It hasn't really been funny. It's been sad and it's been painful - for months. It's actually been so sad and so painful for so long, all I can really do is laugh now. Laugh at my never-ending dental construction. (Maybe it's the painkillers that make it funny - or maybe it's the ridiculousness.)

My friends and family ask me what I've been up to, and my response has been reduced to: "Not much. I went to the dentist again."

My life is so boringly regular, that I even bore myself. The cycle consists of dental visits, pain, painkillers, more dental visits, more pain, more painkillers, etc. I used to give out dates of when it might end and when I might move onto more interesting activities: September 17th, October 9th, some time around Thanksgiving, maybe some time before 2008 begins. Now, I don't bother with dates. I just hope that there will be an end - some day.

At first, everything was going well and as planned. Then funny things began happening. A hole in my dentist's glove and my crown sailing half-way across the room. (I can only suppose that it bit her and attempted a mad dash for freedom.) It did not succeed and was cemented firmly in my mouth.

The second crown arrived on the scene in an unstable condition. The first time it was x-rayed, it bowed to the left. The second time, it curtsied to the right. It wobbled on my tooth like a teeter-totter. So, it had to be sent back to the manufacturer. My gums were pushed back, impressions were remade.

And the funniest part: this was all done without Novacaine. Because that particular, sily molar has been nicknamed "she who cannot be numbed." I found this out when it had to be worked on the first time. After each injection, it was mere minutes before I could feel the drilling again. I decided bearing the pain and getting it over with quicker was much more preferable to repeated shots that were ineffective and just extended my time in the chair.

For that funny molar, the third time was the charm, when that properly manufactured, completely stable, unfunny crown found a permanent home. And I said an emotional goodbye to the temporary that had been with me for two long months.

Meanwhile, the third crown arrived on the scene and was not charming at all. The color was wrong, and since its place was on a front tooth, this would not do. I have yet to know if the third color match did the trick or not, because its placement has been put on indefinite hold. (More on that later.)

Between all these dental comedy of errors and permanent crown delays, I moved from chewing on the right side, to chewing on the left, to chewing in a small space in the front right area of my mouth very slowly and very carefully, because there were temporaries on both sides and in the middle too.

It looked like I might actually be finished with the construction in October and be able to eat like a regular person again, when I mentioned that the tooth with the root canal was still feeling twinges. It wasn't horrible pain. It didn't last. It was just annoying and I wondered about it.

Wondering landed me at an endodontist. And after a consultation, I was told that nothing was obvious on my x-rays or by looking directly at the tooth, but the bottom line was: it shouldn't hurt. And it could get worse, and it could be sudden, and I really should have the root canal redone.

So, last week I had a funny second root canal, the day after Halloween.

If you've had a root canal, you must be familiar with the blue balloon they stretch across a wire frame, then anchor in your mouth to isolate the tooth they are working on from your bacteria-laden saliva. If you've had a second root canal, you may be familiar with the chemicals they put in your tooth to remove the gutta percha. (And you may also be familiar with the sinking feeling that you have for paying out another $1000 for a procedure that has lower odds of being successful than the original procedure - which you know by now was definitely not successful. And you are wondering why you are a part of the 5% that failed. But no one seems to be able to tell you why.)

My tooth was x-rayed after the chemical cleaning, and I was told the bad news. Mine would be a difficult retreatment. There was more to remove, and it wasn't gutta percha, and it wouldn't be coming out with gentle chemicals. The tugging and yanking would soon begin.

I asked if I could take a bathroom break before the more physical portion of the program, and I was told: "Yes, but you will probably drool, since you can't close your mouth." The blue balloon on the frame was the problem.

My solution: tip my head up in the air as I walked to the restroom. What greeted me in the mirror was a face meant for the previous night. A drooling beast with gums shoved up and blood trickling between my three visible teeth. A monster eating a blue balloon kite. And I laughed. Because I couldn't have created a creepier Halloween costume.

As I walked back to the room, I hoped any small children I met on the way, would just think I enjoyed the holiday so much, I wanted it to last a day longer. But no one saw me. And no one handed me any candy either.

I just laid back on the chair and waited for the yanking to begin. The tools that they use to remove the Thermafil are so small, it's hard to believe they're the cause of my head being jerked back and forth. And the Thermafil itself looked as thin as a piece of floss once it was lying on the tray, torn free from my tooth. So much yanking for so little.

And then the funniest part of this entire process began: the tooth pain guidelines. I was told the following:

"Call us if you feel any unusual pain. Now, you will feel a lot of pain for the first two days. That's normal. Make sure you take this prescription to reduce the inflammation and the pain. By the third day, you should still be feeling pain (that's normal), but it should reduce slightly. If your pain doesn't reduce slightly, call us. Also, if you feel pain when you press your back teeth together, you should call us."

"But that tooth doesn't even touch any other teeth when my back teeth are together," I said.

"Exactly. That's why you should call if you have any pain. That means your bite is off. You should also call if you have any unusual pain."

"Like a sharp pain?" I asked. "Or pain that doesn't go away for some time."

"You are going to feel a dull, constant pain for at least a week. You shouldn't bite on that tooth at all during that time. Unusual pain would be pain up in the root."

I looked blankly. "Up here?" I asked, pointing to my gums.

"Also, if the gum swells after two days, take this prescription for an antibiotic."

"What should I do, if I'm still feeling pain in two weeks, when it's time for my next appointment?"

"Just come in. We'll put more chemicals inside your tooth and try again in two more weeks."

"That's going to be just before Thanksgiving week," I said. "Will the office be open then, if I am having any of that unusual pain?"

"There's a cell phone number you can call if you listen through the entire message," I was told. "Any other questions?"

"Is there anything I can do to improve the chances of this root canal working?" I asked. I was thinking about ayurvedic toothpaste and clove oil and warm salt water.

"No," they said. "You didn't do anything wrong to cause this. Just wait."

So, that's what I'm doing now, waiting until it's time for my next dose of painkiller, waiting for my next appointment, waiting for some sort of good news, waiting for my tooth construction to be completed, waiting for all of this to be funny, so I can look back and laugh with all my pretty, new teeth.

I did feel unusual pain after the procedure, but I didn't call their number, because it wasn't in my root or my gums. The unusual pain I was feeling was in my legs and my stomach. I felt like I had hiked for ten miles after doing an hour of crunches. I found this curious, since I haven't been able to exert much at all since the root canal. (When my heart rate increases, my gums throb. It's both cool to feel your pulse in your tooth and creepy, weird too.)

I finally figured out the cause of my unusual pain: bracing. I had tensed my body during the yanking to keep my head back against the chair. Otherwise, I might have been lifted up by my gums with one of those tiny, little, metal tools.

So, in the end, I didn't just get a second root canal. I got a Halloween costume and an abdominal workout too. Now, that's getting your money's worth.

February 2019
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In 2007, we moved to Austin, and this blog chronicled our adaptation to Texas life: festivals, wildflowers, and bats - oh my! Then we had a baby, and that changed everything, so now, we blog about where to buy organic food, what parks are fun for babies, which exterminator is taking care of our scorpion problem. (You know, the usual parental concerns.)


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