About a month ago, I went to the dentist and learned I had to have a root canal. This information wasn't really surprising, because over a year ago one of my fillings cracked, and a few months ago it fell out, leaving a giant hole in Tooth 3. (That's how the dentist and hygienist refer to it. I refer to it as...well, it would be impolite to say. Let's just say the adjectives "dirty" and "sonafa" are involved.)
I returned to the dentist for my scheduled root canal last Thursday. I was very nervous because I hate dental work, but I took a magazine in with me to read during any downtime so that I wouldn't fixate on the pain and terror. Also, Greg came with me since he was off work.
Things started out OK. The numbing process involved multiple injections directly into the roof of my mouth, which was painful, but I had been numbed up before and knew what to expect. Then the dentist set up the area (my mouth) which involved clamps and a tiny rubber sheet. If you've watched hospital shows on TV and can picture the big blue sheet with a hole right over the area to be operated on, that's what I imagine my mouth looked like, just in miniature. Although this was uncomfortable, it was interesting. So far so good.
Then I sat there, mouth open as far as I could get it, for two hours. Drool began collecting in the back of my throat, and swallowing was difficult because I imagined my tongue somehow getting in the path of the drill, leading to bloodshed and a future without being able to speak or lick ice cream. Eventually the dentist realized I was drowning in my own saliva and put one of those suction things in. Although I was developing lockjaw, I thought things were going surprisingly well.
Then the dentist told me my root canal was so bad that she would have to close me up and send me to a specialist. This is where I almost started crying for the first time, because of the wasted terror and the giant bill I knew a specialist would involve. Luckily, she called in the senior dentist and he figured out whatever was confusing her, and she told me I wouldn't have to go to the specialist. At this point, I was elated, and I loved the dentists and wanted to hug both of them. But I couldn't because I was still trussed up like a roasting turkey.
Time went by. At about the two and a half hour mark, the root canal proper was finished. [Any descriptions of actual dentistry in this post, by the way, are based on my conjecture. I don't really know anything of the process.] The dentist had cleared out the decay and inserted multiple little plastic toothpicks into my mouth, I assume to serve as fake roots. She then went in with a burning rod, I imagine to burn the tops of the toothpicks together and make it secure.
It was right here that everything went to pot. The dentist did not realize that she was resting the burning rod on my lip. I did realize that I was suddenly feeling intense, burning pain. I halfheartedly waved my hand, figuring she would realize her mistake and move the rod any second. But the pain got worse. The rod didn't move. I started to panic, and tried to scream, but of course I couldn't make a sound, except perhaps "urgle urgle!" I started thrashing. She noticed. She realized she was burning me and moved the rod, with the slightest hint of an apology: "Oh, whoops."
My heart was pounding, and I felt I had just lived through one of those nightmares where you see something bad coming towards you but you can't run or scream. I tried to breathe deeply and relax, but I was getting seriously worked up. I managed to get a tenuous grip on reality and continue to sit calmly in the chair. The dentist began taking molds of my teeth for the temporary crown, and I could tell the end was near.
However, the experience would not be complete until I had been utterly humiliated. At about the 3.5 hour mark, the numbing agent was beginning to wear off for the second time. I felt a little more than I had earlier, but it didn't hurt, so I just went with it. At one point I must have winced, and the dentist realized I was less numb, so she grabbed the giant syringe again. As she began the round of injections, my mind took leave of my body. I knew the shots into the roof of the mouth were coming and I knew they would hurt. She must have seen me getting nervous, so she asked, "You don't feel this, do you?"
Yes. I felt it. And it hurt like a Tooth 3. That she didn't realize I was in serious pain made me panic again, and this time I couldn't control it. I started crying and drooling and trying to sit up and making really loud "waauuugghurrgle gurrgle" noises. I knew I looked like a fool, but that just made things worse. The dentist and hygienist sprung into "Oh no, we're dealing with a crazy person" action, pulling clamps and pins out of my mouth. They returned me to a seating position and plied me with tissues and a glass of water. I tried to drink but my mouth was numb, so the entire gulp dribbled down the front of my shirt, leaving me soaking wet and completely embarrassed.
After I calmed down, they finished up pretty quickly and sent me out front to pay the bill. When I saw Greg standing there holding a beautiful flower (pictured above) I started weeping again, and ran straight into the bathroom. Eventually I composed myself and we went home, with a stop at the pharmacy for hardcore painkillers.
I'm doing fine now, but I have to go back for "tooth lengthening"--I'm not sure what that is but the dentist said it involves sutures,--a filling, a cleaning, and replacing the temporary crown with the permanent one. Part of me figures it can't be any worse, but the other part of me knows that it can.