lemonade. I have to wonder if I'd be so positive. ;)

FarmGirl said...

Roberta- I feel your pain. Not exactly, of course. I've had migraines and they suck balls (though the only remedy I've found for my thankfully much more rare ones is enough painkiller to knock me out.. if I can sleep for a couple of hours they transform into tension headaches, which I can deal with) and I've had serious dental issues.

Though, be thankful that the hole didn't communicate with your sinuses... I have one (or maybe not anymore, the bone might have closed, I don't know) directly in the roof of my mouth that was open between sinuses and mouth before healing tissue closed it.

Listerine nasal lavage is NOT a pleasant experience. Surprise Listerine nasal lavage is worse, because it takes concentration to spit with a hole in the roof of your mouth through to your sinuses.

Just picture me (Tam can help with the visuals if needed) snorting high-test mouthwash, choking, trying to spit, dancing around the bathroom like a crack monkey with a snoot full because, frankly I couldn't figure out how to spit it out after I tried and just squirted more up there, and finally hanging over the bathtub letting it all drain out however it was going to.

Then I banged my head on the bathroom wall for a while.

Not even trying for "it could be worse" just hoping to give you a bit of a giggle.