What is it about dentists that so terrifies us? After all, they will numb you up with Novocain. Perhaps it’s the thought that somehow your dentist will put you in a headlock and forcibly drill your teeth when you are not numb, remember Szell from Marathon Man? If not, check out the video clip at the bottom of this post.
I recently underwent a surprise root canal. I saw surprise, because the dreaded procedure was not even in my thoughts when I walked into the dentist on Monday. The previous week I done something stupid. I chewed on ice. Children, listen up. No matter how many of the cool kids are doing it, don’t chew ice. Don’t believe me? Watch Marathon Man.
Anyway, over the weekend, as the pain grew more acute, I narrowed the pain to a crown on my lower left side (number 19 for you future dentists). I thought maybe the crown needed to be refit or even replaced. Wow, was I in for a surprise. When the dentist told me she had to perform a root canal, my first thought was of Szell leaning over me and whispering “Is it safe?” Then of course I thought of Steve Martin from Little Shop of Horrors.
Ultimately, when the three shots of Novocain hit, I didn’t care anymore. The pain was gone. (One surreal moment I had after the treatment was drinking from a water bottle and not feeling the left side of the bottle.) My fascination with how all things work took charge. I asked as many questions as the cotton in my mouth would allow.
Just before she drilled, but after I was numbed up, I was handed a legal form to sign. I read through this, much to the dismay of the dental hygienist, who had to wait to proceed. Perhaps if I had known more about the procedure, I might have balked at the wording. They mentioned having bits of the tool break off. I had thought that unlikely. Now, knowing how the tools work, not so much.
You see, your dentist drills down to the root. In my case, through the crown, flinging slivers of gold all over my mouth. Then she uses this little file, a bit like a bottle brush, to scrape out the root. Although I couldn’t feel the pain, I could sense the scrubbing. The most awkward part was the constant X-rays. For several of theses, the dentists left these files, called a broach file, in the tooth. It was like having acupuncture needles jutting out. I had to keep my mouth open so as not to impale the roof of my mouth.
Now that the procedure is over, and the roots are history, my mouth has reacted to all the punishment it was dealt. My left side has broken out in canker sores from the areas the dentist and her assistant leaned on. These are almost more annoying than the sore tooth. I have to eat entirely on one side of my mouth until the new crown is attached. Add to this the sensitivity of the sores, and you have on unhappy diner.
As to whether it’s safe, hard to say. Although if I were Dustin Hoffman, I would agree to pretty much anything under those conditions. Eli Roth has nothing on Szell.