I hate the dentist.
It’s not because I’m a coward or a chicken. I’m strong LIKE a girl (that’s right, not FOR a girl; I know what’s viral), and I can withstand a high level of pain. I’m no pussy. But when it comes to the dentist, I am basically a big fat baby. Everything the dentist does hurts. Spraying “air” on my teeth? I’d rather break a bone. “Tapping” with that pointy picky instrument of destruction at my gums? Torture. That new shooting water thing they use to clean your teeth that is like a high-powered stream of liquid nitrogen? Excruciating.
My teeth are sensitive to air, liquid, hot, cold, temperate; chewing anything crunchy, soft, hard, or medium; and to any level of touching. Breathing with my mouth open hurts (thankfully). Aside from causing my heart to race and sweat to drain from every pore of my body at the speed of breaking the sound barrier, novocaine does little except dull the pain for about six and a half seconds. There are spots in my mouth that, when touched, make me feel like I’m being electrocuted. I’ve asked every dentist I’ve ever had to replace my teeth with titanium studs, and I’m not joking. Sadly, none have agreed.
The unfortunate part of all of this is that I have shit teeth. I’m pretty sure every tooth in my head was filled by the time I could spell, and to date I’ve had two root canals and just about every molar is crowned. I’ve had each quadrant (dentist speak, yo) redone, which means old fillings excavated and new ones put in, at least four times. You’d think I’ve paid my dues. And yet, those little bastard remnants rot and die. I also grew up with a sadistic dentist who literally tortured me (so: MEMORIES. TRAUMA.), but that’s a whole nuther motha, people. Not happening today.
Anyway, a couple of months ago I started having the kind of pain you get in a tooth where you know you are being sent a signal from some deep primitive place in your cells that you don’t want to hear from. The pain critter that is like a physical manifestation of morse code for “something bad is on the horizon.” It starts out worse than the normal everyday live-with-it pain, and it builds. First it hurts more than usual when cold things hit it, and then it bleeds into warm and hot things, and then throbbing happens. And then, you can’t sleep.
When I get this type of tooth pain I go into a state of denial that I should like to bottle and sell. I can deny the shit out this tooth pain and convince myself that this pain isn’t really that bad. And, it’s probably going to GO AWAY. Hahahahahahahaha!!!!
Over the course of the next ten days I proceeded to behave like a normal person. I ingested all the pain pills I had in the house from every surgery I’d ever incurred, and somehow managed to not die. Next, I broke down and went to see the dentist, who prescribed a course of antibiotics, which I made my way through with the help of my friend Mr. Makers. Moaning and more sleepless nights happened, but no pain cessation. Finally, I called the endodontist.
By the time I arrived at the office of the endodontist, I was a little worked. I was in so much pain at this point that my brain was bubbling. I didn’t look very, um, fresh, let’s just say. And also, I was already sweating cuz dentistry was about to happen. The very nice dental assistant sweetly ignored my visage, showed me in, the doctor came in and examined me, and we all agreed that the best course of action was to go ahead and do the root canal that second.
I crazily turned to the nice lady and said, “YOU HAVE TO GAS ME!” She looked at me like I was some kind of wild animal. “Nitrous,” I managed. I think clarifying that I wasn’t asking her to kill me calmed her down, and she helped me understand that yes, they had the nitrous, and that yes, she would give it to me. The doctor then proceeded with the things: sunglasses, iPod+ headphones, tilting me back in the chair, and shooting me up.
As soon as the novocaine hit my bloodstream, I basically turned into this:
Dentist: Whoa there, how are you doing?
Me: I’m really hot.
Dentist: I can see that. How bout we clear out of here for a little bit and let you get some air while that novocaine does its job?
With that, he turned tail. The nurse set up THE TRAY, hooked me up to the nitrous, and she was right behind him.
Me: loooong yoga breaths. Cold but hot too. Sweating, sweating, sweating.
And then one of the nitrous delivery tubes sprang from it’s connector location and started flying around the room. I panicked and tried to grab it but it was like a chicken wing springing free. I hit the tray with the instruments, and sent them flying. Then the other nitrous tube flew out. Room filling up with nitrous, dentist tray with all those instruments all lined up in rows crashing to the floor. Loud and quiet and fast and slow. And now very, very, very sweaty.
The nice nurse ran in to address the commotion, and said only, “Oh my,” and then shut the door. “You don’t want us on the nitrous too, do you?! Though, that might be fun!” Then she went to work like a squirrel in the fourth dimension. Nitrous off; tubes reconnected; then back on; instruments off floor and whisked into some re-clean-later chamber; new tray out, replete with proper rows. Door open.
An hour later I was on my way and completely out of pain. I vowed to thank them by choosing a new endodontist next time. Cuz I know there’ll be a next time. Because at the end of the day I know that this root canal is how it’s going to be; how its always been. The pain comes in waves, small at first, and then big enough to knock you over and drag you out to sea. And if you’re lucky and strong enough, and most importantly, interested enough, you fight your way back to the shore. Maybe you even pause a few times along the way, rest in the sea’s arms, lie back, look up, take note of how weird and hard it is to be human and alive. Then, when you’re ready, gathering up the strength you can and swimming back.