On July 8th, 2016, I reclined into a shiny new dentist’s chair to undergo deep dental cleaning in my upper right jaw. Dr. Bigfoot Butcher performed the procedure at Dr Glitz Ashole’s Kosmetic Korner, a Hollywood dentist specializing in bright smiles. I include Dr. Ashole in this account because he highly recommended Dr. Butcher to me and, days later, assisted in incorrectly diagnosing my response to Dr Butcher’s treatment.
For three weeks I lay immobilized...
Doctor Butcher was proud of his work and asked if he could take photos of the procedure, extending the time that my mouth lay pried open like a bucket loader while Butcher marveled at his own achievement. I asked him for antibiotics as a precaution against possible infection, but the good periodontist assured me that, with the quality of his work, there would be no need.
Two days later, I began to experience intense pain that spread in a net from the traumatized jaw across the entire right side of my face. The salivary gland became infected swelled painfully, and thick, brown pus began to ooze into my mouth and throat.
Accidents do happen, but as my post-op symptoms worsened, the good doctors Ashole and Butcher continued to underestimate my deteriorating condition. When I visited the office seeking relief, both toothmasters appeared confused; in my estimation, they had no idea how to treat my traumatized mouth and jaw. After what appeared to be a guessing game, Drs Ashole and Butcher threw random prescriptions at me (including a prescription for shingles!) and seemed eager to get me out the door.
For three weeks I lay immobilized; my daily life disappeared. I could sleep upright for 30 minutes at a time and often woke choking on the pus from the infected salivary gland. I became dehydrated from the impaired ability to open my jaw and could only spoon soup or cooked cereal between my locked jaws.
None of the prescribed medications solved anything. As my symptoms increased, Dr Butcher, having no apparent remedy, suggested I go to USC’s School of Dentistry. Altho Butcher described the USC dentists as heads of departments, I was examined by an assistant professor and a pre-doctoral resident. After two visits, the consultants at USC prescribed more ineffective medications, raising false hopes of pain relief and extending my condition.
Finally, my personal doctor (NOT a dentist) arrived back from vacation and diagnosed my condition. I had developed trismus, or lockjaw from having my jaw pried open for so long, and a salivary gland infection, a condition neither Dr Ashole nor Dr Butcher, nor the advisors at USC seemed capable of identifying. My personal doctor prescribed antibiotics and painkillers and within days, the symptoms began to recede.
The lockjaw took longer to heal. I worked for a month with a physical therapist and my slurred speech began to clarify, although when I returned to teaching in late August, I still sounded like a drunk. Slowly my speech returned to normal while I resisted the temptation to firebomb the chrome and formica offices of Kosmetic Korner.
Now, in retrospect, I realize that, while my jaw, mouth, throat, and face had been assaulted by Drs Ashole and Butcher, Donald Trump rose to prominence during the battle for the GOP candidacy. And the rest, I dare say, is history.
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Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles.
Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.