COVID Times: When a Root Canal Becomes a Social Outing

Paddle the Island 2021, the sign-up board

I needed a root canal.

It took one hour and fifty-two minutes from the moment I sat in the dentist’s chair to the time I got out of it. Not bad. Although, in that time I could’ve paddle boarded almost twice around Barker’s Island.

At first my dentist said he’d do a temporary root canal because it could take one to two months for me to see an endodontist who would do a permanent root canal. “You can’t have a toothache that long,” he said. I admired his philosophy about toothaches. A week had already been too long.

He drilled through my crown, surveyed the roots, and declared, “I can do this. It’s an uncomplicated root canal, but I don’t know until I see the roots.”

Besides presenting with cooperative roots, my other contribution during this procedure was holding my mouth open for almost two hours. But during another wave of COVID-19, I decided my trip to the dentist’s office should also count a social event for me.

My dentist is friendly, so between his wizardry with the dental tools, we chatted. I’m infinitely curious about almost anything involving tools. My dentist was happy to explain the procedure as he went.

So, I have root canal highlights to share. (Go ahead and make your oxymoron jokes.)

I liked the sound made by a drill small enough for Tom Thumb to use. The tiny drill, used for drilling into roots, held a thread-thin bit curled in a perfect spiral. It sounded like the hand-powered drill I use for minor jobs around the house. Both the dentist and his assistant were amused that anyone would find the sound of a dental drill pleasing. I got their point because it was the first dental drill I’ve liked.

There’s a drill bit called the White Shark. I didn’t need that one. Good thing. I saw Jaws as a teenager, and decades later I still have no desire to swim, surf, or sail in ocean waters.

There’s a drill bit called the X Bit. Rarely used, it’s for drilling into the jaw of a patient who isn’t getting numb using the normal techniques. My dentist doesn’t like to call it the X Bit because he thinks it sounds scary. Instead, he calls it “the fun drill” when he asks the assistant for it. I wondered if some patients might interpret “the fun drill” as verbal irony when they hear him request it. I didn’t need that one either. Double good thing. I saw too many Frankenstein movies as a child.

“Your tooth only has three roots; some teeth have four,” he explained.

“My tooth isn’t like Venice if it only has three canals,” I said.

He asked why.

“Because Venice has four canals,” I said.

“Really? I’ve never been to Venice.” He believed my three-canal line.

I couldn’t string him along, so I told him, “I making this crap up,” and we laughed like we were sitting on a patio with friends and family, drinking beer, and sharing funny stories. (Venice has 177 canals. I looked it up when I got home.)

After my roots were drilled clean of all dead and dying matter, he said, “Now I use Smear Gear to clean out any leftover debris from the canals.” The name Smear Gear (its real name) cracked me up. In word-association mode, I thought about childhood games of smear the guy with the football where we mercilessly tackled the person with the ball. No protective gear was used.

Next, he told me he had to fill my canals with a rubber from South America. (Its funny-sounding name didn’t stick in my brain.) At first, I thought he was joking, getting back at me for my four-canals-in-Venice joke, but it turned out he was serious.

“Tell me you use a tiny caulk gun to insert the rubber in the root canals,” I said. “That would be adorable.”

“Actually,” he said, “It looks like a tiny glue gun, and it heats up the rubber.”

Sure enough, when he used the rubber gun, it sounded like when I pump the trigger on my glue gun.

After my roots were filled, the dentist capped the hole in my tooth, checked my bite, and asked if I had any questions. I didn’t. The assistant removed my bib, raised the back of the dental chair, and said to call if I had any concerns. I said I would. The three of us said goodbye and wished each other a nice day.

My social outing was over.

But I’m having my teeth cleaned in November, and if the COVID numbers don’t drop, that will be my next big social shindig.

1 thought on “COVID Times: When a Root Canal Becomes a Social Outing

  1. It’s kind of amazing to look at a trip to the dentist as a social outing, but I agree, that during this odd time (covid) my last dental cleaning was indeed as good as a coffee chat! Historically, dental appointments have always been the last thing on my list and the first thing to cross off if I could find ANY reason to cancel!
    I have been going to the same building to see a dentist for over thirty years. First it was called Schroeder Dental Clinic, and then fifteen years ago when Dr. Schroeder wanted to retire, he brought in his son and daughter-in-law. Its now called Schroeder Family Dental Clinic. I have heard of their children’s antics long before I was a grandmother, and now they laugh when I talk about my grandson Charlie.
    I’m not saying I look forward to the dentist, but I don’t mind the outing so much…and last month, I took Charlie for his first appointment! For him it WAS definitely a social outing!

    Liked by 1 person

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