Sooo Friday I had two root canals. Yes, you read that right. Two root canals on the same day. On the same tooth.
It was a day that went from bad to worse to worser, before ending up feeling like victory.
It began with molar #3 and what felt like a pus bag under my right eye. My entire jaw ached. I went to the dentist and she said it looks like you need a root canal. Somehow that information sounded comforting because it was at least an answer to the pain. She sent me home with a script for antibiotics. Thus, began my search for a dentist who performs root canals on people with no money.
I found someone who goes by The Root Canal Doctor on the internet here in Chicago. Maybe I’ve read too many books about the holocaust, but a doctor dedicated to root canals? His website said to just sit back and relax—I’d be in good hands. Again, the words relax and root canal seem like an oxymoron. One is not like the other.
At noon Friday I hopped on my bike and after a block it began to sprinkle. I could deal with it because I told myself if I was late I’d be fined $50. If they had to reschedule me it would be an additional fee. I wasn’t going to be late because The Root Canal doctor was the cheapest in the city. By the time I cleared an intersection the sprinkles had become a full-blown rain. After a mile the rain was a down pour and yet I kept going. I really really wanted this root canal. I arrived soaked through and through.
In the pouring rain I rushed into an office. The woman behind the desk was completely sympathetic. You poor thing! Can I get you anything? I asked for a coat; I was shivering. We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes and I thought this place is GREAT! Finally I counted out $385 dollars in cash onto the counter. She looked confused. What’s this? I panicked—did they need more? For the root canal, I answered.
We’re Root Realty. You need the office next door. Sheesh in the rain all I could see was the word ROOT on the window out front. I snatched up the soggy bills and left in a hurry. I was worried about being late.
After being buzzed in next door I took a seat and filled out a form and handed over the money once more. I left puddles wherever I stood or sat. On the way down the hallway to his office my shoes made squish-squish sounds. I apologized to the dentist telling him I was soaking wet. No problem! We have plastic on the seats.
I begged for a towel I saw in a cupboard. So as I sat shivering beneath a towel and that heavy apron you wear when being x-rayed I had the feeling I was about to mildew. He probed and prodded and kept up a running verbal commentary that in all his years of practice as The Root Canal Doctor he’d never seen a tooth as bad as mine. Yet he seemed enthusiastic. He’d give it a go.
Yet . . . in the end my tooth defeated him. In total after an hour and a half and leaving part of an instrument that broke off in my tooth (no worries he assured me, it's titanium, it'll be okay) and chipping pieces of the tooth as he attempted to drill deeper into the roots, and after pronouncing that this was the worse case he’s ever worked on he gave up. Oh, and he also said my tooth was killing his instruments. A quote: it’s eating my tools. I imagined a monster. I’ve never seen a dentist so glad to hand back money. He said I can’t do this. No root canal, no money. He seemed genuinely sad and perplexed.
So I left, riding home on rain-washed streets feeling like a loser. How did I get to this place?, I wondered. I was old, vulnerable, a contagion. I pedaled slowly, seeing my life flash before me.
Then—at 6:15 p.m. The Root Canal Doctor called me on my cell—do you feel like giving it another go? I can’t stop thinking about your tooth. I’d like to give it another try. I was on my bike in a hot minute. Wow, he said, that was fast. You have no idea how much I want this, I responded.
For another two hours he worked. He asked a couple times, do you need a break? Mostly I shook my head no. Keep going!
The end of the story is: He saved my tooth. He was able to get down to the bottom of two of three roots and clear out the infection. This man is my hero. He gave me clear guidelines for taking care of the tooth after such a vigorous operation and ordered a script for antibiotics if I needed it. I left his office just as the last light was dying in the sky, but I felt so much better.
Before we started for the second time I told him I was a writer. I am often puzzled by how to resolve a scene or how to order words to express exactly what was needed for a story. Editing and root canals, I imagined, are a lot alike. He agreed. Thanks Root Canal Doctor!