Monday, December 10, 2012

The root of the problem

Recently, my favorite dentist told me I needed a root canal. This was not what I expected to hear from my favorite dentist. I preferred a tender pat on the shoulder and a “See you in six months.”
Instead, he used those two words. Root canal.
Even worse, he announced that he intended to send me off to a different dentist called an endodontist. That’s a fancy word for Dentist Who Does Only Root Canals.
He told me my new endodontist could give me intravenous sedation for my root canal.
This wasn’t bad news.
Last time I had IV sedation was almost 20 years ago when my wisdom teeth were pulled. The dental assistant started my IV and I never even saw the dentist. Still have no idea what he looks like. And that’s OK with me. I don’t want to get to know a bunch of new dentists. Especially ones that Only Do Root Canals.
I asked my favorite dentist if he could come with me to my root canal. Could he assist with the procedure? Could he just watch over the endodontist’s shoulder? Could he hold my hand?
He laughed like I was making a joke.
I was kind of not joking.
On the day of my root canal, I had our oldest daughter drive me to the endodontist’s office. She would need to be my chauffeur for after the root-canalling was done. Apparently, it’s not a good idea to drive yourself home after being doped up with an IV in the arm.
The Dentist Who Does Only Root Canals acted like my root canal was the highlight of his morning.
Here’s the X-ray of your tooth, he said helpfully, turning the computer monitor toward me.
I covered my eyes. I don’t want to see it, I said. I don’t want to know what a root-canal tooth looks like or why it aches like it does.
To make myself feel better, I imagined what dentistry must have been like during pilgrim times. When a pilgrim had an achy tooth, he or she didn’t make an appointment for Tuesday at 9 a.m. with the Dentist Who Does Only Root Canals. There was no such thing as the Plymouth Rock School of Dentistry. I have a bad feeling that pilgrims with achy teeth had only one remedy and it probably didn’t involve an IV to la-la land while reclining in a dental chair with a view of a Zen rock garden.
The sedation was just like I remembered it: IV in and then lights out. The office staff had my daughter help me out to the car after it was all over. I don’t remember much about the ride home, but apparently the sight of “mom on drugs” is hilarious. Or so I heard at dinner that night.
I didn’t care. My root canal was done. Even a pilgrim would be thankful for that.

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