Brendan O'Connor: Mixed feelings on finally getting diagnosed
Pain is black art, according to one of the handful of various dental specialists I've been seeing. And as much as I put it off I eventually had to go to a practitioner of the black arts. Imagine if you have a toothache for 20 years. That's pretty much where I'm at. And while there's been various work done by various guys, and while I've seen the tooth-grinding guy (bruxism, such a great word), we have not got to the bottom of it. It is atypical, they say. There is no pathology. Sometimes I suspect they are saying very gently that it is in my head. Sometimes I wonder whether it is in my head. Do I call it in by remembering it? Just now I had forgotten it for a while and I suddenly realised it wasn't bothering me. And now it's back.
The thing is, to me this pain is as real as can be. And I can tell you exactly where it is. On the surface it is on the line between the gum and the tooth. I am convinced that if you looked there you would find a rancid gum. Beyond that try to imagine fangs of pain coming down through from the roots. It occurs mainly on one side but it sometimes happens in exactly the same place on the other side. But of course it's probably not coming from there. It's coming from somewhere between there and my brain, somewhere in the nervous system there is a faulty message being sent, that is conning me into thinking the pain is there. So maybe it's not really real. It is in my head. Or maybe something short-circuited there at some point, and now I'm stuck in some kind of neural loop with a nerve somewhere fizzing and repeating this faulty signal.
None of it makes sense really. I try to make sense of it now and then. I note what works. Anti-inflammatories seem to help one day, and then they don't. Salty water gargling or rubbing on Sensodyne can help sometimes - or do they? Because if it's a nerve thing, and it's not real how does anything topically applied make any difference? Or maybe I'm just distracting the nerve. Fooling it like it fools me.