I'm sitting in the dentist chair, reclining in a near horizontal position like an astronaut waiting for blastoff. The dental assistance dotes over me like my mother, adjusting the headrest to my liking, switching the television to ESPN Sports and clipping a bib around my neck.
She is preparing me for a root canal -- my first one. I've heard horror stories from others, who make the procedure sound worse than being strapped to a chair and forced to watch every episode of the Brady Bunch.
I'm happy to report that the worst part of the root canal is not the pain, it actually hurts little more than having a cavity filled. I applaud modern dentistry for that. The real suffering comes as the dentist's financial manager hits you with the cost of the procedure. It's like a nasty right cross to the pocketbook.
She also tells me that my dental insurance will cover practically nothing, so this dime is on me. She asks if I still want to go forward. I consider myself a rather laidback guy who wishes no harm to most humans, but, at this moment, wicked thoughts are whizzing through my head.
I have an abscess in my No.19 molar, my cheek feels as if it's blown up to about the size of hassock. What choice do I really have? At this point, I would hand over cars, jewels, my baseball card collection, and even my favorite Titleist putter, but I don't think they're ready to barter.
With the payment option settled, I recline in the chair, waiting for the main attraction to show -- the dentist.
My dental assistant has been kinder than Mother Teresa, who can't do enough for me. I consider ordering a glass of Merlot, but don't think this dentist office also doubles as a bistro.
I admire her confidence in me that I'm going to be just fine. She's seen her share of root canals, but one sudden move by her and I'm bolting for the door with my bib flapping up in my face.
She assures me that the dentist will be gentler than a bomb squad technician dismantling an explosive device. I know modern dentisty has come a long way; it's certainly gentler and kinder. But we all have dental horror stories from our past to tell that involve tooth extraction, lots of sharp needles, whirring drills and some requisite bleeding.
I want to believe my kind and gentle dental hygienist, but I'm like a spurned lover, who enters his next romantic relationship as if he's tiptoeing through a mine field, wearing snowshoes.
Can you blame me? The dentist is going to dismantle my mouth, saw the crown off my No. 19 molar on the lower left side, and yank the nerve out. Cool. I can't wait to hang with him.
Despite my anxiety, I must admit that the TV inserted into the ceiling above my head is way cool. That's a nice touch. I make a mental note to get one of these for my bedroom where I can watch all my favorite shows tucked under my covers while totally reclining.
Finally, the dentist glides into the room with a gleaming toothy smile and a firm handshake. I don't want to squeeze too hard because this guy is going to need his hands. He's in a chatty mood, but I just want him to relieve the pain.
It's amazing when you're consumed with mouth pain, the sight of a dentist can make you want to kiss the hem of his operating smock. He explains the root canal procedure that sounds simple, but brutal at the same time. But he assures me he's going to numb my mouth so that a bomb could go off in there and I wouldn't feel it.
A couple of shots of anesthetic and he moves in with his drill whirring, water flying, and I'm watching a college basketball game. How cool is that. The procedure was virtually painless and quick. I applaud the deft hands of my dentist.
Perhaps the anesthetic has gone to my brain because he suddenly slides back on his stool and announces that Phase I is finished. I must return in a week to make sure the medication inserted in the tooth has killed all the bacteria, and he still has to drill out any residue decay, and then for the piece de resistance -- insert my new crown.
In short, I'm going to have a new tooth, minus the nerve, of course. I'm ecstatic to have survived a root canal with relative ease, except for my tongue that lolls in my mouth for a couple of hours later and feels about the size of a Sperm whale.
The dentist shakes my hand and sends me off into the night, promising to see me next week for the finishing touches. Besides a little soreness, I'm relieved. I applaud modern dentistry; the entire procedure wasn't bad at all. Now if they can just figure out how to reduce the pain of paying for this.
Frank Szivos is a freelance writer with a new No. 19 molar and pain free. He can be reached at email@example.com.