Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Short Trip Down The Root Canal




He called it virginal, my dentist did, meaning only untouched. Which is not to say it was innocent. In fact, like any virgin it wiggled a bit and caused a certain kind of swelling. Root canal, my dentist concluded, calmly writing out a referral to an endodontist.

I write this because I think root canal has gotten a bad rap. For those who ordinarily simply fear dentistry, the words root canal raise the specter of sheer terror. Perhaps the rap is spread through stories like that of my neighbor – an otherwise fairly insane woman – who had a root canal done two years ago without anesthetic. Her dentist said he had to be guided by how things were feeling as he did the work. I think I would have guided his jaw down to the end of my fist.

For those of you who are novices at this, here’s my first point: It doesn’t hurt. Your dentist will put a bit of topical anesthetic on your gum to numb it, and then inject a more vigorous anesthetic at the site of the tooth.

Your dentist will then begin a bit of excavation on the tooth looking for the little tunnel that holds the root. Once they find it, they pull that puppy out, clean things up a bit if there’s been an abscess or infection, then fill it up and you’re done.

Here’s my second point: that excavating and that cleaning need to be done with a great deal of care (and some really jazzy equipment) so that healthy parts of the tooth aren’t damaged. Thus, the procedure can take a long time and you can become really bored. Sometimes it can also take multiple visits which essentially just compounds the boredom.

Essentially, though, a root canal can save a tooth that would otherwise have to be extracted, and – continuing the virginity theme – once you lose the thing it doesn’t grow back.

Here’s my third point: It doesn’t hurt.

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