Root of All Evil

Okay. The title is sensational and overblown. We’re really talking about the roots of some minor personal discomfort is all. But it was my pain.

And when you hurt, it can seem like the universe of all that is sinister and foul is being poured into a cosmic funnel that ends up in your life–even if it is only one dying tooth in one human head. It’s your tooth, your personal and ever-present head, your life, and it becomes THE story of the day or week or however long it lasts until it’s run its course.

Mine ended yesterday, and a cliché has now dropped from my limited vocabulary: the sarcastic phrase “as much fun as a root canal.” My dental evil, at least, while it was not enjoyable, was not awful, and I was in no pain at all during or immediately after the hour with my mouth propped open like the hood of a car.

For diversion, I was handed the remote to the TV mounted in the corner of the ceiling, which, once the dental work started, could only be seen fleetingly under the dentist’s left armpit. The most soothing thing I could find to watch was the Australian Tennis Open. I muted the TV and pulled up the William Coulter channel on my Droid in my shirt pocket. I was thankful for the calming power of music, always there whenever the scream of tiny, shrill tools abated. (Listen to William Coulter and Friends at Grooveshark.)

The Novocain wore off about 8 last night, and I knew I wouldn’t sleep unless I did drugs. I don’t do drugs. To have a pharmacist in the house, we have a minimal number of prescription medications in our cabinet, and most of that is long out of date and culled regularly.

The endodontist prescribed Lortab. I gave in to the pain and took one about 8:30. The tooth stopped hurting, but about 9:15 I broke out into a cold sweat and wasn’t sure I’d be able to get up from my chair. I was 20 minutes from the end of a movie (Frankie and Johnny–Al Pacino and Michelle Pfiffer) and had to shut down the computer and stumble into bed. That one Lortab last night will do me for this brief bout of therapeutically-induced pain, the rest of the bottle will likely go stale before we need another one. Here’s hoping.

Point of all this is: if you have a root canal in your future, don’t get too anxious about it. Mine, at least, was not a big deal. So just think of it as getting a cavity repaired, only some other stuff goes on underneath the local anesthesia that you don’t really wanna know about. Just pay the man and be thankful.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. “getting a cavity repaired” YUCK that’s why I stay away from dentists. The sound and feeling of that drill makes me so tense that I’m aching all over, after about 5 minutes. I have a root canal in my future and I’m not sure I can handle a whole hour of that.

  2. I agree, Fred. I had my last root canal 15 years ago, it was no big deal, and I bet techniques are more refined now. I’m glad you had the same experience.

  3. I just had a double root canal on Thursday. Not a big deal at all. Mostly the next couple of days just felt like I was punched in the jaw. Glad I did it though, it was a piece of cake!

  4. It’s in the middle of the night and the dentist is still 8 hours away when it gets to you. Thing to do is keep rinsing mouth with ice water reduces blood flow to root and reduces pain. But once you stop it rebounds with double strength.