Yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon in the endodontist’s chair. You might recall I had some problems in December and January and my dentist and I agreed that a watchful waiting strategy was the most appropriate. I watched and waited and the condition didn’t resolve itself so I determined that I needed to get it taken care of.
I had never had any major dental work done. I have all of my wisdom teeth. I have a handful of fillings, most of them more than fifty years old. Other than that and the twice annual cleaning—nothing.
If you’ve ever had your drains routed, you have a pretty good idea what a root canal is like, just with smaller tools. The dentist drills through the surface of the tooth to expose the pulp or, in my case, what’s left of it. At that point he measures the depth of the roots of the tooth and, using files the thickness of a good-sized thread, he files away the necrotic tissue. The now-hollow tooth was then filled with medicated something-or-other and given a temporary filling. If all goes well in three weeks he’ll remove the temporary filling, remove the medicated something-or-other and fill the space with gutta-percha, the bio-inert sap of a tree, a form of natural latex.
So far, so good.
I think I had the endodontist a bit spooked. Apparently, I don’t process pain the way other people do. I tend to experience a lot more pain for a given level of stimulus than I gather most people do. In some cases I experience pressure as pain. In other cases I don’t feel pain where other people might. I also tend to replay past pain. Once I’ve been in pain, it never really goes away.
I’ve become accustomed to putting up with a good deal of pain. Whatever I felt, I just had the endodontist carry on. The whole experience wasn’t any worse than a typical cleaning. That’s not saying a good deal. Some of my cleanings have been pretty excruciating. Now we’ll see. I hope to keep this tooth. I’m sort of attached to it.