Barrelhouse is always here to help. To that end, we're thrilled to premiere our first regular advice column, FOUNTAINE OF ADVICE, with Jaime Fountaine! Stay tuned for more ways to Ask Someone Awesome...but right now, read on:
Hi Jaime! Long time reader, first time writer. Love your column.
My question is this. I'm scheduled for dental surgery next week and pain medication doesn't affect me like it should. I pretty much always take double the dose for half the effect. Last time I got a procedure like this done, they had to give me so much Novocaine, they were kind of scared. So, it's a thing.
Last time, they prescribed me super-Ibuprofen or whatever and it didn't touch it. I wound up begging them to give me some better drugs and after a lot of back and forth, they gave me Percocet. Which was good and it mostly helped and I didn't complain anymore. So now, I want to skip the intermediate step (i cried from the pain) and jump straight to good drugs. But I think they think I'm asking so I can get high. Which is the problem, cause I DO like to get high and I'll probably take an extra pill to get stoned.
So, what do I do? Do I go through all the pain? Do I ask straight up? Do I get greedy and ask for extra 'cause hey, might as well? I'm quite conflicted.
Into Pain Pills
Dental stuff is rough. The human mouth is disgusting, and it’s mostly not any of our faults, but there’s a strange morality intertwined with our teeth that’s deeply unfair. That, coupled with the threat of actual pain, makes the whole situation wrought and miserable. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.
I didn’t have dental insurance for a really long time, and it caught up with me in A BIG WAY last year. I’d had a really terrible experience at an emergency dentist when I was 25. They didn’t care what size my mouth was, or if I were comfortable, or if they were making me feel bad for needing a root canal, which is a really normal procedure that people from all walks of life need every day. They also neglected to remove the entire infection, so I spent like 7 years with a latent infection in a fucked-up tooth, that I would have to get pulled anyway.
Because I am a very functional person who handles her shit, I approached finding a new dentist very aggressively. I was up front about what I was afraid of (being shamed -- I have an eerily high pain tolerance), and my dental practice, bless them, were understanding about it. But, I had a similar issue when it came time to ask for pain medicine for a root canal.
It seems ridiculous, now, that I would be so hesitant to ask for something that I needed, but for those of us that don’t feel entitled to the world, it can be hard to make completely reasonable demands.
I said, “The last time I got a root canal, no one prescribed me anything, and I was in a decent amount of pain. Would it be possible to get something stronger than ibuprofen?”
Now, this is the part where I have to remind you that the world is full of people that are unfairly biased and wrong, so this might not work for everyone. There is an upsetting amount of research on the myriad ways that doctors are willing to ignore the pain of women and people of color, because they think that they’re exaggerating or trying to get high. It’s hard for me to imagine denying someone a reasonable solution to their misery.
For both of our sanity, let’s pretend that I am giving you advice in a kind world. Be direct with your dentist: “The last time this happened, the percocet was really helpful for my pain. Could you prescribe that for this procedure as well?” If there is any hemming and hawing, you can stand your ground, as it’s a reasonable request. Realistically, dental pain is sharp, but short-lived, so the amount you are asking for will not, on its own, be your downfall.
(Among the many things I am not qualified to discuss is addiction and recovery, so if you are struggling with either of these things, and I misread your letter entirely, then please ignore everything I just said, and talk to someone who is.)
If you just happen to enjoy the side-effects of your pain meds, so be it! Life is a long and miserable endeavor, and we all deserve a break from reality. As long as you’re reasonable with your pain meds, and don’t get yourself into trouble, who cares if you also get a little high? Make a nice bowl of ice cream for dinner and ride out that high watching Bones and making questionable internet searches, while your friends text you not to buy a straw hat. Guess what? You’re going to anyway.
Jaime Fountaine was raised by "wolves." She is remarkably functional, considering. She lives in Philadelphia, where she co-hosts the Tire Fire reading series at Tattooed Mom, and curates Excuse My Dust, a "weirdo, literature variety hour" at the Good Good Comedy Theater.
Need a Fountaine of Advice for your troubles? Click here to seek Jaime's wisdom.