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


Filed under dentist, dentistry, Humor, life, tooth

99 responses to “Granola and Bear It

  1. tellthetruth1

    Speechless! Hope all is well now.

  2. Wow. It’s funny now I guess, after. And it could have been worse, like broken on a Friday.

  3. Glad you are done with that procedure and pain and sorry you had to go through that. It’s wonderful that you could joke through that.

    It’s amazing to me, you can take such an awful experience (I strongly dislike going to the dentist) and turn it into such a funny story.

  4. Hilarious! However…you have my sympathies. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. typical of your style, you big softie you, nice write atb

  6. Annette Rochelle Aben

    MOST enjoyable! Reminded me of the root canal I had years ago.. I never saw a dentist s-w-e-a-t while working on me before… it was one for the books so I rather enjoyed your tale because at least there was some humor in it! thanks for the grin and granola!

  7. Great story. I’m in dental school, and I love dental humor!

  8. Glad that’s over for you! You’ve turned it into an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it!

  9. Hmm . . . I make people laugh all the time, but I never get those kind of breaks.

    . . . perhaps if they laughed at my words instead of my looks . . .

    It’s not quite explained, but did the numbing keep the pain at bay during the actual root canal? Last I remember, it still hurts, but I’ve only heard it second hand.

    • I have to admit that although the entire process was uncomfortable because of so much going on in my mouth with hands, dental equipment, etc., there really was very little true pain during the process! The sticks of the needles were unpleasant, but tolerable. And absolutely nothing compared to the pain before I went to the dentist. Nothing. I have never felt pain like that – and no more granola bars for me! That healthful stuff hurts you, but cheesecake doesn’t break teeth… Thanks for the comment. Everyone writes the nicest comments!

  10. You have to be one in a million to find humor in pain. Clearly, it pays!

  11. Make that appointment for the cleaning. Do it now. Unless, of course, you’ve learned to enjoy root canals. You’ve aptly demonstrated that it does provide good material. So what the heck.

  12. pi314chron

    Delightful! (As always!)


  13. Ha ha ha. Oops. Sorry. I’ve had a number of root canals and am sorry for your experience, funny though the writing is.

  14. Wonderfully told story. I was right there with you the whole time!
    And I do have to say, I always do my regular stand-up (laying down) routine every time I’m in the dentist’s chair for major work (think 5 root canals, too many caps and an implant) and yet, no discount! I even do jazz hands.
    So glad to hear someone’s found the magic!

  15. So sorry to hear of the ordeal, but delighted at your recovery. Blessings to you and yours, sounds like you have a terrific dental office. Grace — LM

  16. Reblogged this on Tea and Poetry and commented:
    Having recently had our own share of family dental emergencies, including root canals, this hits close to home. His descriptions are so true and funnier because we’ve been there!

  17. Thanks for the laugh! I really needed it. I always look forward to your posts.

  18. chance

    Lovely ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. That is starting my day in a whole new way! Hilarious :p

  20. Wow, you certainly deserved that discount! Thank you for this story – I’m always telling people to look on the bright side, and this is a wonderful example. Hope you don’t have any more trouble – and see that dental hygienist!

  21. That was awesome. Great start to MY day. A d hey, at least now, you sort of know how it would feel to experience the pain of labor. Isnt that nice? ha ha hA

  22. Oh this is so funnyโ€ฆin part because I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt— as in this is not my first rodeo– several times around this merry go round, but oddly, never ever, got a discount ๐Ÿ™‚
    Misery certainly loves company—
    Thanks for sharing!!

  23. Eating my breakfast while reading this was not one of my better ideasโ€ฆ ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Really enjoyed this, Stuart. Helped me ‘start my day in a whole new way!’

  25. The desperation of a toothache makes one willing to cut deals, but it worked the other way for you! Good work Stu! Love it!

  26. Thanks for putting a smile on my face… without having to see a dentist!

  27. Shamwest

    The other day my son told me he was going to get dentures because he was sick of problem teeth. I thought of the pain of that. I told him my crowns had worked out , even though it had taken hours to do. It was one of those times when Mom can’t really stop what’s gonna happen.

  28. I will certainly remember this if/when I ever need to have (God forbid!!!) a root canal. Hearing the stories of others is painful enough for me. Thank you for sharing, and visiting my blog!

  29. Great story – I had this just after Christmas – my face swelled to twice the size, I had a black eye and excruciating pain, all because of the infection.

  30. So funny! Been there and done it,, Awful experience!!! I’m afraid I didn’t have the humour to reduce my bill, well done you for humouring the dentist whilst in so much pain and getting a reduction – stay away from those dreaded breakfast bars now though

  31. I’m in constant fear of having major dental work done and your story started out like my worst nightmare. You turned it around friend and found humor in the absurdness of strangers poking around in your mouth. Nicely done.

  32. Excellent, made my day. I loved the opening lines.

  33. glad to see you are feeling better… I have had bad teeth all my life and have had several removed… no fun at all

  34. kellig

    thanks for following my blog. this is so accurately written. the part about counting his nostril hairs had me spitting out my coffee and braying. Most attractive. what is it with dentists and their overly hairy nostrils?? good stuff here, I’ll have to go back and read others.

  35. Stuart, thank you so much. I love your brand of humor. You made a miserable experience into a fun experience (more for the dentist, of course). You are right about counting the hairs in his/her nose. One never knows where to look while having those hands in your mouth. I have never had a root canal done (fortunately), and I sure hope I never do. My insurance for that is: brush after every meal (if possible), and floss before bedtime, and get regularly scheduled hygienist visits for cleanings. I’ve always been a stickler for keeping as healthy a mouth as possible. So far, it pays! Hope you never have to go through this experience again. But, if ever I have to, I will certainly think of your wonderful, humorous lines to make the dentist laugh his/her bloody head off. ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. What a great story! Having had my share of root canals, I could relate to every word … except the discount part, for that I’m very, very jealous ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. the symmetry in your writing is great ~ particularly in this story

  38. Worth the read, as an encouragement. Thank you.

  39. brendans2911

    Reblogged this on FitzGerald Press and commented:
    This was important to hear on a tough day.

  40. I laughed at all of it (albeit some was rueful, and I did feel bad for you!). Thanks for the humor!!

  41. Great post – it ended off my evening with a smile! And an involuntary running of tongue over teeth, part in empathy and part nervous reflex to be sure all is well. I’ve been there, and don’t want to revisit any time soon!

  42. pretty well sums the whole the whole root canal experience!

  43. Sorry about the root canal but at least you got a great story out of it

  44. Now this was a great way to end my day!! Smiling as I go to sleep:)

  45. Mags Corner

    What a great sense of humor you have to be able to brings laughs while going through that. Do you think you will try another granola? Great that you got a discount. I really enjoyed reading this.

  46. That was really funny – says me who has no holes in my teeth – don’t eat that granola stuff either (not sure if we even have it here…)

  47. Pingback: Granola and Bear It « Oh My Blog!

  48. Ruth Nulph

    Enjoyed another one of your blogs keep writing!

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