On Monday, November 10, 2008, I went to Dr. XXX dental office at 9:00 for 6 fillings. I had requested that we do 2 visits, as 6 fillings seemed like a lot to do in one day. The receptionist, told me this would not be possible and that they would explain why before the procedure.
I sat in the chair feeling quite normal. The assistant numbed me locally and applied the gas, as I requested. A few minutes later, Dr. XXX approached, shook my hand as usual, applied the Novocain and began to work. He said he would like to work on the “tough one” first; the back right tooth on the bottom row. He reclined me to a normal working position and began to drill while restraining my tongue and his assistant used the water spray and suction. Dr. XXX said he was having trouble with my tongue, and that I should relax and breathe through my nose. I was trying, but found it difficult. At this time, I believe another device was clamped to my jaw to assist with his drilling and perhaps to keep my tongue out of the way. This is also when the chair was laid back so far that my head felt as if it were below my feet. At this time I was restrained by his assistant’s leg (I believe), on my left side and his on my right side. As a combination of having the assistant’s tools, his tools, the spacer and restraint mechanism in my mouth while being in this super reclined position, I began to continuously choke and gag. “You’re doing great, just try to relax.” They said. But I found it impossible to do so. They pressed on and I could feel the pressure of their legs restraining my head. I could feel myself getting angry and wanted to curse him. “You’re doing great buddy” they encouraged me; “you’re almost done”. I choked and gagged a few more times and after what seemed like 5 to 10 minutes, they stopped. “How do you feel”, Dr. Halm asked me. “Like I need a punching bag” I said. He did not respond. I was visibly upset, I would imagine. “Let’s take a break” he said.
I stood up from the chair and was trying to breathe and calm down. I could hear Dr. Halm with another patient. I stood there for about 20 minutes until the doctor came back. The back tooth was done, except for polishing the rough spots.
The work on the rest of the teeth (drilling) was not traumatic and seemed to be going smoothly, save for some of the sensation was coming back into my mouth by now and the work was becoming painful. It was then when Dr. Halm administered another round of Novocain injections. After the drilling was complete, the doctor took another break assisting another patient. He came back in after 20 minutes or so and I still felt normal. I sat back down without the gas and began to finish the fills and polish them. They marked and polished the fillings down for a while and he got up to leave, taking his gloves off. I had to stop him as my back tooth felt sharp and rough. He polished it and began to leave. I then noticed that one of the top teeth on my right side felt long and had to call him back to polish that one. He did, I politely shook his hand and he was off. I felt like I had run a marathon. I was very tired.
I arranged to make half of the $XXX payment at that time and half later with the receptionist, and completed the transaction for $XXX. I got into my car and began to drive away. About a half a mile or so away from the dental office, I began to hear a high-pitched noise develop in my left ear. It took just a few seconds to reach the pitch and volume that it remains now. I reached up to wiggle my ear lobe and noticed a dull sensation. I didn’t hear the touch. I scratched my right ear and heard the fingernail against my ear just fine. I did the same to my left and felt it, but heard nothing.
When I got home I called my wife and she suggested I call and ask Dr. Halm’s office if they had ever heard of this and may have an explanation. The receptionist told me “no”, but she would describe my symptoms (hearing loss, vertigo, high pitch noise) to the doctor and then call me back.
Later that night, after still not hearing back from Dr. XXX’s office, I felt I needed to seek medical attention since the symptoms had worsened. I went to the Care Now facility on Eastchase Parkway and saw Dr. XXX. He prescribed a cortisone shot and antibiotics, assuming I had an infection and fluid behind / in my ear. I did not feel comfortable with his assessment and scheduled an appointment with an ENT for Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 1:30pm.
The entire day Tuesday I was confined to bed with extreme vertigo, nausea and vomiting.
The following day I saw Dr. XXX and told him what happened. He examined me and originally dismissed the dental experience and my inner ear problem as coincidental. I retold him that I believe I have complete hearing loss in my left ear and he decided I needed to take a hearing test right then, as this could be a serious case.
I took the test and while my right ear tested normal, my left was profoundly worse. Upon his review of the test, Dr. XXX asked me more detailed questions about the experience at the dentist office. I recounted it to him. He then told me that he could see two possible scenarios for my condition. Either the trauma of struggling in the dentist’s chair caused the damage (he described a scenario where the bones in the ear that connect to the membranes could have caused a tear in the membrane) or, simply put, “shit happens”.
He prescribed Prednisone for two weeks and wanted to see me back for another visit December 2nd. He excused me from work for 2 weeks or more and no heavy lifting. For the vertigo and nausea he sat to sit perfectly still, upright facing forward. He also recommended that I sleep with head elevated if possible.
Up to this point I have enjoyed normal hearing for my entire life; protecting my ears from loud music and sharp sounds. I work in an environment in which I have one fellow employee who sits 5 feet behind me facing south and I face west. We frequently have conversations with no problems comprehending.
The night before the dental visit I sat at the dinner table with my father on my left, my brother and sister to my right and stepmother in front of me and had a normal evening without incident. My father, incidentally, left Dr. XXX’s office as a patient after feeling he was being ignored by the doctor when he would leave his appointments to tend to other patients.
Also, as a new father, I often heard my son cry out from across the house before my wife even did.
Since returning to work, I have noticed that I have trouble focusing due to the tinnitus that has stayed along with the hearing loss. I am not able to perform the advanced tasks I was used to before this happened, but am hopeful that the conditions change for the better.