As I was pondering my impending root canal treatment, I envisioned the following imaginary dialog between the Devil and myself:
Devil: Well, I’ll give you a choice here, lad. You can either finish up this semester, or have a root canal.
Me: Hmm. Maybe I’ll go for the root canal.
Devil: Mwahaha! Why, I’ll let you have both! Because I’m just that
Me: Buuuuh… hey, wait!!
[Devil takes my twenty dollar bill and vanishes in the air. Fucker.]
Actually, the procedure wasn’t that bad—not too painful. There were some bad moments—-like listening to the crunching sound of hypodermic needle being pushed into my gums to apply anesthetic. And feeling something inserted way deep (20 mm) into my jaw, to the bottom of the root canal. And swallowing the spilled-over bleach they were using as an antiseptic in the tooth opening. This was in spite of them using a dental dam
(with a collar around the tooth) to limit the amount of antiseptic that got into my mouth. Incidentally, this is the first time I had actually heard or seen a dental dam being used for a… well… dental purpose. I’ve usually heard of them in their context as a prophylactic device.
The dentist was a relatively young guy; he seemed happy to chat and indulge my geekiness and interest in the procedure and dentistry in general. Before I my first consultation, I did a fair amount of web reading on root canal treatments—-if for nothing else, to keep my mind off the pain. So I tipped my hand early on—"Based on what I'm experiencing, it sounds like its time for RCT, right?” Also mentioned that I was doing engineering at UW--as a result, he spoke to my level. We talked about the shearing forces being the deciding factor on using or not using a post when installing a crown.
Although the tooth was blindingly painful over the previous weekend (as in: sip some water on the far side of my mouth and bang my head against the wall in response to the pain), it was a lot less sensitive the past few days. My understanding, based on web reading, is that this was the nerve dying: “Okay, so you’re not going to listen? Fine. I’ve had it. Piss off. See how you do on your own now. My half of the rent is on the fridge.” This was confirmed during the drilling-—there was a lack of bleeding when they opened it up, which is a sign of a necrotic tooth.
So now, I’ve got a manhole sized filling (okay, it’s about 8 mm in diameter, but compared to the size of the tooth, it’s friggin’ huge) in my back molar. The plan is to get it replaced with a crown: grad students might be getting dental coverage next term—I’ll wait to hear word on that.
The aftereffects of the sedative were not that bad. I was fully expecting to walk out of there sounding like John Merrick (“Aigh Emm Nawt en Aanimuh! Aigh Emm a Humann Beein!”) (Okay, I admit, that's a steal from Naked Gun
). It was interesting to find that, I assume, a specific nerve was sedated—there was a band of numbness only on the left side of my head to the centerline—jaw, tongue, lips, up the cheek—but not the upper jaw. The nervous system is like wiring; you can just trip the breaker for specific circuits. Well, I guess it did have some real effects. As I was walking down the street, I hawked up some spit to get rid of the residual bleach taste, and it mostly dribbled down my coat. Yeah, that looked cool.
So now… well… it hurts about the same that it did this morning—a bit of throbbing, and sensitivity to pressure. Okay, so if we just cored out all the living guts of the tooth, why the heck does it still hurt?
As an update to my progress for the semester: my 20-page term paper is done, backed up on two spindles, and I’m planning on printing it this evening. Need to finish the lab report, then this semester is in the can.