By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 2, 2015
My long dental odyssey may finally be drawing to a close.
Right after I had my root canal in early September, I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the endodontist. From what I can remember, I was told that the doctor would check on the tooth that had been rooted to make sure there were no signs of infection; if that was the case, I’d be sent back to my dentist for the (long-delayed) installation of my permanent crown.
What I hadn’t realized was that I would have to get doped up again for this rendezvous with the endodontist. Just as before the procedure at the beginning of the month, I’d need to take anxiolytics two hours before the appointment and over-the-counter painkillers one hour ahead of it; I’d also need someone to drive me to and from the appointment.
This was explained to me by the endodontist’s office on Tuesday of this week, a day ahead of my follow-up visit. I called a friend, but she was unable to help me out with the transportation. I resolved instead to walk to a local coffee shop a little before 8 a.m. Wednesday where I would take my pills and read until it was time to walk to my appointment, which was about a block away. I’d arrange for a cab to pick me up.
On Tuesday night, I hung a coat and a small green backpack — sort of a day bag, if you will — on one of the hooks on my front door. I put two books in the backpack; thinking again, I got two plastic bags and put the books inside them before returning them to the backpack, since the forecast for Wednesday included plenty of rain. (Although as it turned out, the day was relatively dry.)
Around midnight, I searched the house for the right bottle of anxiolytics — I’d initially been prescribed one type but had to get a second when that proved ineffective in a test. I found both bottles and compared them; the one that’d been filled on the later date also went into the backpack.
It took me a moment to remember where I’d put my Advil. For about a month, I’d traveled nearly everywhere with a bottle of the stuff in a black Targus backpack that was my main bag. However, when my six-year-old laptop gave up the ghost for good, a few days after the root canal, I basically retired the Targus.
Once my new laptop arrived, I decided to resume using my old green shoulder bag, in part because it struck me as seeming more professional than a backpack. (A secondary factor was that the loops on one set of the Targus’s zippers both broke around the same time as the laptop, meaning that I had to fumble to open and close the main compartment.)
As I hunted through my house, I recalled my summer toothache travails. If the Advil isn’t in my medicine cabinet, I thought to myself, that means that the Advil bottle is in my… I unzipped the wrong compartment of the backpack, cursed my foolishness, and then unzipped the right compartment.
Bingo! I put the bottle in my green backpack.
Wednesday went according to plan — sort of. Although it took me seemingly forever to fall asleep the night before my endodontist appointment, I woke up around 7 a.m. After reading in bed for a while, I climbed into the shower and started getting ready for my day.
I left the house a little after 8 a.m. and arrived at the coffee shop around 8:15 or 8:20. Once I had my tea in hand, I sat down, pulled out the bottle of anxiolytics and swallowed two. I considered taking more but decided against it; I didn’t want to doze off or otherwise be too dopey to walk to the endodontist’s office.
The next order of business was ordering a taxi. I did a few web searches and decided to book a cab with Charlene’s Safe Ride, a local cab company with a memorable name and some distinctively painted vans. That done, I went back into the coffee shop — I generally like to step outside of bars and eateries whenever I have cause to speak on the phone — and sat down with my smartphone’s web browser and Twitter application.
The phone occupied me until 9 a.m., when I pulled out my bottle of Advil. I checked the voicemail message, which said to take 400 milligrams of ibuprofen; accordingly, I swallowed two tablets.
The phone continued to occupy me until about 9:45 a.m., when I decided it was time to walk down to the endodontist’s office. The receptionist there asked about my driver; I told her that I’d walked, and that I’d booked a cab to pick me up at 11. She requested the cab company’s name and phone number; I looked the number up on my phone and supplied both pieces of information.
I sat down; moments later, I was summoned to the examination room. The doctor’s assistant asked about whether I’d taken the mediation as prescribed; I said that I had, although I noted that I’d actually ingested the anxiolytics 100 minutes before the appointment rather than two hours. The aide made a note but didn’t seem perturbed.
The doctor came into the room and asked me how my mouth was feeling. I said that aside from one stray incident, the rooted tooth seemed fine — there was no pain, no sensitivity to heat, no sensitivity to cold; I was able to chew on it without any issues.
The doctor mildly remonstrated that I wasn’t supposed to be chewing on the rooted tooth. I frowned to myself — I didn’t remember having been told that — but there was nothing to be done about it at that point.
One of the assistants switched out my eyeglasses for some tinted plastic spectacles. The doctor came in and made two injections into my lower right jaw — both times to anesthetize me, I believe. I got a bit nervous because the second injection pinched a bit, which the doctor had said would not happen.
A staffer placed a suction tube in my left hand, saying that I should use it when necessary. She told me I could turn it on and off by flipping the control level up or down. She asked me if I remembered this from the actual root canal; in fact, I didn’t, so I muttered, “Uh, no.”
Shortly afterward, the doctor and her assistant put some kind of plastic barrier over my mouth so they could work on my root-canaled tooth without exposing it to bacteria-laden saliva. I was warned that from that point forward, I couldn’t talk or close my mouth or breathe through my mouth, but I should wave my left hand if something bothered me. I nervously indicated my assent.
And then the doctor and her staff did their stuff. It didn’t take all that long, and there didn’t seem to be any complications. Not only did I not suffocate, a prospect that had concerned me before the main root canal procedure, my mouth was so dry that I didn’t even need to use the suction. I actually turned it on once or twice just to prove that I was a participant in the happenings.
After a little while, it was over. The doctor told me that if my dentist’s office didn’t contact me by the end of the day, I should call them on Thursday to schedule a time to get my permanent crown installed. That procedure would mark the true conclusion to my dental odyssey.
An assistant led me toward the lobby. When offered something to drink, I asked for some water and was handed one of those plastic fist-sized bottles. I picked out two pieces of chocolate from a bowl on the desk near the receptionist and stowed them in my coat pocket.
I sat down in the waiting room until my cab arrived. During this 15-minute interlude, I listened to a bit of staff chatter: Someone chewed out someone else for a scheduling miscue, which was a bit awkward for me to hear, and the receptionist told someone in the office that I was waiting for my taxi. (“It only took 45 minutes,” the receptionist said, or something close to that.)
The taxi driver phoned me when he was outside. Somewhat shakily, I stood up and walked out. A plain beige minivan was waiting for me — although, alas, not one painted with the characteristic logo. The driver warned me that there was a problem with the door, which was true, so my entry into the minivan was awkward.
I sat back as the driver drove about three blocks. When he pulled over, I asked how much; he told me $15. I handed him a bill and received a fiver in return; I dug a single out of my pocket and gave it to him. The driver suggested that I use the other door, and so I did.
And then I went to my front door and unlocked it and went inside and read some more stuff on my phone and took a nap.