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Getting a root canal was not on my “Things to Do Today” when I woke up this morning. It was on my “What I Got Done Today” list by dinnertime.
A root canal is famously something you choose in preference to something you really, really wish to avoid. You know, “There’s an opening in Bob’s group today. I think you would be a good fit.” ” I’d rather have a root canal than work for Bob.” “It’s only 100 yards of driveway you have to shovel. C’mon, the snow’s only two feet deep. It won’t be that hard even with the snowblower broken. ” I’d rather have a root canal.” “Hey, there are only 50 kids coming to your nephew Johnny’s eighth birthday party. You don’t mind helping out?” ” I’d rather have a root canal.” You get the drift.
No, a root canal was not on the schedule this morning. Rather, I had a 2 p.m. dentist’s appointment. A tooth they had been watching was giving trouble. Every time I bit down it hurt. Not Apaches are roasting your toes hurt, but a “hmm, I don’t want to chew almonds on that side” hurt. It had been hurting a couple of days. I made an appointment with my dentist figuring the crown had finally blown and it needed replacing.
Nope. The dentist looks at the x-rays and says, “The root’s inflamed. That is what is hurting. I think the nerve is dead or dying. You need to see an endodontist.” “What’s that?” I ask. “Oh, they do root canals, if it is necessary.”
She checks. The endodontist who did my last root canal ten years ago was available. (Although that was two dentists ago, I am still using the same practice, and they have my dental records back to the 1980s. They use the same endodontist practice as they did back then.) Not only that, there was an opening at 3:15.
I belong to the “eat a toad first thing each morning so you have nothing worse to look forward to” school of philosophy. Might as well get something unpleasant over with. So, 30 minutes later, I’m sitting at Endodontist Associates of etc. Get through the paperwork. The receptionist and I chat about my time at National Oilwell Varco (ten years ago when I had the last root canal) because her husband also worked there then. (Got laid off the same year I did.) Then I go to the chair where the procedure will be done – if it is necessary.
The doctor comes in. We renew our acquaintanceship. He looks at the X-rays of my tooth. “Yep. Inflamed. Looks like the nerve’s dead.” Does a few other tests (including touching the tooth with something chilled to 50 degrees above absolute zer0 – or something like that – and I don’t feel a thing). Concludes – it is dead, Jim.
I have two choices: get the root canal or pull the tooth. I am attached to that tooth. (To the rest of them I was born with, too, save four impacted wisdom teeth long since pulled.) I decide not to break up the set. Go for the root canal.
“How long is it going to take?” I ask. “We should have you out of here 30 minutes after your gum is numbed.” “How long will it take for the crown to come in? How long will I have a temporary?” (Thinking back to my last experience.) “I don’t think we have to pull the crown,” the endodontist says. “This looks straightforward, we will just drill through the crown, clean out the root canal, fill it, and patch the crown. You’ll be good to go.”
I didn’t believe it. It sounded too good to be true. He did tell me how much noise the drill would make. I told him to go ahead.
Thirty minutes later we were done – root cleaned out and filled, crown patched, ready to go. Done. It took longer to drive home afterward than to do the procedure. By the time I have dinner fixed, the anesthesia had gone away . . . and I can chew on the side with the root canal and it Does NOT Hurt. I am back to normal. With less problem than having a crown put in.
The only downside? I will never feel comfortable saying “I’d rather have a root canal” again.
I guess this really is the 21st century.Published in