The Power of a Root Canal

It is time for me to once again contribute a small part of me to my blog.

I am recuperating from root canal dental work that was done on Tuesday, the 18th.

Talking to my students and coworkers, I have found that talking about root canals can be taboo.

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to experience the pain and agony associated with the necessity for root canal dental work to be completed, I will elaborate.

In the days prior to my research in finding an available dentist in my area, I was in tremendous pain.  If you are the type of person who takes good care of their teeth; brushing and flossing three times daily (perhaps even one more time before you go to sleep), I hate you.  For those of us who are so busy that we wait the entire day, just to use the bathroom, keeping up that daily regimen is impossible.  You have not experienced the pure agony and burning pain that is the by-product of days, sometimes weeks of an infection that has been raging in your cheekbones, causing hurt and discontent (to the point of griping, moaning, even wallowing in misery and disgust at yourself for not taking better care of your teeth).

I was in dire pain.  Not the sore kind of pain that you might get if you unexpectedly bit on a seed or something rock solid, but an intense burning pain that travelled from my gums to my jaw…a kind of debilitating pain that left me sitting on the ground. The last time that I had felt that kind of pain was in my Navy days, when I received a roundhouse smash to the jaw from a drunk that I was attempting to subdue.  (I was just watching a couple of techniques on “Blutube”, that explain how to take down a drunk and was thinking, “Why didn’t I have access to this when I was in the service?)

My sleep patterns were so skewed prior to my root canal, that I was coming in to work with eyes so bloodshot and half-closed that I looked like a raccoon.  My students and the staff, as well as my wife were concerned about the left side of my face, which was beginning to look puffy and red.  My sleep patterns were so out-of-whack, that I was waking up every half hour from the pain of the infection that was festering in my cheek.  I was ready to yank out every tooth on the left side of my face.  I felt like the top and bottom half of my mouth had become a war zone. I didn’t want to eat anything, drink anything hot or cold, because I would receive searing pain from my tooth and gums that left me recoiling in agony.

My manager was concerned, because of the way I looked.  She convinced me to call a dentist to get my problem under control.  I contacted my dentist by email when I got home that night, only to receive an email:

“Thank you for requesting a dental appointment with us.

We’ll do our best to contact you within the next few days. If we’re unable to connect, please don’t hesitate to to call us or email us.

Thank you so much for wanting to join our practice. We’re looking forward to meeting you personally.”

When I called, they wanted me to come in immediately and have an x-ray. The work they said, would probably be done in the next two weeks.  The next two weeks???  I was in agony!  Where was 911 for dental work?  What about the cost?  Good gravy…you make an appointment with a dentist, and they have the option of making you wait.  So, I found a dentist that I could crawl to, groveling on hands and knees, begging for immediate relief from the pain.

The dentist was kind.  After looking at my teeth, he immediately told me, “Root canal.  We need to make sure you have enough insurance to pay for this.”  Enough insurance?  Yes folks, as I stand here in witness, I needed enough to pay for this service.  How much you say?  Well, I found a lot of commentary on the Internet, during my pained research.  The Straight Dope was a wide open source of information, and even this article from Healthy Teeth as was this web article that I found by Joseph Mercola on root canals.

Once my ability to pay was confirmed, I was ushered into the dentist’s “operating room” to begin my root canal.  Those of you who have been in a dentist office know what it looks like.  There is a chair that is the centerpiece of the room.


This chair is in the center of the dentist’s operating room…a foreboding-looking contraption that defies all logic, probably invented by the Marquis De Sade.

The walls are normally white, as are any cabinets, floors, or other furniture, save the chair.  Once in the dentist chair, you are subject to their whim. An assistant generally accompanies the dentist to begin laying out shiny, imposing objects with extremely sharp points beside you, on a very sterile-looking pad.


Typical dental instruments, aligned neatly next to you, are ready to be used…in your mouth.

The dentist entered the room and introduced himself.  He noted that I had jotted down the fact that I was allergic to Novocain, and said that he would use a different local anesthetic to apply.  His assistant already had a dose ready for me, and draped a suction tube that started with a loud rasp.  The dentist stepped in, giving my cheek a pinch.  The needle and the dentist’s hand disappeared into my mouth.


I felt a sharp jab of pain, and then…nothing.

Dental Drugs

Nothing can match the feeling of relief that you get, when the pain is lifted away.

I must admit that once the anesthetic took effect, the intense pain that I had been feeling from my rotted tooth was suddenly gone.


I had suddenly been dropped on an island of relief, the pain that had been keeping me awake in my bed ever half hour for the past three nights was gone, magically taken away by the needle that the dentist had stuck me with.

The source of the vibration on your tooth.

The source of the vibration on your tooth.

To describe what comes next is a feeling that can be somewhat confusing, that of the drill which is inserted into your mouth.  You feel a vibrating surge upon your tooth, a miniature jackhammer that repeatedly assails your senses for at least fifteen minutes.

Some people wonder if there is a carnage going on in your mouth.


I could feel flecks of something on the walls of your mouth, as the assistant used a suction tube on those inner walls of my cheek. The reverberations continued, the drill cycling around my tooth, when suddenly…pain!  It felt like a jab of hot heat barreling into my gums.  I jumped, and the dentist, startled by my reaction said, “You feel pain?” I nodded my head, vigorously. the dentist injected me with more Novocain, sending back to my blissful world of numbness.  The next thing I knew, the dentist stated, “Okay, all done.”  He looked at me with concern.  “You okay?” he asked.  “Looked like you fell asleep.”


Me?  Fall asleep?  Reclined atop this chair of horrors?

Yes, I had fallen asleep.  The drilling was over, some work left to be done by the assistant, who quickly picked at my tooth.  “I put a temporary filling in.  You need to come back in two weeks for your permanent filling”, he said flatly.  I nodded a reply.  It was over.  The pain that I had been feeling had been taken away by the dentist.  Later that evening, and for a few days after, I would feel pain where the dentist had operated, but nothing that kept waking me up every half hour.  The dentist had gone in with his Novocain, and I was cured.  What remained was a state of bliss.


I had experienced a transcendental adventure of biblical measure.  After enduring three days of mouth-curdling agony, my world was easing back into normalcy.  What now remained was an occasional dull ache, nothing I could not handle…and the thought that I could go back to my writing, and explain how my fear of going to the dentist, resulted in virtual nirvana.


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