Granola and Bear It

According to its wrapper, the granola bar in my hand promised to help me “Start the Day in a Whole New Way”. I took one bite and immediately felt a sharp pain in one of the molars in my lower jaw.

The wrapper was right. I had certainly started the day in a whole new way.

My tongue told me the shape of my tooth was different now. A small part had broken away but it hurt for only a second. Without the motivation of pain, I decided to simply tell the dentist about it during my next visit. Frankly, once I became used to the different shape of my tooth, I forgot all about it.

Until three weeks later.

That night something felt a bit different around the tooth. There was the hint of an ache, some puffiness in my jaw, and my cheek felt slightly warm. I went to bed having decided I might need to call the dentist if I felt a little pain.

Around 2:00 in the morning I felt a little pain.

And by “a little pain” I mean I awoke to the sensation of a red-hot poker being plunged mercilessly into my jawbone, hammered in further by hydraulic machinery, and all the while being doused with gasoline and set on fire. Beneath my jaw, just below the obviously infected tooth, was a swollen area warm to the touch and very painful. One minute I was in agony, the next minute the pain disappeared, but it came and went often during the night. While having pain-free minutes I drifted to sleep only to be awakened by the evil flaming jack hammer attacking my inner tooth.

Thankfully, the dentist could see me first thing in the morning. The dental hygienist took an x-ray the minute I sat in the chair. As the dentist entered the room he glanced at the x-ray on the wall.

“You’re probably in pain.” he said as nonchalantly as if commenting on a lovely sparrow singing in the windowsill.

“You’re probably right.” I responded. “Can you just patch the tooth or whatever it is you do?”

For some reason he laughed.

I had never felt such pain. When there was no pain, there was the fear of pain. I couldn’t think of anything that could strike as much fear in me as awaiting the next onslaught of pain.

“You need a root canal.” he said.

Until I heard that.

My mind flooded with memories of horror stories related to me by friends about their own root canal experiences. At that moment, the demon pain in my tooth awakened and in seconds it felt as though I were being kicked in the jaw by an angry, and possibly rabid, mule.

“Just do it then. Do it now.” I said. “And hurry.” I was starting this day in a whole new way. I began to sweat.

He laughed again.

The dental hygienist set to work to prepare me for the procedure. She fastened a tiny useless paper bib around my neck, patted my shoulder, and wished me luck.

How comforting.

The dentist hovered over my open mouth and began to apply a numbing gel to the spots where he would then inject my gum with even more numbing drug to deaden the tooth.

“It tastes like bubble gum, doesn’t it?” he asked in a tone that indicated he was already sure of the answer.

“It tastes like potpourri and dirt.” I corrected.

He laughed, hopefully at my comment and not at his actions, because he then jabbed my gum with the first of several needles. After a few injections around the hateful tooth, he waited for the numbing drug to take effect. When the side of my face felt like a slab of liver hanging from my head, I knew I was ready. This would soon be over, I thought.

I thought incorrectly.

After two hours of his drilling, scraping, poking, and suctioning, and my gagging, drooling, coughing, and moaning, he suddenly sat very quietly with his hands still wedged in my mouth. I would have asked what he was waiting for but my jaws were held open by what felt like the tire chock of a Boeing 747. I stopped counting the hairs in his nose and gave a questioning grunt.

“I’m just draining the infection.” he explained. “Once I drill down far enough into the tooth it’s like popping the cork on a champagne bottle and it all flows right out!”

Nice, I thought. Cheers.

He finished his handiwork, the dental hygienist dove into my mouth up to her elbows to finish something, and they sat me up.

“There you go.” the dentist said.

“Hey,” I managed to say with a numb tongue, “that wasn’t so bad, but glad you’re finished.”

“Finished?” he began, “That was only the first part. You need to come back at the end of the week for me to do the second part.”

There was a part two. I would have to start the day in a whole new way yet again. I began to sweat.

“Before you come back for the second part, why don’t you come in for a routine cleaning.” the dentist asked as he signed something handed to him by a passing coworker.

I pointed to my mouth. “But you’re in mid-construction in there. Isn’t that like washing the car while you’re still finishing up the body work?”

He laughed loudly.

“Just come back at the end of the week then,” he said, “but don’t worry, the worst part is behind you.”

“No, the worst part is before me.” I said. “I still have to pay for this.”

He laughed loudly again.

I returned later in the week for part two. The dentist began the injections to make my tooth properly numb. After several shots, he said we would now wait until they took effect. Remembering the last time when I had to wait in the chair for almost twenty minutes in order to reach that point, I tapped the dentist on the arm as he walked away. He stopped and looked at me.

“Do you get paid by the hour or something?. Is that why there’s been no effort to make a numbing drug that works any faster?” I asked.

He laughed.

In time, my gum reached peak numbness. Once again I spent two hours on my head in the chair, a street lamp hung inches from my face, and the dentist and dental hygienist performed their square dance in my mouth. When all was said and done, they wiped two hours worth of drool from my numb chin and sat me up.

“Well,” the dentist began as he sorted his tiny medieval tools, “you should be good now. Anything else we can do for you while you’re here?”

“Yes.” I said. “Could you go back in and drill deep enough to remove a kidney? I’ll need to sell it on eBAY to pay what my insurance won’t cover on this tooth.”

He laughed as he walked away and I heard him tell the girl at the front desk that he would “do this one differently”, but I paid little attention. I used the restroom and upon returning to the front desk I asked for the bill. I began to sweat.

The receptionist handed me the invoice and below the itemized column full of numbers and codes was a grand total. To the left of that printed amount was another total, hand written in ink. A significantly lower grand total.

“What does this mean?” I asked.

The receptionist explained that the dentist had given me the staff discount.

“Why?” I asked, still puzzled.

“He said he enjoyed your humor each time you came in.” she answered. “And that you had a point about how long it takes for the numbing injections to work?” She was clearly not sure what that meant, but she assumed I did.

I looked around for the dentist in order to thank him, but he had already crawled inside the next patient’s mouth.

“Tell him I really appreciate that.” I said.

“Sure will.” she responded. “He said to have a patient who actually joked through an entire root canal certainly did start his day in a whole new way.

I began to sweat.

Stuart M. Perkins

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99 Comments

Filed under dentist, dentistry, Humor, life, tooth

99 responses to “Granola and Bear It

  1. Ridiculously funny. I always look forward to when you have something to say.

  2. Dear Stuart,
    “did you really think you could escape me? “… That’s probably the point that Granola bar wanted to make. It gave you a root canal and a rewarding sense of humor that helped others start their day “in a whole new way”

    I imagine it in your bloodstream doing d jiggy dance and saying “here to stay!”

    If only that dentist knew he had just echoed something…

    *smiling*… You should eat more Granolas, don’t you think? Atleast you’ll get a discount.

    Interesting write. I enjoyed it.

  3. I giggled at “Hey,” I managed to say with a numb tongue, “that wasn’t so bad, but glad you’re finished.” because I knew what was coming as I work as a Dental receptionist and thus I might be the minion of evil incarnate to most people. I am sorry you had to go through a root canal, they are not fun, but thank you for sharing this, I wish more people shared your humour for the experience

  4. I literally spat my coffee over my laptop laughing throughout your story. Brilliantly written and brilliantly told! My favourite bit was “can you go back in there and drill for a kidney…”. Love it!

  5. I’m starting to sweat …ah, the memories!

  6. Funny… Didn’t mean to laugh at your pain… Thanks for stopping by my blog…

  7. I can relate so well to this piece. Glad you found humor in the experience, though — and shared it with the rest of us.

  8. LOL. I don’t mean to laugh at your pain, but the writing is hilarious. 😀

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, but I hope that you won’t have anymore days started in “a whole new way.” lol

  10. This, by far, is the BEST short story account of real life that I have read in absolutely YEARS!!! Thanks so MUCH for brightening my day with your humor as well 🙂

  11. This was such a fun post (yes, I have a twisted sense of humour!) because I’ve just been through a year of root canal and implant work. Dentistry is *always* a rich source of blog material to me LOL. Glad it ended up brighter than it began!

  12. Ah the dentist…always a joy. Thank you for stopping by The Brass Rag. I certainly enjoyed my visit to your space. Come back and see us again soon.

  13. Thank you for liking “Odd Blooms.” I am sorry to hear you had to have a root canal done, but I am glad that you were able to bear this experience with a good sense of humor. Your sense of humor even helped you get a discount! 🙂

  14. Gosh, this was hilarious. I’m terribly sorry about the root canal, though. As someone who had to get six teeth extracted, and apparently will have to remove two more , in order to wear braces, I feel your pain. But it seems that yours was much, much worse than mine. At least you had a great dentist. Mine had his hand shoved inside my mouth, and as he wrapped metal wires across my mouth, repeatedly asked me questions. After making a few incoherent statements, which he surprisingly understood, I figured it was too much trouble making conversation with him. Maybe I should try your approach. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get a discount too 😉
    Btw, thanks for liking my article 😀

  15. Your humour is a great way to start the day, THX! 🙂 ❤ ❤

  16. Tasha Silva

    LOL, great story. I’ve been blessed to have never had a root canal or even a wisdom teeth removed. *crossing myself, and knocking on adjacent wood. Hope I never have to get this done. 🙂

  17. Loved your humor and how the ending tied back to the beginning. Well crafted. Something about dentistry that leaves itself open to humor, either that, or for all its pain, writing of it in such a way is a therapeutic tonic. If it is a devised story … wonderful. If it is true … I hope your writing of it made you feel better … and oh yes … it is still wonderful.

    • Thanks! Oh it’s definitely true, sad to say. What a way to spend an afternoon or two. I can’t even stand the smell of the dentist office, much less sitting in the chair forever, so trying to find something, anything, to laugh at helped ease the nauseating tension! Thanks again!

  18. Gaw. Laughed several times at your agony. Having broken a tooth on a pointless english muffin, I could so relate to your experience. Great story. Thank you for the read.

  19. …”potpurri and dirt…” PRICELESS ! =) =)

  20. Ha! My mom is a dental hygienist so I basically grew up in a dentist office :). Great read! Can’t wait to read more! – Chelsea

  21. Oh my gosh this was so funny!! Just started following your blog – can’t wait to read more!

  22. Such vivid memorable descriptions! “Like a slab of liver hanging from my head” is the best description of dentist office facial numbness that’s ever been written, I’m sure.

  23. Considering my fear of dentists (I have to be knocked out for a filling!), it is testament to your wonderful way with words that I actually made it to the end of that post! Think you can motivate me to call and book my cleaning appointment? I’d like to see you try!!

  24. Mariekie

    Brings back vivid memories. My partner and I practised dentistry for 20 years before leaving the profession. Best patient version of a root canal treatment I’ve ever heard.

  25. I don’t think I’ll ever touch another granola bar. 🙂

  26. I might have to read your blog more often, as I am due dental work early next year. I’ll need the practice for humor under duress. Maybe I’ll try it out first on the IRS, since I’m late again with my taxes…

    GREAT write and wit 🙂

  27. Brings back great memories! Not:) Thanks.

  28. Having had many torturous moments with dentists, when I felt my mouth being stretched to unnatural proportions and heard the drill whirring, hovering just above waiting until I was totally freaked out, and then make contact, I can relate. Very selective on lollies now! I enjoyed this very much, your writing that is.

  29. mmacro

    Hilarious! I’ve also been given discounts for making doctors etc. laugh before. Go figure – at school I was just called cheeky!

  30. I certainly can’t be the first person to mention that you are brilliant, Stuart Perkins. LMAO. I can’t stand dentists, dental appointments with their squishy fingers all up in my very private mouth. Even the good looking ones. YOU made my day with this tale. Sorry about the root canal but at least he cut you a break. And now you have made him namelessly famous! Very symbiotic. 🙂

  31. Wonderful humor. It started my day in a whole new way 🙂

  32. Paid by the hour, yikes! I wonder how much that chit chat I made yesterday with my dentist cost me. I thought fees were based on the procedure, no more questions about his new babies’s sleep problems.

    Funny stuff!

  33. Memories of my root canal… and yes, the worst part was certainly the bill!
    Maybe I should have cracked a few jokes!?

  34. I was hoping that a laughing dentist was going to pay off for you at some point. Nice. I came here to read a different blog, but could not resist checking out a sidebar link that simply said “tooth.”

  35. The Simple Beginner

    That was amazing! (you might think I’m shocked and surprised all at once, but really, I’m glad I read your post). Loved reading every bit of it. It made me smile, laugh, laugh even more. It was so good and I can definitely relate. That wait for the numbness to kick takes time. 🙂

  36. mgsunshine

    “Yes.” I said. “Could you go back in and drill deep enough to remove a kidney? I’ll need to sell it on eBAY to pay what my insurance won’t cover on this tooth.”

    I love this!

  37. Those dentists are such funny fellows.

  38. Hilarious!! I have gotten root canals done twice and I can totally relate

  39. Who says it doesn’t pay to laugh? Sounds like your sense of humor paid of big time, and this dental hygienist is still laughing!

  40. I enjoyed reading this – I was just at the dentist yesterday and can totally relate!

  41. Oh this brings back the memories of many an hour spent in the dentist’s chair. Great story. I could so relate 🙂

  42. Funny story. Teeth are quite problematic indeed…

  43. I hope to be a dentist after I graduate high school and honestly I found this hilarious and insightful. I like how your dentist laughed quite a fair few times during this episode; he must be a happy person. Root canals are really difficult to carry out, so kudos to your dentist! And kudos to you for writing such a brilliant post! 🙂 Looking forward to reading some more of your work while I’m at it ^_^

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