Thank you, everyone who has messaged me to ask if I am all right. I hadn’t realized I’d neglected my blog for nearly a week! I’d meant to post, but life happened. Last week, my dentist gave me the highly unwelcome news that I needed a root canal. As in now.
I’m not fond of dentists at the moment.
I’m not too proud to admit that I started crying right there in the dentist’s office, lying backward while he and the hygienist fussed over my x-rays and records. The squeeze on my shoulder, the pat on my arm (they sat on each side of me, so comfort–and kleenex–came from both sides), and the practical advice on options helped me to blink back tears and focus on solutions. I spent the weekend re-doing my finances and finding ways to squeeze the necessary blood from stones, and yesterday I arrived, terrified, for my first root canal.
My First Root Canal. It sounds so gentle, doesn’t it? Like Elmo’s First Parade or Cookie Monster’s First Carrot (poor thing). Yet I trembled in the lobby as the endodontist’s (a word I hope I never have to use again) receptionist took my information. I leaned against the wall as she made phone calls trying to determine whether their patient chairs were made of leather. (I wish I could find a way to convey my leather allergy without making businesses feel they have to justify using synthetic leather. Fake leather is a godsend for someone like me.) In case you’re wondering, Ultraleather is not real leather. Thank goodness.
Still, just to be on the safe side (I think the receptionist didn’t want to admit that the leather was not real), she had the patient chair swathed in a thick, furry blanket. As I gripped the edges of the blanket, an assistant and the endodontist took new x-rays and got to work.
“This is a mean one,” said the endodontist as he lowered an enormous anesthetic needle into my mouth. Was it ever! I was grateful for the softness of the blanket and for the pre-numbing jelly swabs. Two long, painful injections later, my lips turned numb and I cringed while submerged under a teal blue “dental dam” (“dental” and “dam” are words I wanted to use, but not in that order!). The assistant hadn’t explain what she would do before coming at me with the rubbery sheet, and I fought panic as she immobilized my jaw and robbed me of speech.
“I wonder if this is what it feels like to be gagged,” I thought, casting my thoughts toward something, anything to distract myself. The medical establishment and I don’t get along that well, and I wish she had given me a chance to ask questions or say last words before she shut me up. Irrationally, at the same time I tasted something sweet from the rubbery sheet. I wondered whether it was a small kindness to the silenced patient, a hint of palatable flavor to soften the blow.
The endodontist was as good as his word, and I felt none of the pain I’d expected. I did cringe at the fingernails-against-chalkboard scraping and squealing, but I only felt the pain of keeping my jaw stretched open. “Take pain medicine in an hour, before the anesthetic wears off,” the assistant said, and anti-drug Ana made a beeline for the nearest store. I don’t like medication, but I’ve heard enough horror stories to risk medicine side effects rather than the throbbing, splitting aches and headaches.
Word to the wise: don’t search online for “ways to minimize root canal pain” when recovering from a root canal. I read far more horror stories than I ever want to see in my life. Still, I didn’t want to take a second dose of pain medicine unless absolutely necessary. I resolved to wait the full six hours (extra long for extra strength medicine), and at the five-hour mark I wavered. Did I feel all right because of the medication, or did I feel fine because the root canal was no big deal? (Clarification: “fine” meant baking bread, making soup, washing laundry, and working on a new writing project. Sometimes distraction is the best pain management.) I resolved to wait. One hour later, almost as soon as I took the next medicine, I regretted my decision. I struggled to focus on anything but the waves of pain.
Fortunately, unlike some of the horror stories I’ve read/heard, I slept through most of the night and did not wake up in agony. I took pain medicine right away (learned my lesson), and am crossing my fingers that the second and third days are not indeed progressively more painful. The endodontist’s and dentist’s cheery reassurances, “A root canal doesn’t hurt any more than a filling!” have been proven a lie, but I’m hoping not a complete one.
In unrelated news, I’ve found a small bottle of red wine in my fridge from…oh…last June. (Can you tell I don’t drink? :P) I bought the wine (the first in many years) for a friend’s visit, but we didn’t drink very much. I’ve been told I may now be the proud owner of red wine vinegar, or that I may need to throw it out as unsafe. I wish I liked to drink as an antidote to pain. 🙂
Have you ever had a root canal? How do you deal with pain? What advice do you have for recovery?
(I may be scarce this week as I try to catch up on lost work days, but please don’t worry. I’ll be back up and running in no time.)