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I Need to be Sedated

I was convinced that a root canal was an up-sell scam. That is, until I really needed one

By Al Carlos Hernandez, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: June 25, 2012


I Need to be Sedated


The women in my family warned me that my tooth was only going to get worse. Since the advice was dental-related, I used my standard "Bite me" response.

What started as a dull two-Advil-required pain turned into a two-Advil-then-Oragel pain. Then, when I could take no more, it led to a crow-eating call to the dentist who shot me up with a litany of "I told you so's." I was directed to call a microsurgical endodontic specialist - the spelling of the title alone let me know it would cost big bucks.

I needed a root canal, stat.

My dentist told me to call the specialist and, then, she would call him to make sure that I called him. I have serious Sly-Stone-no-show priors when it comes to making big-money-teeth-yanking up-front appointments. I was convinced that a root canal was an up-sell scam. That is, until I really needed one.

I pride myself on having a high pain tolerance but the over-the-counter stuff wasn't working. They gave me Vicodin and that didn't work either. I was eating pain relievers like green skittles and then icing my face like a polar bear fishing for a munchies-induced dinner.

As a man I wanted to complain and get babied for my distress, but if I did, I would have to admit that I should have listened to Mi Vida. And to the dentist who told me not to play with an infected tooth. I tried to do the John Wayne (who was married to a Latina as well) bite-the-bullet and man it out thing. I couldn't eat or sleep at this point.

On Friday I had an emergency appointment. I was impressed with the endodontic doctor - he was a hip cat from the 80's with a tremendous sense of humor. They strapped me in, drilled down and did a temporary fix which would hold me until the Monday appointment. It didn't. That weekend was the worst of my life - equal only to attending a Pyramid Scheme seminar where you get people to sell stuff for you so you can be rich and give seminars.

After de facto deep drilling, I was given an order to take X number of meds at X number of intervals 24/7. I had to continue with ice, keep my mind off the pain, burn veladoras to the Tooth Fairy, come back Monday and make sure to floss. Misinterpreting the admonition to 'floss' as the hip hop term to 'show off,' I made a mental note to drive my Mercedes and wear jewelry to the next appointment.

I realized that, in life, the most important thing is your health. I actually figured this out in trying to sleep while sitting up and watching all-night TV. I was happy to know (as a liberal arts major in college) that I still had the ability to sleep while sitting up for 50 minutes at a time.

By Saturday I couldn't take it. I called the medical advice nurse and found that I knew more than she did. So I sent a text the endo doc. He told me I could ruin his weekend and come in on Sunday to finish the procedure but it would cost an extra 500 bucks. As a college professor, 500 bucks is like ten grand in real money. I had no choice but to man it out. Of course I considered pulling the tooth myself. I guess Vicodin works pretty good after all. The pain was worse than when I broke my collar bone in high school. When everything hurts then nothing really matters.

Monday finally rolled around and my hair was whack in the back from sleeping in a barcolounger. I went to the appointment early hoping to get a quart of Novocain shot into my face but the doc had taken a long lunch. Finally, with me smelling like Deli, they ushered me into the chair. Right before the doc unholstered his shot stash, he played "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones on his in-house sound system. I knew I would be okay.

Endo doc planted his feet and started drilling way down into the jawbone where there was massive infection. He said, "Whoa! No wonder it hurt so much." At that point I was happy that the doc did not understand street Spanish. They drained, they drilled, they took digital X-rays, they drilled some more, and they used this rubber cheese-slice thing to hold my jaw open. Then, after 2 hours and 15 minutes, it was over. I found myself two racks (two grand) lighter and quite willing to pay the bill.

It has been two weeks and it still hurts a little - but I won't admit it. Wait. I just did. Maybe I learned something after all.

About Al Carlos Hernandez, Contributing Editor:
Edited by Susan Aceves
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