But yesterday, one tooth started hurting a bit more, especially when in contact with cold air or water, and during the night, I woke up at one point to a dull, throbbing pain even though the tooth wasn't cold. It went away after a while, I guess, since I did fall asleep again.
This morning, the pain was manageable again, usually absent, but I decided to go to the dentist anyway since I didn't want the situation to escalate over the weekend.
At first, I found out that I couldn't pay the €10 quarterly cost at my general practitioner's and get a referral to my dentist but would have to pay him €10 separately, since dentists and doctors run separate systems. Meh. Fortunately, I had €20 with me that Stella had given me.
My usual dentist wasn't there and wouldn't be returning until Tuesday; his assistant referred me to Dr. Dobbertin, whose practice isn't far away and who was subsituting for my dentist. So I went there and asked to see the dentist.
The receptionist said that would be difficult since the practice was pretty full that day, and I would have to get an appointment. I grudgingly agreed and she gave me one in 35 minutes' time—which is what I had reckoned I would have had to wait anyway for going in without an appointment. So no sweat on that count.
I told the dentist my story and that I wasn't sure which tooth it was exactly—when the tooth hurt, I could feel pain, but I couldn't localise it to a particular tooth. However, she saw a hole in a filling and said it was probably that one; when she sprayed some compressed air on it to test her theory, it did hurt briefly.
She had a go at it and said that from my description (for example, the spontaneous pain during the night), it was possible that the nerve was damaged and that I would have to get a root canal. I was a bit scared since I only vaguely knew what the procedure entailed and had heard vague stories of dread, but she said that if the anaesthetic works properly, you don't feel anything. While the anaesthetic was setting in, she gave me a little leaflet to read on the procedure.
She drilled away and said that there was a lot of soft matter where caries had set in, and that the gums had somehow gone in through the hole(?) and spread out. She got rid of those as well; since she said it would smell bad while she did so, perhaps she cauterised them or something. She said that I would indeed need a root canal and started to scrape out the pulp with a tiny file.
When she was "done", she said that root canals nearly always take more than one sitting, and that she was going to fill in the hole with a temporary filling. She said she would write down what she had done so that my dentist would know where to pick up; I asked whether I couldn't come back to her for the remainder of the work (partly because I rather liked her and partly because she'd already know what she had done). She said that I could, in principle, but that she would be away for the next two weeks; however, I could go to the other doctor with whom she shares the practice, Dr. Le Thanh Tran (10 cents says she's Vietnamese, or at least of Vietnamese descent) for the next sitting and back to her for the third. So, okay. Got two appointments for next Friday and for the Tuesday ten days after that.
Called in sick at work in case I had any bad after-effects; she says that usually everything is fine but she gave me a list of numbers of dentists who are on emergency call duty for the next two weeks. (She says that usually, patients who have that list of numbers end up not needing it, which is fine by me :)) I remember after a wisdom tooth extraction, I tried working but ended up feeling really rotten and having to be driven home by a colleague, so even though this wasn't the same I preferred not to have to work the rest of the day.
On the way home, the temporary filling started to come out slowly. She said that a bit of crumbling was inevitable but that it was harmless. I hope that the amount I've been losing is within the bounds of what's normal; it does seem to have subsided a bit by now.