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For Better or Worse: Root of all evil can be summed up in three words: drill, baby, drill

I had a root canal last week.

No human being should ever be subjected to anything where the words "root" and "canal" are used in the same sentence.

A root canal is a dental procedure prescribed when breathing in on a cool day, drinking something cold (or hot, or room temperature), or eating in general causes pain that, on a scale of one to 10 — where being run over by an 18-wheeler on a rock-strewn highway covered with broken glass and fire ants is a 10 — tops out at 11.

The same tooth needing the root canal was the one for which my dentist had only just made a shiny new crown. A crown shouldn't hurt; but this one felt like the hooves of 1,000 mountain goats Irish-dancing in my mouth.

The pain started at the bottom-left molar with the new crown, sliced through neighboring teeth until it set my trans mandibular joint into excruciating spasms, then extended the length of my upper teeth until reaching the ones in front.

It felt like I'd been cracked upside the head with a baseball bat swung by Babe Ruth on his best day. With a tail wind behind him. And a 100-pound weight attached to the end of the bat.

I waited a while for the pain to stop — not wanting to go back to the dentist before the year 2037, if I could help it. But when I found myself only able to eat yogurt and applesauce, I gave up.

My dentist knew exactly what I needed: a root canal in the tooth proudly sporting the spiffy new crown. She referred me to an endodontist and went back to giving lollipops to children.

Endodontists are dentists licensed to operate heavy farm machinery in the course of their work day … in your mouth.

This guy was going to drill a hole in my beautiful (and expensive) new crown to do the root canal. Sort of like fracking, only in my tooth.

I never thought I'd look forward to a dental appointment, but I was desperate, considering how miserable (and hungry) I was. I settled myself into The Chair with barely any coaxing, and the dental assistant handed me a pair of clear-plastic goggles. She and Dr. T. each donned a pair, too.

Apparently there's a possibility of flying shrapnel, I thought. Oh, well.

The 90-minute ordeal began with several anesthetic shots administered by way of hypodermic needles the thickness of a No. 15 crochet hook.

The doctor stretched a dental dam across my mouth, covering all but the target tooth, and inserted a wedge between my teeth on the other side to prop open my mouth. (I say it was to keep me from biting anyone — by accident, of course.)

Finally Dr. T put both hands, one foot and a jackhammer in my mouth and commenced tunneling into the crown. He dug the pulp out of my tooth, scraped a little extra on the sides — just to be sure — and placed a temporary filling in the void. My regular dentist did the permanent filling the following week.

Perhaps my childhood candy consumption finally caught up with me. If that's the case, the root canal was karma.

Or maybe I tortured nuns and babies for sport in a former life. That would make the root canal payback.

It doesn't matter; what matters is that I can chew again without writhing in agony surpassed only by giving birth to an elephant.

So, speaking of giving birth, perhaps my kids will bring on the peanut brittle and break out the toffee for Mother's Day.

I'm back, baby. I'm back!

Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at

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