I vaguely remember a time that I didn’t have sinus issues. It was before that time I flew to Oklahoma when I was in my early-20’s with a bad head cold. Things were never the same for me after that. Chronic ear crackling; crackling every time I swallow and any sort of elevation change, and when we go up the mountain to Big Bear, my ears squeal at me as they try to adjust. It’s awful. Yet, I saw an ENT in my late 20’s and was told everything looked normal, probably just allergies.
So, I pursued allergy treatment and after feeling like a pin cushion for a couple months, I decided it was easier just to deal with it.
About 6 months ago, I had some pain in my upper right gums. Enough that I went and saw the dentist. He performed an x-ray and didn’t see anything amiss as far as my teeth went. He did notice that a crown wasn’t fitted properly and there was a small decay in the tooth next to it, but he said he was fine with watching it until next year when I suspect our dental insurance will change to better coverage, as long as I kept it really clean.
In August, I went and saw another ENT. His office performed a hearing test and then the ENT peered briefly in my ears with an otoscope and said I had some minor hearing loss, but since I wasn’t a judge and didn’t really need to hear every word someone said, I should just deal with it. He also recommended my son come in for a hearing test, because he felt he might be deaf, as well. Since I figured out he was a douchebag, just for fun, I asked him about preventative hearing protection for when I drive my convertible with the top down. He told me there was no need to do something like that, it wouldn’t impact my hearing at all. Oh really? Good thing I started wearing earplugs 10 years ago or so when I drive somewhere.
Three weeks ago, I had major pain in my upper right gums again. I waited a week and then went into the dentist’s office and instructed him to just do what needed to be done to the molars. He drilled the improperly fitted crown off, cleaned up in there (there was some decay under the crown), and fixed the cavity in the tooth next to it. I asked him about the swelling in my gums and he told me that looked like a maxillary sinus infection and that I needed to see an ENT.
So I pursued a referral to get a second opinion through my GP. Meanwhile, my gums were swelling larger, my face was swollen in response and I was in a ton of pain. When I got to see the 2nd ENT, I couldn’t even touch my face it hurt so bad — despite the Advil I was taking. After an actual exam (he looked in my nose and ears and checked my tonsils!!), he prescribed antibiotics and authorized a CT Scan.
Surprisingly, the diagnostic imaging place called me that night and fit me in the next day (last Friday). By the time I went in to see them, I had taken 3 antibiotic pills, and as I climbed into their scanning machine, my gums burst from the pressure. The relief was instant and the taste was utterly gross.
On Monday, the ENT’s office called and left me a voicemail telling me the authorization had come through and to be sure and schedule the CT Scan. I listened to the voice mail and rolled my eyes. Clearly, they had no idea how on top of things the diagnostic place was.
Yesterday, I went back to my dentist and while he was fitting my permanent crown, I told him my gross story about my gums blowing out from the infection. He took a look, went back and looked at his x-ray, and suggested that perhaps I go see an endodontist, just to be sure the roots were OK. Said if there is a problem, it’d be easier to get to now rather than down the road, because the crown is not on permanently and it would not be wise to put a brand new crown on just to potentially drill it off again in a month if there’s a problem. He further said that maxillary sinuses are the only sinuses that drain upwards, and he told me that blowing out the gums is an odd place for them to drain, they don’t usually have enough pressure to do that. He secured the crown with tempbond and sent me over right away.
The endodontist did x-rays and told me the tooth was dead. He tested it three times with liquid nitrogen (super fun!!). He showed me on the x-ray where an infection was still present and recommended doing a root canal immediately so that it didn’t infect the surrounding molars. I wish I could have had him take a picture of how he prepared my mouth for surgery; it was kind of amazing. He put sunglasses on my eyes and then he clamped something on the infected tooth and then spread a plastic cape to surround it so nothing landed in my mouth. The image I had in my mind as he worked was of a solitary tooth sitting on a picnic blanket. HA!
Turns out, one of the roots in the “dead” tooth was still half alive which made for an interesting drilling experience and many apologies on his behalf for causing me pain. It was my first root canal and I cried — such a bummer and all because of an ill-fitted crown. I cannot believe I’ve spent this much time chasing this problem and 4 1/2 hours in various dentist chairs yesterday.
On the upside, though, I finally got a CT scan, so I can’t wait to see what that shows as far as the sinus problems (probably nothing, but still). AND, one of the best discoveries of yesterday? Bite blocks. The endodontist used one while he performed the surgery and I didn’t want to give it up. I will be asking for bite blocks at all my future dentist appointments!