Thursday, December 11, 2008

Allergies and Dentists

The oddball title of today's post is brought to you by the letter Mama Kat's writer's challenge for this week. I actually have chosen to combine both allergies and worst dental experience in one.

I am allergic to three things: certain antibiotics and penicillin, certain dental anesthetics, and ivory soap. Working in order from least severe to most severe, the symptoms all basically come down to headaches and rashes.

The antibiotic allergy provokers include some of the old harsh antibiotics like aureomycin (one of the earliest tetracyclines). I basically break out in a very itchy and red rash whenever I take them. The same is true for penicillin. Because the reaction to penicillin gets worse with each exposure, doctors avoid giving it to me, saving that last exposure before anaphylactic shock develops for something deathly serious. Interestingly enough, I get the same rashy/itchy symptoms from using Ivory Soap. Some ingredient in Ivory triggers the rash and itch. It is not a minor itch either, it is an itch and scratch until you bleed allover itch.

Closer to the point of this tale, some of the old dental anesthetics used to cause me to get severe migraine like headaches as they wore off. Thus, when I was a teenager, I preferred the pain of non-anesthetic drilling and filling to the aftereffects of the anesthetic. Which leads (almost) naturally into my worst dental experience ...

I had to get a filling in a tooth. It wasn't supposed to be very deep carie and the dentist wasn't concerned that it would be too painful to attempt without anesthetic. This was in the stone age before digital X-rays and other such modern conveniences. X-rays were taken and then sent out for processing (on physical film no less) and often not seen by the dentist for a week or two. In any case, when the dentist started drilling, he found a crack that needed to be drilled and filled as well as the carie. But the crack ran deeper and a lot closer to the nerve than the carie did. So there I am squeezing the arms of the dentist chair and trying to escape into the floor while the poor dentist keeps on working trying to get done so we can get the filling in and the ordeal over.
It was the longest fifteen minutes of my life. I broke the arm of the dental chair into two pieces, but I never moved my head. Such experiences made me a classic dental avoider until I was in my late twenties and the newer anesthetics came into use. It must have been impressive to the dentist. I golf occasionally with the now retired dentist of that experience and he brings it up every time - he remembers the experience vividly.

I actually am pretty happy with my allergies. My mother and brother are both allergic to the novocaine/procaine family of drugs and react strongly to them. When my brother forgot to mention it before a procedure where they deadened the esophagus to run a camera down, they used novocaine and he went into anaphylactic shock and almost died. So I always figure I got off in good shape with simple to itch to distraction and abrasion.


  1. Got off lightly, you reckon? It must be challenging having allergies. Re dentists: I haven't had a filling for a while (my teeth no longer decay, they get metal fatigue) but I used to ask not to have the injections because I didn't like the saggy lip feeling afterwards and I felt it made the dentist be a bit more careful.

  2. Ouch! Last time I was at the dentist, the injection hadn't kicked in when he started to drill. I waved my arms wildly to get him to stop. He gave me a second injection ---then my face felt like a basketball-sized water balloon and my tongue felt like it had been transplanted with a cow's --this lasted for about 3 hours. I'm not sure which is worse, the pain or the aftermath of the pain killer.


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