"Root canal time," said my dentist. "The nerve's dead."
"I guess I killed it," I said.
He shook his head. "No," he said, "life killed it. Just the normal wear and tear of living."
I thank my dentist for that--for lessening my load of guilt over the state of my teeth. Teeth don't last forever, but my lifelong habit of night-time tooth-grinding wreaks havoc on teeth that might otherwise last much longer. Just normal wear and tear? Sometimes when I slam my jaw shut in my sleep, it sounds like a gunshot or a crack of lightning. I killed my tooth by translating stress and worry into tooth-grinding, and now I'll pay the price with a visit to yet another ring of Dental Hell.
There's really nothing hellish about a visit to my dentist. He's always kind and patient, keeps the big pointy needles out of sight so I don't hyperventilate when I see them, always asks about my family and my job (and puts his money where his mouth is by supporting the college), does a great job for a decent price and doesn't blame me for the sorry state of my teeth. His office staff is professional and encouraging and proficient at all the latest equipment to make the most complicated dental procedure (relatively) painless. There is no other dentist I'd rather see, especially since mine has seen me through a series of fairly serious dental crises.
But I really did not intend to spend so much time with a dental drill in my mouth this summer. Why couldn't I have been born with better teeth? Why couldn't I have learned about mouth-guards at a young age before all the damage was done? When will someone invent a less invasive procedure than the root canal? It would not surprise me at all to learn that root canals were invented as a form of medieval torture.
Let the record show that the tooth in question was not hurting at all when I went to the dentist's office this morning; the abscess only showed up when he took a scan to prepare for an entirely different procedure. Now one side of my mouth hurts where those nasty big needles poked me this morning, and the other side will hurt next week when I go for the root canal. I felt fine while I was under the influence of Novocaine, but now that I'm home and the drug has worn off, my entire face feels stretched.
I've found the portal to Dental Hell--right here in front of my face. Open wide!