Country Living

About my dreaded root canal

This is the time of year I should be stretched out on a sandy beach or sitting on a blanket under a cool leafy tree and opening a goodie-filled picnic basket. But no — so far my summer seems to be all about teeth.

It began in my dentist’s office a while ago when I complained about some pressure under a tooth. No problem, I thought, because Dr. R. takes great care of my teeth with exams twice a year so what could go wrong? Well, he poked a bit, took some x-rays, and then it happened. “I’m sending you to Dr. L.” he said.

“Oh no!” I cried. “Not Dr. L!”

It’s not that Dr. L. is an ogre or anything — in fact he’s quite personable — but it’s what he does for a living that scares me. You see, Dr. L. is an endodontist. He performs root canals — that procedure second only to the other most dreaded procedure in the world of medicine: the colonoscopy.

The next thing I knew I was sitting in Dr. L’s waiting room along with some other poor souls who, like me, were pretending to read magazines in order to keep our minds off what was about to transpire. After a while, one of Dr. L’s assistants entered the room, clipboard in hand, and headed for the man sitting across from me. She began giving him some results of his x-rays taken earlier — there was an unexpected problem they needed to deal with. It appeared to be serious so the young woman sat herself right down next to the man to further explain the situation, technical terms and all. When she finished — and this was the fun part — the man looked at her and said, “I’m not a patient. I’m just waiting for my wife.” We all burst out laughing. Every endodontist’s waiting room should have one of those moments.

Finally, my name was called and I headed down the hall to my procedure. In my hand was a note from my dentist asking Dr. L to take a look at numbers 4 and 5. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve had teeth for a long time and it has never occurred to me to refer to them by number. I know where my two front teeth are, then the ones next to them, followed by the eye teeth, etc. But evidently dentists call them by number all the time. Who knew?

I am happy to report that the procedure itself didn’t hurt a bit. Once the Novocain took hold and my mouth pretty much went to sleep, Dr. L. could have been working on No. 28 for all I knew. It turned out that my eye tooth-er, No. 6 was the main culprit but — and here comes more bad news — No. 5 would need a root canal too.

These days Dr. L., Dr. R. and I are spending a lot of time together. My teeth are doing fine, but I can’t say the same for my checkbook. Since these procedures cost serious money, I figure that upon my death, the only thing I will have left to leave to my children will be my old recliner.

When I moved to the Monadnock area in 1989, one of my first columns published in the Peterborough Transcript was about dentists, and how difficult it was deciding on a new one. I told about my old dentist, Dr. C who was an excellent dentist but his office music was a killer. It was classical and had only two moods: dramatic and/or dreary.

I finally decided on Peterborough’s Dr. H. and on my first appointment discovered he must have read my column. The minute I stepped into his office, they cranked up the woofers and the tweeters and out came some wild, jazzy, upbeat tunes that filled the place and we all laughed. I like a dentist with a sense of humor.

As of this writing, I am still waiting for the dental crowns to arrive for my No. 5 and No. 6. Oh, and now there is something going on with No. 25, so it looks like the folks on the beach won’t be seeing this body of mine until at least August. And judging from my bank balance, I’m not so sure my kids should count on that recliner either.

Joann Snow Duncanson, a former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?,” co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons — Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” Reach her at www.jsnowduncanson. com or email

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