Sunday, August 19, 2018

Face to face with a specialist

When you have a tooth that hurts, you probably do what I do—notify the dentist swiftly; within two years, tops. Time is of the essence, because the longer you wait, the longer you get to not be at the dentist. 

I went in last week because my gums seemed irritated, kind of inflamed, like I get when I accidentally go on Twitter. They did not see any gum problems, but they did identify that the tooth in question needed further investigation by...specialists. 

There is never a time when you want to meet a specialist. People who are special at things are trouble. My dentist made a point of not saying what the specialists specialized in. She is a professional.

Turns out they specialized in root canal. Root canal. Like Love Canal in the '70's, root canal is a phrase nobody wants to hear. I did not know anything about it except that, like videos of orcas eating penguins, it is supposed to be horrible. 

The specialist office was pristine, though. All black marble and dark wood, to make you think they like you. They put me in a standing position biting down on a rubber thingy and they ran an X-ray machine around my head to get a 3D image. I felt like airport security had suspected my head of something, and had singled it out for extra screening. 

The 3D made it clear—I needed a root canal. 

I always pictured a root canal being a canal they dig under your roots, like an open trench, a lot of gore. Much like that time I was sure "Gremlins 2" would surpass the quality of the original, I was wrong. It didn't even hurt.

My tooth had a crown on it, so they had to drill down through that (dude was changing drill bits like Will Rogers doing rope tricks.) They cleaned out the infection, and filled the gaps with plastic of some kind (and I was glad, because at least it wasn't going into the ocean), and then topped that off with a temporary filling. 

There was smoke. I had smoke coming out of my mouth. Nobody acted like that was unusual, so I didn't either.

They could have totally screwed up, and accidentally set my tooth on fire, but I'll never know. This is what being raised to be polite gets you. 

I still have to go back to my dentist in a few weeks and get this filling ground out so they can put in a permanent one. I am not sure why the specialists are not authorized to put in a permanent one. Maybe it's a union thing. 

So the upshot is, I advise everyone to get a root canal, mainly so you have an instant conversation starter, like women who have been through childbirth. 

Somebody will overhear you and be all, "Oh, you had a root canal? Mine took five hours. They burned through three drills, they ran out of that plastic filler and had to use Spackle, a hygienist died!"

"Did smoke come out of your mouth?"

"Smoke? Are you nuts? What kind of animals worked on you?"

The oddest part of the whole thing was the big screen TV on the wall showing a home remodeling channel during the whole procedure, I guess to take your mind off things. I couldn't hear it, but it is a little bizarre to watch people fix up kitchens through a haze of your own oral smoke. 

Bizarre seems to be the new normal these days, though, just in general. I guess it's time my mouth got with the times.