Fortunately, I don’t have dentaphobia or fear of dentists even though I have good reasons to have it. Maybe I’ve just become numbed to dentistry because of the numerous times I’ve had work done in my mouth. In addition to fillings on all my molars, I have had five gold crowns, now four. How I went from five to four and a porcelain crown was a major ordeal.
One morning I noticed a lump at the left side of my upper gums. It wasn’t painful, but it was distracting because it soon became a toy for my tongue. I put off worrying about it until the next teeth cleaning appointment.
The hygienist noticed the abscess right away. After she finished cleaning the teeth, she mentioned it to my dentist. He looked concerned and ordered x-rays. After examining the images, he told me that I needed to have the crown on the troublesome tooth replaced, but a deep root canal would be necessary. He recommended treatment by an endodontist.
This type of specialist was something new to me. I mentioned that all my previous root canals had been done by a previous dentist. Why did I now need to visit an endodontist? The dentist told me that this new abscess was serious and because that tooth had had numerous work done on it already, the new root canal would take a very long time, more than he could put into his very busy patient schedule. That said, I needed some other work, so he would need to see me several more times in addition to the visit to the endodontist.
The afternoon of the endodontist appointment was a couple of weeks after the first treatment by my regular dentist. I was introduced to the endodontist and his assistant, then I was seated in the operating chair. Right away, I noticed that most of the equipment and tools were behind the chair and not at one side. A normal dental light on a swing arm was above the chair plus some sort of sophisticated optical equipment.
Digital x-ray images were taken. Out came the long needle to inject the novocaine. While everyone waited for my mouth to numb, I was shown the images on a monitor. The doctor pointed out the areas where he had to work and described what he needed to do. Since my regular dentist had already done preliminary work, the endodontist explained that this procedure would be shortened somewhat. I removed my eyeglasses and the assistant placed tinted protective lenses over my eyes, then I opened my mouth for the operation.
The endodontist observed his work through some sort of binocular scope during most of the procedure. The entire time, he and the assistant stood behind me for the drilling.
Due to the fact that the bone was affected, the work was to be extensive. After an hour-and-a-half, the endodontist paused for a break and asked if I could go another hour-and-a-half or should they schedule a second appointment. Right away, I said he should continue so we’d be done with it in one go.
On and on he drilled, pausing only once more in order to inject a little more novocaine. The only discomfort to me was having to keep my mouth open for such a long time. The assistant massaged my jaw muscles, and that helped a lot.
Finally, the drilling stopped. The assistant put a wad of cotton in my mouth and allowed me to rest. The doctor said they were ready to put on a temporary crown. The ordeal was nearly over.
At last, the endodontist cleaned and dried the tooth, inserted the filling materials, then prepared the tooth for the temporary crown. The rest of the work would be completed the following week by my regular dentist.
It was rewarding to finally climb off the chair, pay for the operation, and walk outdoors.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders this quip from humorist-columnist Cynthia Heimel: “Homework, root canals, and deadlines are the important things in life; and only when we have these major dramas taken care of, can we presume to look at the larger questions.”