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The Root Canal Experience

This morning I got a root canal. I slipped and banged one of my front teeth on an icy driveway about 16 years ago; as the result of some endodontical phenomena the tooth has been getting darker and recently had darkened enough for me to feel compelled to get it checked out. I saw a dentist last week and he referred me to a specialist. I learned a little bit about what was to be done before going in for the procedure but was largely ignorant about the process.

After the specialist confirmed that I did indeed need a root canal, he stuck a bite guard in my mouth and told me that often the hardest part about the procedure is keeping the mouth open wide for an extended period of time. He said the procedure was similar to a filling and many patients fall asleep in the middle of it. I haven’t had a filling in about 15 years and the guy who did it my family nicknamed Dr Hurt, so although my dentist today didn’t know it, comparing the impending procedure to a filling was pretty terrifying…and at no time in the past when receiving a filling was I ever close to nodding off. Dr Hurt earned his reputation. He once told me to raise my arm when the pain was getting unbearable and then after I raised my arm the first time proceeded to tell me to put my arm down, that I needed to be willing to bear a little pain. That said, I like to think I’m pretty tough so I played it cool.

Next came a topical treatment. While it was being applied the dentist asked if I live near Emory since I had told him my wife and I moved to Atlanta so she could go to graduate school there. Not sure if he expected a response in sign language or he can interpret English spoken from a pried open mouth, but I managed to get out “Hih-uh, neeaah heeah.” He had no problem deciphering the meaning, saying “Ah, the North Buckhead, Sandy Springs area or whatever they’re calling it this week.” Not exactly, but I would’ve grunted in agreement if he named a city within 50 miles of my house so as to avoid any other attempt at conversation. The dentist got the hint and moved on to the local anesthesia administered by needle. He warned me with the famous “ok, now a little pinch”. It hurt like a son of a gun. Then he moved to the back of the mouth and apologized saying the next stick would hurt even more. True. As the last two or three shots were given tears welled up in my eyes and started to make their way down the sides of my face. I felt like a class-A wuss. But no joke, it hurt. Almost immediately the pain from the sticks subsided and the demo began.

The dentist broke out his drill, mini circular saw and other dastardly tools that he used to presumably dig a canal in tooth #8. Fortunately the assistant had equipped me with protective glasses because throughout the morning my face was being coated with what I pictured was shrapnel as sounds that ranged from the work of chainsaws and circular saws to the communication between R2-D2 and C-3PO emanated from my mouth. I wished I had asked how long the procedure was going to take but then realized I had no way to tell how much time had passed. I was in a vacuum, not terribly uncomfortable but definitely not even considering a little nappy. Eventually the work was done and a new X-ray was taken. The new canal looked pretty darn good. Now I am in the recovery stage. The anesthesia has not worn off so I am feeling a bit like Kramer in The Jimmy episode without the silly shoes.

sara said,

April 15, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

your post made me laugh out loud! ah, the memories of dr. hurt. i had some fillings last week, and then was supposed to emcee an event for the b-school. needless to say, i didn’t attempt it. no need to relive one of seinfeld’s greatest episodes ever. i would surely have had the high schoolers convinced i was special.

katie said,

April 16, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

thank you for that hilarious romp through a root canal! (glad it was you, not me).
At least Rich didn’t have to do it. …awkward.
“, how do you like Germany’s chances in Euro 08…”

they should seriously include earplugs with the local on those procedures. those grinding sounds are just icky.

Andrew said,

April 16, 2008 @ 11:40 pm

Good idea with the earplugs. If I ever have to get another RC I will consider making it a BYOE event.

mom said,

April 17, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

you make me laugh…you really should consider being a writer

Amy said,

April 19, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

I was laughing so hard I cried…I have experienced several root canals and have never come close to a nap!! Hope you are feeling better.

Aunt Jan said,

April 28, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

Hilarious! Now I will put off having my root canal – that I’ve needed since 2001 – for another 7 years!

Bips said,

April 28, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

You forgot to mention the “Raise your right arm, if you feel pain” story about Mr. Dave. As he was experiencing the RC, the pain was so intense, that he could have snapped a 2 X 4 with his hand that he raised at light speed due to the pain.

You have a Dave Barry-esque style of writing. Well done.

I hope that Dr. H doesn’t read former patients’ blogs. He just did two fillings for me last week. Not only does he ask questions with your mouth pried open so large that your upper and lower lips are separating like the Red Sea, but also he mumbles the questions, while talking to himself.

I had a crown (on my tooth) installed a couple of months ago. I am not sure what he used to anchor it, but he could not get the adhesive off of my face. He rubbed with a paper towel, then used a scalpel (no lie) to scrape it off !

Glad to not be going back for a while,
Bips » Photos from Bicycle Accident said,

October 5, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

[…] done on my teeth.  My four top front teeth are all cracked and in danger of needing root canals.  I already had a root canal on one of the teeth earlier this year.  For now, I am waiting to see how the nerves respond.  I […]

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