Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ode To a Root Canal

As I type this, I’m just now beginning to get feeling back in the lower-right section of my face. I just got back from a root canal. For some time now, I’ve been having a good deal of pain with one of my teeth. I was prolonging going to the dentist as much as possible because I’m a cheapskate and every once in a while my teeth problems take care of themselves.

But Christmas is approaching and a significant part of my holiday celebrating involves feasting on delicious food. Especially certain items we only have this time of year. I really don’t know why that is. If we like certain foods why do we have to wait until Christmas to enjoy them?

But I digress, (I do that, don’t I?) The pain was approaching unbearable levels and actually drove me to tears last week before I finally went to the dentist. If I was ever going to enjoy eating and drinking again something had to be done.

So I went in to have things looked at. The pain had gotten so bad I could no longer isolate it to one individual tooth. The whole right side of my mouth was in agony. This meant the dental visit involved tapping, scraping, and rubbing with ice each individual tooth so they could determine which tooth was causing the problem.The verdict was a root canal and then an eventual crown to hold all the repair work together.

I would have been more scared if I hadn’t already had a root canal several years ago. It is a very involving procedure taking around 90 minutes on average, but not much worse than a good-sized filling. And to be able to enjoy food and hot or cold drinks again, was well worth 90 minutes of agony.

My appointment was set up for this week. I’ll try to spare most of the gore for those of you with squeamish stomachs, but if you’ve never had this done, it is really quite fascinating what this involves.

First, you get copious amounts of Novocain injected. For me this is always the worst part of any dental procedure. I donate plasma twice a week and think nothing of it, but those shots in my mouth send me through the ceiling. I really hate them.

That done, they proceed to clamp a very stretchy piece of rubber over the tooth so that only the part being worked on is exposed and the rest of the mouth is covered with a stretchy raincoat. It’s not painful when they put it on, but it feels extremely weird and unpleasant.

The Novocain finishes it’s magic leaving the injected area numb and swollen. Then the fun begins. The dentist now needs to drill out the canal area and all the nerve tissue. The only difference between this and a regular filling is the drilling does go pretty deep. Novocain only does so much so as they clean out more of the interior of the tooth, they need to reapply the medicine so the process continues to be pain free.

I have to say my dentist really is a master at this. He knew exactly when to halt the proceedings and get me some more medication. I won’t go so far as to say it was a pleasant experience but he was really good at trying to make it as painless as possible.

When the excavation is complete, they proceed to fill in the cavity with an inert material. (i.e. stuff which allows me to chew without pain) Then, they took an X-ray to check the filling was complete.

They’ve got these digital pictures now so you can see the X-Ray on the screen right after they push the button. It was cool. There were three canals since it was a back tooth. It looked like the three claws on one of those crane games you see in arcades that never ever give me any stuffed animals.

And that is basically it. Eventually, I’ll need a crown but that needs to wait until next year as I’ve maxed out my coverage. I’ve got a temporary filling covering it up and that is supposed to get me through the next couple months until I can go in for the crown.

The other uncomfortable part for me is the amount of saliva I tend to generate. I seemed to have inherited an everlasting fountain in my mouth. The dentist and hygienist assured me this is a good thing and generally means fewer problems with dry mouth as I get older but it makes me feel like a slob as spit is running down both sides of my mouth.

But oh the joy when the Novocain started to wear off and my mouth felt normal again. To eat without pain is a marvelous thing. I went home that night and grilled some good sized brats. Yes, I was grilling brats in this weather. We also had some cheesy company potatoes leftover from a previous meal so I had a healthy scoop of those as well. It was amazing to be able to bite and chew again without agony.

Bring on the Christmas goodies!