Healing Teeth Naturally
 
 
 

Val prefaced her account with a quote by Edmond Rostang "the worst pain is that which never makes one hope for death but which silently makes one sick of living".

On 12 August 2004 (Thursday), Val has a toothache (as she assumes, from eating lots of candy at her workplace). Her normal dentist being on vacation, the dentist's colleague who shares the same practice promises to see Val the next day. Val is happy since she won't have to suffer too long.

13 August 2004 (Friday): Her morning coffee touches the offending tooth - a back molar on the left - and triggers extreme pain. Val is glad it will only be an hour until she will be relieved.

The treatment proceeds as customary, with the dentist doing a root canal on Val's molar. "For control purposes", the dentist also takes an x-ray but doesn't examine it before her patient, as Val's normal dentist does.

Val leaves, happy to be rid of the pain, with just her lip remaining stiff from the anesthesia - a minor inconvenience she knows will have dissipated in a matter of hours.

But three hours later, to her astonishment her lip still feels as if it weighed a kilo, in fact it feels so heavy as if it were hanging. Beginning to feel flustered, she also has no feeling on the left side of her face.

At the dentist's office, she only reaches the answering machine saying to leave a message - someone monitors them every day (it's mid-August, so many professionals are on holiday).

No change by 8 pm the same day. Val remains hopeful that this is simply a result of anesthetic overdose. She even does some visualisation - seeing herself laughing at the whole thing and her fear of having to stay like this forever. She finally manages to fall asleep.

14 August 2004 (Saturday): Val wakes up from a peaceful sleep - still without feeling in her jaw, her lip continuing to feel like it weighs a kilo. All day long, Val tries to reach her dentist - the secretary supposed to take the emergency calls has also vanished.

15 August 2004 (Sunday): Val's nerves are starting to frazzle. Her husband decides to take her to the emergency room. It's mid-August and she has to wait two hours - only to be told to return the following day. She spends the rest of the day crying.

16 August 2004 (Monday): The feeling of heaviness in her lip becomes unbearable. While there's no pain, Val is unable to properly talk, at each sip she has saliva runring out of her mouth (she can't feel her lip), and at each bite she feels nothing on her left side.

A friend calls in the morning: the friend's dentist is ready to see Val in two hours. Val is glad to finally find out what's happening though on the "road to her destiny", she does not feel optimistic. In fact, she is convinced by now that she'll have to live with this forever.

The dentist takes an x-ray, then another, and yet another ... without saying a word. Val decides to ask him what he sees on the pics. He seems embarrassed, then announces slowly, "Well, I've taken several x-rays to be absolutely sure because it seemed so unlikely......I'm really sorry but the paste (the gutta-percha filling) in your entire lower root canal has penetrated far too deeply, the syringe used to inject it has gone through the nerve.

To be honest, Madam, that's the kind of thing one sees in a conference but no dentist ever sees that in his entire career! I can't do anything for you, I will refer you to a stomatologist, I am sorry but that's all I can tell you."

Val feels that he's as dumbfounded as she is, he keeps turning and re-turning the x-rays and doesn't even charge her...

In shock, Val calls her mother who knows an exellent stomatologist who's ready to see her the very same day. After checking her x-rays and listening to her story, the stomatologist has two options to offer:

1) either Val remains in her current state meaning that over the years her mouth will start to hang at the left side since the muscles will atrophy
2) or he can try to scratch the paste away from the nerve but he has never done that before.

Asked about the risks of surgery the stomatologist replies that in any case, the paste has already damaged the central nerve and all its ramifications. The paste works a maximum of 30 minutes, had the dentist noticed her error immediately, the nerve might have been saved but as matters stand, it is too late. Asked whether nerves ever regrow, Val is informed that they do - in ten, twenty years or more.

Of two evils, Val chooses what appears to be the lesser - surgery. As in a dream, she enters the hospital the very next day (which must have been 17 August 2004 (Tuesday). She still has hope, and at least no pain. She doesn't know that the worst is yet to come...

In the semi-paralysis following the anesthesia, Val feels like there are dozens of "hooklets" implanted in her lip which seem to converge towards her left ear. The surgery was done outpatient so she has to leave a few hours after the procedure.

Back at home and somewhat more awake, she feels pain which the stomatologist has assured her to be transitory, at most lasting three months, for the first time. According to the stomatologist, the tugging sensation is caused by the threads running over her gums and the trauma of the surgery.

Thankfully she doesn't know at the time that five years later she would be in a much worsened state - thankfully, since she honestly feels she would have shot herself there and then.

She stops working for two weeks, takes antiinflammatories, and "only thirty years to wait until she would have her old mouth back".

Her morale is sinking. In spite of the medication, the pain is unbearable. She becomes highly irritable, her lip still feeling like a kilo of weight. The pain only leaves her during sleep. When she tries to talk about her pain, others tend to be incredulous since apart from the left side of her face being slightly less mobile than the right, nothing is showing.

Between 2004 and 2009, Val no longer eats with her left side, and her jaw eventually dislocates to the right...basically, she can't clench her teeth anymore.

She starts to lose self-control and everyone at home gets to feel it. Being around her becomes intolerable - she's at the end of her tether and tired to an extreme... all she waits for is nighttime so she can sleep, re-find her old self in her dreams - had she been able to, she would do nothing but. But she works in shifts, has a husband, three kids and a house to look after, though she could not go on.

The fact that she hates her thankless cashier's job at the motorway tolls doesn't help (though she's well paid). To add insult to injury, she develops a job-related intractable tendonitis (all her colleagues also have it).

Working at night gradually becomes intolerable, if she didn't have her kids, she would have finished it all since quite a while, all too easy with all those meds ogling her three times a day....But she has to persevere, and strangely, whenever she hits rock bottom she keeps coming across an extremely handicapped person which makes her feel like boxing her own ears!

How could she complain, "ask her if she wouldn't love to exchange her wheelchair against your pain. How disgusting that only seeing someone worse off than yourself gives you renewed courage... in any case I was happy with my lot for several days after".

For another two years, Val keeps working to the best of her ability.

One day someone suggests she visit a pain centre (the existence of which she wasn't aware of), and she finds one close to where she lives. Many bureaucratic hurdles (necessity to be referred by a doctor in order to be treated, for instance) make her angry. Finally all the forms duly filled in, she still has to wait for a centre doctor to approve her as a patient and waits through another four months, in pain.

The doctor who eventually sees her explains that her pain is what's known as phantom pain, the same experienced by some leg or arm amputees who continue to feel pain in the nonexisting limb. The pain sensation is created by the brain which receives false information - it kind of looks for something it used to control but which it can't find anymore. That's why she's pain-free at night - her brain "disconnects".

The doctor tells her he can't do anything for her and refers her to a neurologist colleague of his - which means another couple of months to wait for a consultation.

All the doctors she sees from now on treat her as if she were suffering from trigeminal neuralgia although this is not really what she has. Trigeminal neuralgia appears from one day to the next and does not cause constant pain like she has. Rather it causes pain crises lasting for several minutes several times a day which are utterly unbearable, often accompanied by splitting headaches. People suffering from trigeminal neuralgia contemplate suicide.

Val has nothing like this, "just" a sharp pain all day long, a lip that feels like it's caught in a vice, heavy and painful to the touch, and a feeling like hooks pulling her lip towards her ear.

The neurologist takes her under her wings - a very open, nice woman who explains to Val from the outset that she doesn't really know how to treat her... She suggests a treatment as for trigeminal neuralgia and decides to combine it with those used for phantom pain.

The number of meds the neurologist has at her disposal is rather small, basically the same as are used for epileptic fits. The neurologist also mentions a promising drug for phantom pain which should be available in about a year's time.

Looking back, Val realizes that at this point in time, her morale was still relatively good because she still had hopes of finding a treatment which would finally afford her true relief.

So she drugs herself for a year and a half. She writes "drugs" because she and her doctor combined all of the medications, reducing one, adding one, raising and lowering the doses, a very painful process because the effect of a new treatment can't be felt before c. two weeks have elapsed while she waits and hopes that this time it'll work, that she'll get some of her life back...

Unfortunately none of the drugs work. They only provide a bit of peace, a few hours a day, but at what price...

She gains 18 kg in a year, has trouble urinating since one of the drugs blocks the kidneys, she becomes moon-faced, irritable, has constant brain fog, loss of memory, heaps mistake upon mistake in her job, doesn't dare using her car any longer (which the package slip of her tablets strictly forbids in any case), when drinking something she spills some of the beverage, she no longer eats anything hard, and a number of other unpleasantries to boot ... she feels she has aged by ten years in a single year.

When at that time she has an IUD removed plus a tubal ligation, she requires double the anesthesia dose to fall asleep.

She takes higher and higher doses which have less and less effect. And she still awaits with much hope the arrival of the wonder drug already in use in the US which seems to relieve phantom pain so efficiently - Lyrica (Pregabalin). She's practically sure that it will be the wonder drug for all her ills. Her neurologist finally gets her the drug (one month before its release on the French market).

And it's the waiting game again, two to three weeks to notice the drug's effect. But the days go by without any change, one month, two months - another hope dashed...

The next thing tried are morphine patches. Strangely not only do they increase Val's pain but actually give her cold turkey symptoms like those of addicts - trembling, sweating, a feeling of cold, confused ideas, hardly able to stand ...

She's also changed into a "robocopgirl": a little device sending electric impulses to her face via several electrodes the effect of which was supposed to be soothing. She comes out of these sessions feeling numbed but without any beneficial effect.

Second surgery 

Next were tried all possible and unimaginable treatments, with her doctor finally suggesting a "nerve decompression by balloon", another surgery for people suffering from typical facial neuralgias which "could be useful for her". Since she no longer has anything to hope for from drugs, she decides to have the surgery.

Strangely, she is first sent to a psychiatrist for once-weekly sessions for three months where she is forced to endlessly talk facing a wall of silence that offers no help or direction.

Finally comes the month of March (presumably 2007) she had so waited for. She must spend three days in hospital and she goes there cheerfully. The morning of the surgery, she takes the ritual shower, basted with Betadine, and soaps herself down singing.

"If at least I could return to that moment" are the last words in her blog written in 2009, apparently with the last entry made on 2 February.

Would there have been other ways to stop the pain?

It can be assumed that Val did not try things like hypnosis, brain surgery or EFT all of which might have helped silence the overactive brain area apparently at the root of her permanent pain.

Legal considerations

The above-described case of negligence on the part of the dentist - first, failure to perform the root canal procedure properly, and second, failure to properly control her work via x-ray followed by immediate remedial action - constitutes of course an extremely serious case of medical malpractice which has cost a person her health and likely life.

Root canals dangerous in many ways

Apart from Val's tragic case (pain and sensory neuropathy following nerve injury) which could be brushed off as an exception to the rule, there are actually many other very serious health risks involved in Root canal treatment including many immediate "complications" (even death). In fact, the infectious nature of root-canalled teeth may have contributed to maintain Val's extreme and unrelenting pain.

Footnotes

1 See the original account in French.

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