Tomorrow is going to be a banner day in my house: It’s Root Canal Day! Which, okay, actually doesn’t sound all that great. But hear me out… Usually when there’s bad news, people are happy if they can find just one “silver lining,” yes? Well, get this – Root Canal Day has two silver linings. Two! That is 100% more silver lining than is needed to qualify as “happy.” And if that wasn’t enough, they are extraordinarily awesome. Behold:
- End of pain.
- Nap potential.
Better than Christmas, amiright? BETTER THAN CHRISTMAS. I’m going to pack up my iPhone and my pink blingy earbuds, and rock the shit out of a nap while the dentist drills in my head and takes the pain away. Best day ever.
My teeth and I have had a bit of a rough year. It started with x-rays, which is really not very surprising because there are good reasons that God and nature and common decency keep certain things hidden. Something I know to be true is that snooping is bad news, whether it’s in someone’s garbage can, or their bathroom window, or their jaw.
“These have to come out,” my dentist said, pointing on the x-ray to the two wisdom teeth still stubbornly embedded below my gumline.
“I don’t know,” I said “My top two came in on their own and my dentist at the time just pulled them. Can’t we do the same with these?” We’d had this conversation like clockwork, every six months, for the previous two years. For some crazy reason, the thought of paying somebody money to slice open my mouth and crack out two teeth that were not bothering me just didn’t wet my whistle. I was determined to wait those suckers out and then kill them on their own time.
My teeth have always been slow. I was the last of my friends to be visited by the tooth fairy; when I was 14 an orthodontist pulled out my last six – yes, six – baby teeth so that we could fit my gappy, Beverly Hillbillies smile with braces. My wisdom teeth have been the same, the first coming in and being pulled at age 27, the second at 30. In the moment after yanking wisdom tooth number two, the dentist looked down at me and said, “You are one tough chick.” A tough chick. Hells yes. I liked that. I smiled at him, my face puffy, the little white sucker straw gurgling around the massive quantities of blood that were gushing out of the new hole in my face, and said, “AAAAAKKKKKAAHHEEEAAAAAOOOOOO.”
Which meant, “Thanks, that means a lot.”
Which, in turn, meant, “Thank you for making me feel really fucking cool in this moment.”
So you can see why I preferred the wait-and-pull approach.
But now I had a new dentist, who did things like sigh and say, “How about if you just talk with the oral surgeon? No commitment.”
No means no! I wanted to say. But instead I agreed, and a few weeks later was being told by yet another person in yet another office with yet another big chair that it was time to evict my wisdom teeth. Something about one of them being very close to a nerve, and how the surgery has a longer and more difficult recovery the older you get, and I was already pretty old to begin with.
“I’m old?” I asked the oral surgeon. I’d expected to hear this from a medical professional someday, but not in the weeks before my 34th birthday.
“No! Not in general terms,” the surgeon said. “Just in terms of dealing with wisdom teeth.”
“You’re definitely not old,” he continued. “I mean, I don’t consider myself old at all, and you and I are the same age.”
Which was actually not helpful, because that meant that in the same amount of living, he had managed to become an oral surgeon with a white coat and a big, pretty office and I had managed to become someone who goes to the gas station in my pajamas. But he was trying hard to recover and so I smiled and told him I understood.
I didn’t, though. And when I got home, I immediately unleashed on Nick: “The oral surgeon called me OLD!”
“Why? Because you’re just now getting your wisdom teeth out? You are kind of old for that.”
“Are you really serious right now?”
He was not. Which is what I thought.
I pulled out the laptop. The oral surgeon’s office was in Nick’s hometown. “You might even know him, he said he’s our age.” It took just a moment to navigate to the website and locate the surgeon’s bio. I pointed at the photo: “THAT’S HIM.”
Nick looked. “Doesn’t look familiar. Where’d he go to high school?”
I scanned the text. “Mmm… It says, a 1991 graduate of-”
That meant the oral surgeon was… 38?
“I am not 38!” I announced.
Nick was confused. “Who said you’re 38?”
“He probably just meant that you are around the same age.”
These being the words that I, one month later, dreamily repeated at the oral surgeon while inhaling nitrous oxide and preparing to have my final two wisdom teeth removed. He smiled and looked confused; who knows what he thought was going through my head in that moment.
All of which makes me realize that there is third silver lining to Root Canal Day: My dentist has never once called me old, and I will not murmur nonsense to her while she’s making my pain go away.
And I’ve still got my sights set on that nap.
It’ll be a good time for all, Root Canal Day. A good time for all.