M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, May 13, 2002  

Where was I? Oh, right...

By the time the appointed date for my first root canal came around (and I say “first” not in the sense that I may one day have to have another one, but in the sense that it was the first of a planned twenty-three root canals), I had just about worked myself into a big wimpy tizzy.

Up to a certain point, I was hoping I wouldn't be so worried about it if I didn't know what it was. After all, I'd gone over three decades without ever learning any definition of the term root canal aside from "pain." Naturally, I stumbled across a detailed description on the Internet. Thanks a lump, Monty.

Apparently it involves the dentist drilling a hole in your tooth and sucking out everything inside. Including the nerves.

"That doesn't sound so bad," I thought. "If there's no nerves in there, that means it can't hurt, right?"

Then I remembered the old joke about how you make a rope with one end: take a rope with two ends and cut one off. The joke, of course, being that now your rope just has a new end. Just like my nerve fibers would. Thus I was able to convince myself that I was about to be in a major ouch situation.

But I had a plan. I intended to be a total crybaby about it.

This wasn't my original plan. Since the appointment was scheduled on the same day as band practice, I was thinking about going directly to band from the dentist's office. Don't worry, I wasn't going to sing. I just thought it would be interesting to find out how many of my bass lines now live in my lower reptile brain, and trying to play while hopped up on Novocaine and painkillers would be a pretty effective way to find out. I might have been driven out the second one of the guitarists played a high note, but at least it would have been in the interests of science.

Of course, my loving wife Trash shot that idea down the minute she heard of it, which left me looking forward to an evening of mooning around the house, whimpering like a truck driver and swearing like a four-year-old girl. Or maybe the opposite of that.

The one hope I clung to was that the experience wouldn't be much less endurable than my teeth-cleaning a few months before. My first in ten years. You know, the one when the hygienist spent an hour going at my choppers and gums with a dull kitchen knife and a belt sander? That was Hell in my mouth. And so, with painstaking care worthy of a delusional psychotic, I constructed an elaborate mental fantasyland in which root canals are not as bad as overdue teeth-cleanings.

As it turns out, I actually live in that fantasyland. Believe it or not, the actual root canal was nowhere near as painful as the cleaning. Obviously the primary factor in that is the fact that I was pumped full of Novocaine all the way to my cerebellum, but I'm not complaining.

My dentist was great. She kept asking me if I was alright, reminding me to raise my left hand if I needed her to stop, and warning me every time she was going to do something painful or uncomfortable. I really appreciated that. Or maybe I was just suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

I got to wear a pair of those huge plastic old-lady sunglasses throughout the procedure. The dentist called them safety glasses, and at first I thought their purpose was to protect my eyes from flying debris. The source of any such debris didn’t bear much thinking about, but eventually I figured out that the shades’ true purpose was to prevent my eyeballs from popping out of my head and thumping her in the kisser during a delicate moment. Either way, they worked.

Despite the inherent discomfort of the situation and the fact that I was more tense than a guitar string, the whole procedure really only included a few brief flashes of blinding pain. After little more than an hour of suppressing my atavistic revulsion to having power tools in my mouth, a rubber sheet over the lower half of my face, and a length of bloody dental floss dangling millimeters from my eyes, I was free. For the moment.

Since then, I’ve been back twice (three times if you count the day I fell asleep in the chair waiting to get worked over) and I’m typing this with three temporary crowns in my mouth. Wait, that’s not exactly true. I’m typing with my hands, but I probably should be typing with the crowns. I ought to get as much use out of them as possible, considering what they’re costing me.

And I’m not done yet. I’m going back next week to get a permanent crown put in. And I’m going to keep going back (and telling you all about it) until you people start practicing good dental hygiene at home.

Or until my teeth are all better. Whichever comes first.

posted by M. Giant 3:27 PM 0 comments


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