My root canal!

September 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 4, 2015

If I was distressed by the prospect of getting dental work done back in June, it’s fair to say that my emotions were hovering just a smidge under absolutely terrified prior to the root canal that I had Thursday afternoon.

(Spoiler alert: Reader, I lived!)

A tooth near the back of my lower jaw on the starboard side of my face had been slated to get a crown. But when the dental hygienist first installed a temporary crown in July, the bite wasn’t right — the temp was too tall. I suffered with discomfort for a few days before returning to get things adjusted.

The dentist filed the corresponding tooth on the upper jaw to reduce the extent to which it came down; the hygienist then made additional adjustments to the temp. Because I was scheduled to leave for a vacation, the office arranged for me to return that Friday to have the crown permanently installed, something which I’d otherwise intended to get done upon my return in early August.

That visit did not go well. My tooth was extremely sensitive, to the point that the dentist referred me to an endodontist rather than put on the permanent crown. The temporary was put back on and there things stood…

I did not immediately make an appointment with the endodontist. First it turned out that neither of the ones recommended to me were in-network providers on my dental insurance plan. Then it turned out that, apparently, zero endodontists in the state of North Carolina are in-network providers on my plan. Finally, after I resolved to make an appointment with the endodontist who was closest to my home, I had to make repeated calls before I found a time when the office was open.

At any rate, I had a consultation on Monday, Aug. 24, at which I was told (to precisely no one’s surprise) that I would need a root canal on the tooth in question. The endodontist and her assistant also explained what the root canal entailed.

The frightening thing about the procedure was that congested ol’ me would have to breathe through my nose for about an hour while a rubber dam covered my mouth during the root canal. (The dam, if that’s the right term, isolates the tooth that’s being drilled so that vulnerable membranes aren’t exposed to bacteria-laden saliva.)

The endodontist told me to make a doctor’s appointment to see about clearing up my breathing; she also instructed me to return to the dentist to have the temporary crown reattached with permanent cement.

I arranged to have a root canal on Sept. 3. I also began trying out the anxiolytics that she prescribed. (The first type didn’t seem to have much of an effect; the second one made me feel as though I’d been drinking.) And I made appointments with my dentist and general practitioner.

The dental visit, which took place on the final Friday afternoon of August, turned out to be relatively routine. It was also brief and painless. That was great.

Except that on Saturday afternoon, while I was munching on some popcorn, the permanently cemented temp crown popped right off. I removed the loose temporary, put it aside and finished my popcorn. (I was careful to chew on the left side of my mouth.) Then I placed the temp in the popcorn bag, where it was kept company by a few loose unpinned kernels, labeled the bag CROWN — Do not discard!, folded it up and put it in my back pocket.

The crown’s loosening surprised me. It had stayed in place for something like a month with supposedly temporary cement. (Granted, I had to down painkillers at regular intervals for two or three weeks in late July and early August.) And then, almost exactly one day after supposedly permanent cement was applied, the thing pops out? Well, go figure.

On Monday morning, I called the dentist’s office and made a second appointment to get the temporarily crown reinstalled. The appointment was for 3:30, about 90 minutes after my previously scheduled appointment with my GP.

The moment the doctor walked in and I spoke to her, she thought that I sounded terribly ill. “No,” I said*, “I’m really fine. I’m just here to try to clear up my nasal congestion.” I explained about the upcoming root canal.

The doc did an examination and made some recommendations. Then I was off. A short time later, I trudged up to the dentist’s office.

Oy vey, did that visit turn out to be a nightmare. Because my regular dentist wasn’t working that day, I was treated by another doctor and another hygienist. I couldn’t help but fear there would be some miscommunication that would conjure disaster. That wasn’t the case, but almost everything they did, including simply applying the numbing agent, felt exquisitely painful. It was a much longer, and much more discomfiting, visit than Friday’s rendezvous.

Still, the crown hung in there…

Fast forward to Thursday. My friend X— stopped by my house for a quick tour. Then, at her request, we went to Scrap Exchange, a creative reuse center where we used to go on the regular when we dated. X— was ecstatic to revisit Scrap Exchange’s new home. She picked out a small bowl, a few cloth cocktail napkins and what seemed to be a slightly battered but beautiful 19th-century Wedgewood pitcher. (It was available for $20, but items in good condition can evidently sell for more than six times that amount.)

After a while, we left for lunch. X— was not in the mood for sushi, so we headed downtown to a restaurant called Revolution, another regular haunt when we were dating. At 1 p.m., before the meal arrived, I took my prescribed medicine.

She had salmon and salad; I had tagliolini and mussels. This was my first exposure to this type of pasta, which is thick and long and not dissimilar to a plate of snakes. And then… you know, I’m not sure what we did after that. I have memories of going to a coffee shop, but they’re extremely vague.

I guess the medicine was doing its thing to my brain, because I remember almost nothing of the afternoon. X— escorted me into the endodontist’s office. X— said goodbye. I was ushered into the dentist’s chair and injected twice in the lower jaw with anesthetic.

And then, apparently an hour or so later, someone asked me how my nap was. The endodontist or one of her assistants handed me a small, clinical-looking sealed bag containing my crown, which had fallen out again.

I shakily rose from the chair and teetered over to the receptionist’s desk to schedule my follow-up appointment. As I was doing that, my friend D— came in. He drove me home. He offered to walk me to the door, but I said I was fine… and I was.

I went inside my house, put down my backpack, took off my shoes and crawled into bed. I texted X— and my parental unit to let them know that the root canal seemed to have gone fine. Then I put my head on my pillow and closed my eyes.

I woke up shortly after 12:30 a.m. so I could urinate. I changed into my bedclothes; ate some soup, a piece or two of fruit, and some yogurt; and went back to bed at some point — it was either around 1:15 a.m. or 2:15 a.m.

I slept until around 8:30 a.m.

My jaw feels a bit sore, but no other complaints.

Thank! Goodness!!!


Standard disclaimer: Since I wasn’t taking notes or making recordings at the time of these events, all dialogue and thought bubbles are guaranteed to be only kind of, sort of accurate. Fortunately for you, the valued reader, this free blog comes with a money-back guarantee! 

One Response to “My root canal!”

  1. Julie Says:

    Glad you survived Matthew! Does not sound like fun events leading up. Hope all the pain is gone forever now.

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