Is it Safe?

Going to the dentist is not my favourite thing.

While I don’t dread the dentist (it’s pretty far down on my dreading list), see my opening statement for how I feel about them. Or him, in my case.

Actually, out of curiousity, I looked him up on the the old internet, and found that he generally has a high to very high rating. And many – likely women, but I’m not one to judge – found him handsome to extremely handsome.

He doesn’t do it for me, but you might feel otherwise.

Sorry, I don’t have a picture or even a selfie with him. (Note how cool and hip I sound when I use pop culture references as if I know what they mean. Actually, I do know what a selfie is, but I was brought up not to discuss such things in mixed company.)

So I went to see my dentist – as I often do with my dentist – because I had a problem. A tooth ache, to be truthful. An abcess, to be precise.

The politically and socially correct thing to do, apparently, is to have a root canal.

In the past, I’ve had 3 root canals done. One worked without a hitch. Which is good, because, frankly, I have no need of a hitch. I haven’t needed one since we sold our horse – Big Jim – when I was a kid.

Big Jim was an awesome horse, but he doesn’t have anything to do with this story.

The next root canal went horribly wrong. It was performed by my current dentist’s former partner, which, according to that famous philosopher, Dark Helmet, makes us absolutely nothing.

If I would have been rating her on the internet, I would have rated her in the handsome to very handsome category.

Her dental work, however, was less than spectacular. Actually, her dental work was fine. What I meant was that the work she did on me wasn’t that good.

Sorry for the confusion.

In the end – after she had moved on to another job … perhaps as a model or TV weather announcer – my regular dentist had to pull it. Which is what I think should be done in most cases, but … well, I don’t want to give away the ending.

Note how I skillfully build up the suspense.

Tooth number three. Yes, I seem to have had a rash of bad luck when it comes to nerves, lately. My doctor thinks it has something to do with the (likely) radioactive stuff they drip into my veins on a regular basis.

I think it has to do with working in the ministry, but I’m not a medical expert.

Where was I … Right. Tooth number three.

Again, my regular dentist was unavailable to do the work. In fact, I’m wondering if I should call him my “regular” dentist, at all. If I say that again, I may mean “my occasional dentist”.

His new partner, however, was available. Having had such a satisfactory root canal performed previously, I lobbied hard for what the Dental Association of Canada calls “an extraction”.

I was informed as to the dire consequences of such a drastic and unthought (yep, pretty sure that’s a word) out action. I would be unable to chew properly, my whistling ability – which, let’s face it, is how I make most of my income – could be severely impaired, and small children in the developing world would likely be worse off … in some horrible, unknown way.

Against my better judgment, I had the root canal done.

I am about 90% happy with the results of that one, which, according to Schellenberg’s Law, means that I’m really only 10% happy with it.

Schellenberg’s Law of Dental Work – The patient will actually be 100% unhappy with any dental work that doesn’t give 100% satisfaction.

My regular dentist is quite certain that any pesky dis-satisfaction with that one can be remedied. And it shouldn’t cost my firstborn to achieve it.

Actually, I’d be happy to trade my firstborn for a healthy tooth, but no one is taking me up on that offer.

Perhaps they’ve met him. My firstborn, not the dentist.

So … two out of three (or 2/3, for you math challenged types) of these procedures (or what the Bible calls “ordeals”) have gone bad.

Imagine if someone handed you a revolver and said “Hey, it’s Russian Roulette (which, by the way, I strongly advise you NOT to play). I’m going to fill 4 of the 6 chambers with bullets. Spin away and good luck.”

Four of six (or 4/6) is actually the same as 2/3, but I don’t know of any 3 shooters out there.

I’m trying to keep this accurate.

Can you imagine how menacing a desperado of the Old West would have been with a 3 shooter?

Desperado: “Reach for the sky, pilgrim, or I’ll fill you full of lead.”

Pilgrim: “When you say “full of lead”, do you mean all three bullets?”

Desperado: “Well, I’ve actually got to save two for a shootout I’m having at high noon, so I guess fill you “full” of lead may have been an overstatement.”

Pilgrim: “I’ll maybe take my chances.”

So, tooth number four. I went to my dentist with every intention of having an extraction. I had all my ducks – or, in this case, teeth – in a row. I had a reasoned argument for extraction. I even practiced saying “extraction” without a smirk, when you and I know it really just means “pulling”.

The root canal, according to him, went well.

It turns out that getting an extraction is like pulling teeth.

Some of his arguments:

1) The side of your face may fall off
2) I will get laughed out of the dental society for letting a “live one” go
3) I really need to take my kids – see how how cute they are? – to Disney World this year

All of this, of course, happens while he has a diamond tipped drill spinning at 88 000 rpm sitting inches from your eye (tooth).

So, it turns out, after finding the chamber (difficult to find. Not unusual, in someone of your age. Lots of calcification.), he had little trouble with the canals themselves.

Perhaps he once was a gondolier in Venice.

As I lay there – I was in my happy place, and was only jolted out of my reverie a couple of times. Once, when said drill came dangerously close to the few brain cells I have left. Another time when I heard “Whups”. And once when, I’m pretty sure, I heard him say “Well, that’s Sally’s plane ticket and Disney pass paid for.”

Sorry, lost my train of thought. Anyway, as I lay there, I was feeling pretty good about “my” decision.

My regular dentist said “Well, I’ll just put a temporary filling in, and we’ll see if it settles down in a few days. And remember, as I promised, if there’s any problem, I’ll pull it.”

But, I could see that he had his fingers crossed behind him. That’s the problem when you’re working with mirrors. Granted, they were crossed backwards, but I could still figure it out.

The temporary filling fell out a couple of hours later.

Now, some of you more vengeful types might think I should have my day in court. If I did, though, I don’t think it would work out in my favour.

Judge: What brings you here today?

Me: Well, my dentist gave me a root canal – against my will. I tried to get it pulled – and he put in a temporary filling, and it came out a few hours later.

Judge: First, everyone knows that dentists don’t even know how to pull teeth anymore. And, by the way, it’s called an extraction.

As far as the temporary filling goes, what does the word “temporary” imply to you?

Case dismissed!

Me: But, your Honour …

Judge: Quiet! I’ve already ruled. Another outburst like that, and I’ll sentence you to another root canal.

Actually, that might be a good way to cut down on crime. No more prison. Just root canals, given against your will by a dentist who says, over and over, “Is it safe?”.

[This is a reference to the movie Marathon Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier. The movie came out before I was born.] [OK, OK … that’s a lie. I was born.]

And no freezing, either. (I’d use “anesthetic”, but I’d feel pretty prententious about it. I’m no dentist, after all.)

I can see a Nobel Prize in my future. As well as free dental work for life from a grateful dental society.