When I walked into the endodontist’s office his receptionist said, “Welcome back Mr. Dublanica.”
“There’s no ‘Welcome back’ when you come to the endodontist,” I said. “What you should say is,’ You screwed up and now you’re going to pay!’”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“I’m kidding,” I said, smiling while I was still able. I was soon ushered into the dental chair. Oh boy. Here it comes.
“I’m going to tap your surrounding teeth.” the endodontist said. “Make sure I’m working on the right one.”
“Go for it.”
TAP TAP. Nothing.
TAP TAP. Nothing.
“TAP……. JUMPING JESUS ON A POGO STICK! OWWWWW!
“That’s the one.”
“You think?” I moaned.
“Okay,” the endodontist, said. “I’m going to numb the area a bit”
“This is going to hurt a little.”
The needle slid into my mouth and I got the pinch I expected. The needle must have had a motor of some kind because I felt a throbbing mechanical sensation in my mouth. Then the pain hit. It felt like an acetylene torch burning through a piece of steel. The flame started small, but then it got hotter and hotter until, in a shower of screaming, dripping, molten sparks, it punched through to the other side.
“ARRRGH!” I moaned.
“Almost there,” the endodontist said.
He slid the needle out and then moved to a point in my jaw. That hurt like hell, but compared to what came earlier, it was a cake walk.
“All set,” the endodontist, said. “Now we’ll give it a few minutes to numb your mouth.”
“In all your years doing this,” I said, rubbing my jaw. “Has a patient ever hauled off and punched you in the face?”
Looking alarmed, the endodontist stepped back. “No, never,” he said.
“You’re gonna get some mental midget in here one day and trust me, he’ll take a swing at you.”
“I’m sorry it was so painful.”
“Oh man,” I said, loopy from pain. “I wrote a book about tipping once and, as part of my research, I interviewed people who worked in a dungeon in L.A.”
“You know – whips, chains, leather….and they had a variety of torture rooms – including a dentist office.”
“You don’t say.” The endodontist said, looking nervously at his assistant. “Are you all right, sir? You seem out of it.”
“Did you take any narcotics lately?”
“Last night I took a Vicodin to help me sleep.” (Sue me.)
“You don’t look like you got any sleep,” the endodontist said.
“Knowing I was coming here?” I said. “Nope. I did not.”
“I think you shouldn’t take anymore Vicodin.” Great. The doctor thought I was a drug addict.
“Trust me doc,” I said. “I never take that stuff unless it’s totally necessary.”
“You just relax,” he said. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
While the endodontist was in the back evaluating my mental state, the anesthesia kicked in and the pain in my tooth vanished. Then the strangest thing happened, I felt my blood pressure drop and my body enter a deep state of relaxation. Taking my pulse, I noticed my heartbeat had dropped into the low sixties.
“All set?” the endodontist said when he came back.
“Let’s do this.”
The endodontist opened the tooth and exclaimed, “I can’t believe you walked around with this for so long.”
“It only really began to hurt yesterday.”
The endodontist chuckled. “Trust me, you’ve been feeling this for weeks, if not months.”
Several years ago, when my appendix decided to blow, I was admitted into the hospital with a 104 degree fever but no pain. Palpating on my appendix yielded little rebound tenderness. It took a CAT scan to diagnose my condition They offered me morphine but I refused. Later a doctor told me something I never forgot.
“You should have taken the morphine,’ he said.
“Don’t need it,” I said in my best John Wayne voice.
You probably experience pain differently,” he said. “Some people cry and scream. You however, get restless and irritable.”
“Your girlfriend told me that you blew up on her.”
“Well, okay. Maybe I’m irritable.”
“And you’ve been observed twisting and turning in bed,” he said. “That’s pain too. You need to know that. You might not get classical symptoms of pain and be ignoring a problem.”
“Yes,” the endodontist said, peering into my bicuspid with a microscope. “The decay was really deep. And the surrounding area is also inflamed and bruised. You’ll need to go on antibiotics.”
Then I realized that doc from several years ago was right. For the past couple of months, I’ve had tension in my neck and jaw, pain in my sinuses. nifty headaches and have been slightly more irritable the usual. (Okay, a lot more irritable.) But the minute the nerves in my tooth were numbed, it all went away and my body, shocked at its absence, was thrown for a loop.
The endodontist was skilled and the rest of the procedure was painless and over quickly. When it ended, I walked into the receptionist area got the real pain. The bill.
“Maybe I can sell my Vicodin,” I said. “Recoup my losses.”
The receptionist giggled. “Will you be paying by check or credit card?”
“Credit card, “I said, “At least I’ll get travel points.”
“You’re a funny man,” she said.
On my way out, I looked at the endodontist’s degrees on the wall. Columbia University. No slouch there. But I noticed he had only been practicing since 2003.
“Fifteen years, only.” I muttered. “Eventually someone’s gonna slug him.”
“You told him about the dungeon!” my wife exclaimed when I told her about my visit. “They must have thought you were nuts.”
“What can I say, honey?” I said, “Humor is how I handle stress, even if it’s only funny to me.”
“Well you can’t drink alcohol or eat on your left side for two weeks,” she said. “I’m going to cancel your birthday dinner on Friday night.”
“No arguments here.”
“I’m sorry your 50th was such a mess.”
“Can I have a do over?”
“Yes, dear. Maybe in June.”
That night, I fell into a deep, deep sleep. The best sleep I’ve had in months. I was an idiot to tough things out so long. I need to be more proactive and listen to what my body is telling me.
As I drifted off I thought, “Man, I really told the endodontist about the sex dungeon?”
Sometimes I try too hard to be funny. It’s gotten me into trouble before. It will get me in trouble again.