Who needs a Caribbean cruise or renovated kitchen when, for roughly the same price, you can enjoy an excruciating root canal complete with crown made from the same material used to construct toilet bowls?
This year, just for fun, I decided to spend my entire federal tax refund on a new molar. Problems with the original tooth began on Christmas Eve, 1999. I was chewing on something crunchy in Aunt Wilma’s eggnog when the pain first hit.
My husband turned to ask why I had poured the contents of my cup onto his pants when my facial contortions told the tale: Our annual Christmas pilgrimage to the emergency room would remain a time-honored tradition.
Heavy medication kept the pain at bay through the holidays. And by the time our noble fir bit the dust, I had concocted a cache of excuses to keep my mouth far from the reach of the dentist’s drill. How could I be expected to seek medical intervention with so many important tasks requiring my attention? That spring, I found time to clean out the closets, rearrange my daughters’ sock drawers, and repaper the cabinets in the laundry room.
The temporary crown might have made it to my funeral had it not been for a colorful piece of concrete I ate while watching Minority Report. As Tom Cruise was having his eyeballs replaced by an evil madman, I bit into a Skittle which had obviously been left over from the original batch. When my tooth shattered, I didn’t even notice the difference between the texture of the candy and the jagged shards of enamel I swallowed.
I reluctantly scheduled an appointment, laughing at my adolescent attempts to delay the inevitable. It was not until doomsday, when I sat bat-like with the blood rushing to my head, my cranium dangling precariously close to the commercial-grade carpet, that it all came back to me…the reasons I hated this sadistic drone and all of her evil peers. Dental work sucks! As she probed my mouth, my eyes darted feverishly around the tiny cubicle that was now my prison. Staring at me from the corner of the examination room was a small harlequin marionette suspended on a wooden swing. Who but a crazed lunatic would decorate with a clown?
“How did you break your tooth, Mrs. Bowling?” she asked.
Staring at the hypodermic needle she held, how could I admit that, at 42, I had been binging on a product marketed exclusively to pre-teens? I decided to lie.
“I was eating food.” (As opposed to eating a truck.) I’m not good at deception.
“Food, huh? What kind of food?” Her accusations were relentless.
Seven shots of Novocain later, my mouth was roughly the size of Texas. I could barely form words. But that didn’t keep me from feeling the sharp end of an unforgiving dental instrument digging into the soft tissue that once resembled my gum. I tried to be tough. I clenched my fists but couldn’t keep from wincing in pain.
“I’m afraid that someone needs a root canal.” I looked around to see who she was talking about. Was it the clown?
“I’m going to refer you to an endodontist,” she continued. Roughly translated, that means, “Get ready to buy the doctor his next Lamborghini.”
Two unbelievably short years later, I ran out of excuses and had to show up for my root canal. Dr. Nip’s waiting room featured brown metal folding chairs whose uneven legs rattled repeatedly on stylish faux-brick linoleum. The sparse décor made me worry about his credentials.
“Did the doctor actually attend dental school, or was he enrolled in one of those correspondence courses?” I checked with his receptionist.
Dr. Nip’s exam room was clown-less. The only thing I could see during the 47-hour procedure was a dizzying array of stained ceiling tiles. I wondered how patients had managed to drop entire cups of coffee onto the ceiling. I was finally allowed to leave after signing over the deed to our house.
After several return trips to see Bozo (and her puppet-friend,) I am happy to report that my new porcelain crown is fine. The tooth next to it, however, began demanding attention the other day while I attempted to chew a Starburst. This time around, I’m going to book an appointment right away… that is, as soon as I finish organizing about 14 years of family photos.