Dental Drama

Oh, sure.  I’m just like the rest of you.  I used to sling the metaphors and similes around like an old coat.  So-and-so was like a root canal, I said breezily, too many times.  Worse than a root canal!  Ha, ha.  Wouldn’t I rather have a root canal than listen to that godawful speech?  Yes, I would.

I was cheap.  I was callous.  I had no idea.

Oh, but life gets back at you, doesn’t it, for your inane and ill-informed little comments over the years?  Yes, it does.

So there I was yesterday, my day of reckoning, stretched back in the chair, lights blazing, drill whining.  “Can you open your mouth wider?” my dentist wanted to know.  No, I could not.  I was already stretched into a clown-sized grin that made my jaws ache.  “Aaaggghhh,” I said.

He and the hygienist hunkered down, scraping and spraying and drilling.  What on earth were they doing?  When the dentist said this whole thing was going to take two hours, I thought it was a joke, a worst-case scenario.  I looked at my watch, which had evidently stopped.  I was beginning to understand something: a root canal is always a worst-case scenario.

To pass the time, my dentist began to explain what he was doing.  (He’s very cheerful.  He seems to love being a dentist.  On the whole, I’d rather see a cheerful dentist than one of those passive-aggressive creeps I’ve known in the past.  I have a long history with dentists, dating back to my first dental appointment in the 1950s, when the attendant told me how she’s gotten her mouth numbed and had bitten a hole in her tongue.)

But, anyway, the dentist explained.  “We’ve located your canals,” he said.  “And now we’re going to clean them out and reshape them a little.  Then we’ll fill them.”

Canals?  Cleaning, reshaping, drilling?  I decide that, on second thought, I would prefer not knowing the exact details of what is being done to my mouth.

“It shouldn’t take long,” he added, while I looked at my moribund watch once agan.  It appeared to be moving a little, but slowly, grudgingly.

After two hours — two hours to the second!  who says people aren’t punctual these days? — I am released.  I pay.  I stagger to my car.  I go home.

There, my daughter sympathizes with me.  I lie on the couch, a dental invalid, shapeless and moaning.  My husband comes home.  He brings me ice cream and pats my head.  He’s a dental phobic.  He says he doesn’t want to hear the gory details of my ordeal.  Since my mouth is still numb, I couldn’t tell him, anyway.

A root canal.  I’ll never toss that term around lightly, I can promise you that.  Life catches up with you and hammers at you and tortures you and teaches you a lesson.  This is why, come to think of it, I prefer metaphors to real-life experiences.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

1 comment… add one
  • As yes, the dreaded dentist. When I was a child, we were taken to a dentist who drilled our cavities without ANY kind of anesthetic – no shots, no gas, no nothing. It’s an absolute miracle he didn’t put the drill through our cheeks, with all the agonized writhing around we did. I suppose that’s why I’d have to be dying before I went to the dentist these days.

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