Today, I finally went to the dentist for the first time in well over a year.
On the way there, I drove beneath the Shuttle Endeavor, as it flew across Highway 101 on its way to Moffett Field before heading to its final resting place in Southern California. I tried to grab my phone and snap a photo but I decided avoiding an accident from all the other gawking cars was probably more important.
I figured the Endeavor was an auspicious sign.
And, indeed, it seemed to be -- no new cavities or major tooth issues to address for what felt like the first time in my life.
Since it appeared that I'd been successful in my bid to stop drinking diet coke over a year and a half ago, and because I'm getting too old to drink much red wine, I decided to try Zoom Teeth Whitening. Apparently, it works best immediately after a thorough teeth cleaning, which, conveniently, I'd just completed.
I figured if I wasn't regularly taking part in many of the substances that were responsible for the stains on my teeth, I should at least enjoy the visual benefits of that decision, too. (Also, I had some money to burn in the Health Savings Account.)
First, they gave me a movie and headphones and propped my neck with a heated violet scented u-shaped pillow. (My dentist rocks!)
Then they went through a fairly intense process to isolate all of the soft tissue in my mouth and face from the bleaching gel and the light.
Once the final prep was done, they applied the bleaching gel and set the light, but I was only able to withstand a single 15-minute session.
By the end of the session, my teeth nerves were firing off regular zings of short but intense pain. Eventually, the increasing frequency caused my hands to start sweating in fear, and I decided to ring the little bell they'd left by my side "in case you feel anything."
When I'd originally asked what I might feel, they indicated that it was unlikely I'd feel anything until the 3rd light session, but that sometimes people experienced "tingling".
Hmmm... tingling? No. I'd say it was more like the intermittent nerve zap you get when you start to realize you're going to need a root canal. (I would know, I've had several.)
Generally, I have a ridiculous pain tolerance, but I think mouth pain may be the exception.
So, I bailed after one 15-minute session under the light. My dentist is awesome and offered to let me come back for 2 more separate 15-minute sessions to get the full benefit of the treatment. She explained that while most people can handle 3 or 4 15-minute sessions in one visit, some people (like me, apparently) just have very sensitive teeth and it's not possible to do it all at once.
I came home and did some more research (probably should have done this beforehand, right?) and it would appear I'm not alone in my side effects. In fact, some folks have serious pain for 48 hours after the procedure and many dentists recommend (i) using ACT and Sensodyne for 7 - 14 days leading up to the light treatment; and (ii) taking tylenol or ibuprofen before and after the treatment.
The good news is my teeth are noticeably whiter, and, the nerve zings have been decreasing in frequency ever since I left the office. I think the last one was an hour ago.
So, now that I'm more informed, I'm likely do the ACT/Sensodyne dance and head back in for another 15-minute torture session in 2 weeks.