You wake up too early — just like every other morning for the last two months — with a toothache that would stop an eight-day clock, whatever that is. But today is different. Today, as impossible as it sounds, you feel even worse than the all the previous regular excruciating toothache-infested days put together.
You stumble to the bathroom convinced that you are either finally having that heart attack you’ve been worrying about, or the dog slept on your chest all night without your knowledge.
Then it hits you. ROOT CANAL! This is the morning that your root canal was scheduled way back two months ago when that miserable molar first conspired to make your life a living hell.
As discovered by a completely unscientific pole undertaken unscientifically by asking a few of my friends over beverages, “Getting a Root Canal” was rated the single worst thing that can happen to a human person, including “Getting your Tongue Stuck on an Icy Metal Fence”, and “Slipping off the Pedal of a Bicycle and Landing Square on the Crossbar of a Bike”. (All the survey respondents were male).
A “Root” (German for “intense”) “Canal” (French for “agony”) is a dental procedure based on the fact that apparently each tooth has a root, like a tree, only more painful, which is connected to the tooth via canals, like tiny rivers, only more painful.
So the idea is to drill a hole into the tooth, poke things like metal files into the root canals inside the tooth, thereby stimulating all the pain molecules, and then stuff expensive rubber string into the canal.
The last step is to put a cap on overtop, which is appropriately called a “crown” because it costs the same as one. But is way more painful.
Not to worry. I can offer some humble, yet worthless advice on how to actually enjoy a root canal.
First, when you are in the chair, and the dentist is pulling out a needle the size of an Olympic javelin, just before he says “you might feel a little pinch”, instead of focusing on the fact that someone is going to stab the inside of your mouth with a deadly device of torture concentrate on something “fun”.
Try thinking up a humorous little list of Things You Don’t Want To Hear Your Dentist Say when you’re having a root canal. Things like:
“We might be here for a while, this drill seems to be a lot duller than usual.”
“Hee hee hee — I’d give you a little Nitrous Oxide, but I just used up the rest of the tank myself!”
“My favorite film is Marathon Man, what’s yours?”
“I’m going to break for lunch now. My cousin Fred will take over; he’s always wanted to be a dentist.”
Then, once you are safely through the “freezing” portion of the ordeal, another fun thing you can do is to count the number of funny smells you experience.
Be sure to make a mental note to specifically name all the unusual dentist office smells using vivid descriptions that you will easily remember in the event of a law suit.
Things like: “the acrid odor of burning flesh”, “the reek of Scotch on his breath” or “the unmistakable whiff of unsterilized metal.”
Funny smells can be a wonderful distraction from the discomfort of dental procedures, especially if you have particularly strong gag reflex.
But at the end of the day, my best advice for a person facing a root canal has very little to do with distraction, positive thinking or avoidance behavior.
No, the best way to enjoy your root canal can be summed up in one word: chemistry.
Make sure you load up on every legal but powerful prescription you can get out of your Dental Care Specialist, well in advance of your visit.
Then and only then can you face the Spanish Inquisition with a bright smile and a toothache that is as ugly as a mud fence. Whatever that is.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer freelance wiriter.