Health, Life

Face Your Fears: The Third Chapter


In this seemingly endless series of entries that detail my fear of all things dentistry, I think I finally make peace with it all.

Today was the day of perhaps the biggest procedure of all the ones I’ve got waiting for me: the dreaded root canal. Just the mere mention of it to some will make them cringe; for dental chickens like me, it’s more like someone setting my hair on fire (and as of now, there’s lots to burn since I’m letting it grow).

To be perfectly honest, the procedure itself wasn’t all that bad but what happened during the whole thing was definitely a bit discouraging. Let’s just say I got there at 7 am and didn’t leave until 11:30 am. I’ll get to that later.

At 7 am sharp, I was taken to the chair and prepped for the procedure. That, of course, meant having my cheek injected with Novocain. While I discovered that many things in the industry have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the size of the syringe and the pressure of the needle as its inserted into your cheek. Still slightly painful, still freaky and nightmarish to witness.

Thankfully, that would be about the only discomfort I would feel.

The doctor told me to rub my cheek in order to get the Novocain working and boy, it did. As he saw other patients, I slowly felt the right side of my face going numb. It’s always a weird sensation, especially when you have an itch in the region that is numb. How is that even possible? And how do you satisfy that? I tried to no avail.

Then the fun began. Once he gave me the sign that he was going to begin, I donned my Bluetooth headphones — better sound and no wires to complicate matters — and picked some music to listen to.

First he had to remove some decay from the tooth which was already chipped. Scrape, scrape, scrape and a little drilling. Afterward, he started to dig into the tooth in order to reach the nerve which, if it were still healthy and alive, would have bled when he finally reached it.

That’s when I realized I hated the smell of my teeth being obliterated by water-jet drilling instruments but also remembered how it used to be with actual drills. The sound is now much less frightening and the music drowned it out so it was a wash.

His assistant kept adding dilator to the area in order to open things up but it yielded no results with all the excavating. That’s where we hit a snag. The nerve was dead and there was no clear indication of when they would reach it. As a result, he had to keep taking x-rays in order to determine how much closer he was.

In between delays, he took time to juggle his other patients while I sat and waited for him to return: checking social media, texting Ann, taking pictures killed time.

Photo Jul 10, 10 35 33 AM

Yes, even in the dentist’s chair, I’m being all artsy-fartsy.

There would several of these delays until the x-rays showed that the nerve was finally reached. By now, the pressure or potential pain of the procedure wasn’t on my mind. What was driving me crazy was having my mouth open for so long while he worked on the tooth. Granted I shut it as he worked on other patients but my jaw was becoming incredibly sore after a few hours, and I would be in the chair until about 11:30 am or about 4.5 hours total.

Now if you’ve never had a root canal done I won’t bore you (see what I did there?) with the details. I’ll just let this picture sum it up.

Photo Jul 10, 11 00 49 AM

See all those miniature drills and pointy things? Once the hole was made in my tooth, every single one of them found its way down said hole and I swear it seemed like he used a thousand of them.

Photo Jul 10, 9 47 57 AM

Success! And digital x-rays freaking rock. If you’re old enough to remember when x-rays had to be developed in a darkroom, you know what I mean.

Once this goal was achieved, more scraping and drilling followed and after that, filling the hole with silicone and other thin, long, red needle-like things. And again, it seemed like there were thousands of them being dropped in there.

Finally, the home stretch. Bonding was added to make the tooth feel like a normal tooth again and after all of that, we were done. I was beginning to wonder if just pulling the tooth would have been easier but that’s why he’s a dentist and I’m not.

When I got home, the family expected me to be a drooling, disheveled mess but much to their dismay, I wasn’t and immediately made lunch because I was so freaking hungry after all that. It was hard to enjoy a hot dog with a sore jaw and the Novocain still not entirely worn off but I needed something in my stomach.

And while I didn’t do much but sit there and listen to music, I was exhausted when it was all over and thankful I took one of my paid Summer Days to stay home and take a nap afterward. Sure I could have gone to work but a nap felt so much better.

This is not the end of things by far, but I don’t think any of them will compare to this. My dentist was incredibly patient with me and explained everything in detail. An excellent job and I couldn’t be happier with him. And my wallet is a little shorter now but insurance paid a whopping 80% of the procedure so there’s that, too.

I’ll definitely be ready for the next thing, and it’s safe to say that my fear has finally gone away – even if my jaw is still sore as I write this.

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