Tag Archives: Root canals

Safely out of the canal zone

I’ve had a sinus infection for going on two weeks. If that were not enough, an old pain in one of my teeth returned, right at the site of the root canal my dentist performed five years ago. I aced the procedure, but had zero desire for a replay.

Thursday afternoon, after two days of throbbing, I called my dentist’s office and explained the return of the pain. The sympathetic receptionist worked me in for an appointment Monday. The office is closed Friday, and she told me I should not hesitate to call my dentist on his cell phone Friday if the pain became unmanageable. He would come in to the office with an assistant and check out the problem.

I knew that. My dentist is a superior being. He once met my husband and me at his office, the evening of Memorial Day. He drafted his son-in-law to assist him.

Today is Friday. I awoke to an ancient memory. I have had this pain before. It’s some kind of knack with me, to get sinus infections; I have had a lot of them. The maxillary sinuses have a nerve relay indistinguishably near the back teeth, where my root canal was done.

I checked my back teeth in the mirror. Aha! My gums in the canal zone were significantly inflamed. The connection light finally switched on.

I deduced that the pain had nothing to do with my teeth or the root canal, but was due to sinus inflammation. The throbbing subsided within half an hour after taking an anti-inflammatory combo of ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

I’m still trying to decide whether to take consolation from the theory that, at this point in life, my teeth are better than my memory.

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A winged messenger, and other good friends

Internet stock photo


Yesterday was a day of testing, and once I knew I was failing, I bailed. I wadded up the exam, tossed it to the Lord, and basically said, “You take it, please.”

The exam was my first-never root canal.

I had actually been looking forward to the root canal as a resolution. Once I learned, at a late Memorial Monday night meeting and x-ray at my dentist’s office, that I had an abscess, I suspected the inflammation from the dead nerve could be triggering the migraines that had arrived, as if by appointment, around 1:40 the last three mornings in a row. The previous week, they arrived anytime between 1:00 and 3:30 in the morning. Their company was getting kind of old.

The largely wasted focus of most of my day was spent being terribly busy, much too busy to sit down and read and be quiet and pray for the grace I needed to get through the Event of the late afternoon. It seemed an important time to put my affairs in order.

I had been checking in with my A-Team of encouragers the past couple of days. One of them shares my good fortune of having Addison’s disease, and I wanted to get her advice on stress-dosing for the dental work. She suggested exactly doubling my morning and afternoon doses. My doctor’s office returned my earlier call while I was on the phone with my friend, and relayed exactly the same recommendation. The concurrence was reassuring, but it still seemed like too much to take. Hydrocortisone is tricky. I weigh barely 100 pounds, and every milligram of the dosage counts. And I’ve been told before to take what turned out to be too much, with fairly disastrous consequences. So I stress-dosed with a 50% increase instead of 100%.

Good thing, too. I became like one of those springy people whose punctuation practice is limited exclusively to exclamation marks. Everything seemed pitted with exclamation-mark quality. I couldn’t find my feet. I tried to deflect the agitation usefully: by making appointments that didn’t need making for a month or more; by transferring all the events on my paper calendar to the calendar on my new phone; by taking some impressionistic pictures — an easy thing, with a two-megapixel camera and shaky hands — and generally making plans for the future in case I survived the root canal. I also placed a call to my dentist’s office, explaining the hydrocortisone situation and requesting their forbearance in case my agitation didn’t wear off by the time I arrived.

The beautiful highlight of the day perched on my deck rail early in the afternoon. He just perched there, posing, giving me to understand perfectly that he had been sent by his Master to encourage and cheer me, and to bring our mutual Master to my remembrance. It was my very first sighting ever of a Blue-winged warbler, and I had to resort to my bird book to identify him. Even then, the identification was somewhat equivocal, because my very old book did not have him living in the West at all. But a quick Internet search verified that his kind has been spreading to the North rather steadily, and he is listed as a bird of Washington state.

It was kind of a first-ever day: a first-ever trial, and a first-ever blessing.

My husband and I arrived for my appointment with time to spare and relax. I was calm. The procedure was a breeze, my dentist responding like the gifted, called dentist he is, to every small thing I asked in order to increase my comfort. I felt like I was receiving a spa treatment. I left in a state of near-euphoria, probably because of the presence of the epinephrine in the Novocain. I felt wonderful.
I had heard both sides, that root canals are a cinch, and that root canals are horrific. I felt so thankful to have been on the cinch side of the spectrum.

Then the Novocain wore off.

A little after midnight, my face hurt and my tooth throbbed. My husband, a recent veteran of two crowns, suggested an acetaminophen/ibuprofen cocktail. Normally I can’t take any NSAIDs, especially at night. But I devoured them. The pain subsided almost immediately. I didn’t sleep very well — NSAIDs keep me up — but for the first night in four, I didn’t have a migraine.

The face and tooth pain returned, and I took another acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the morning. I felt fine, still on the cinch side, and able to chew on both sides; and I thought of the beautiful Blue-winged warbler. So much beauty, all of it gratuitous, all simply the purest kindness of a loving Creator.

I went outside to be in the midst of our dark-purple poppies and their companion light-violet flax. It’s a beautiful flower patch; and I have a competent tooth patch, and a permanent crown will be placed in the coming weeks. Two more visits, with progressively simple objectives.

I’m looking forward to the follow-up. It will give me another time to practice my exam toss, and simply ask for the needed grace.

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