Morning Pages

How I learned to stop worrying and love root canal surgery.

Morning Pages
Photo by Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

(This one is also going out to newsletter subscribers because why disappoint a handful of people when you can disappoint a thousand?)

I spent the holiday weekend with an increasingly painful toothache (why do these things always seem to kick off on the Friday immediately before a 3-day weekend?), which culminated in emergency root canal surgery yesterday morning.

I have dreaded root canal surgery ever since I first became aware of the term, and have heard all the same horror stories about it that you have. I asked my dentist, when he suggested this course of action, just what is so terrible about having a root canal and he rolled his eyes and said "nothing".

His theory is that no one has the procedure unless they are already in a lot of pain, and so the whole experience gets conflated with the toothache itself and becomes part of a larger "you won't believe the agony I experienced" story. I guess that's plausible. But root canal surgery is a tricky procedure with a lot of variables and so I don't disbelieve anyone else's horrific first-person accounts of things going wrong. I also think Gary (be on first name terms with your dentist, it makes them less likely to want to hurt you) is an unusually skilled dentist. I've been under less skilled people and the difference, in terms of things that hurt when they don't need to, is certainly noticeable.

In my case, the procedure involved a local anaesthetic (huge wave of relief as the pain of the past four days evaporated), some aggressively loud but painless drilling, a lot of suspicious scraping and then... That was it... When the chair tilted back up, I was genuinely surprised that it was all done. It had been maybe forty minutes from "I have toothache" to "All done".

I was given an antibiotic prescription, advice to hit the over-the-counter painkillers for when the anaesthetic wore off, and an appointment for the concluding procedure in a month. That second visit sees the temporary filling that has been placed over the area removed, the tooth checked and cleaned out again, and then a proper filling put in its place.

When the anaesthetic wore off, there was pain, but it was actually centred around the areas of the gum where the anaesthetic needle had gone in, rather than the infected tooth. A little less that twenty four hours later and I still have swelling from the infection, but it's dying down and the discomfort (it's not even really pain any more) is manageable with very low-level painkillers.

So my personal experience of root canal surgery? Really not so bad. And definitely better to have had it than to have soldiered on with the increasing agony of an infected tooth.

There were a couple of things I could have done without. The first was the bill - this procedure is NOT CHEAP. The second was that halfway through the procedure, Wet Wet Wet's "Sweet Little Mystery" came on the radio. I have always considered listening to that song and root canal surgery to be an either/or situation, wherein I always imagined I'd choose surgery. It never occurred to me that "all of the above" might be an option.

Anyway, I have a couple of links for you, both related to the recent shenanigans with Twitter, and with one article referencing the other.

In the New Yorker, Cal Newport has written Our Misguided Obsession with Twitter and the piece he references, which is also excellent, is Jonathan Haidt's Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid, for The Atlantic.

Reading both gives a really good perspective on where we are and where we've come from in terms of social media's effect on global discourse.

Have a good one. See your dentist.