"What Long, Long Roots You Have"

Not exactly the message you want to hear, particularly from your dentist. Or endodontist, to be more specific. You know, the guy that does root canals.

After over two hours of laying in his chair, mouth wide open, trying to drown out the sound of drills and “another number 10 file, please” with shuffled songs on an iPod, I watched Dr. Wing drop his hands in exasperation.

“I just can’t finish.”

What is this strange language my dental professional is speaking to me? I pressed the pause button on my iPod and lifted my head gently. I tried to mouth a question, but the apparatus in my mouth prevented me from doing so, and I simply made a gagging noise. I tried to formulate a response with my hands, but the instrument tray prevented me from raising my hands more than an inch or so. I finally stared at him, pleading, and raised my eyebrows.

“I just don’t feel comfortable with the work that I’ve done. You had four roots instead of three, which was a surprise, and they’re incredibly long. I can’t finish this today. We’ll have to make another appointment later in the week.”

I thought about this for a moment. He removed the clamps and rubber from my mouth. Not wanting to acknowledge what he just told me, I tried to ask, “What exactly does that mean?” and was consumed by a searing pain in my jaws.

“You’ll need to come back in, I’ll numb you, I’ll continue where I left off. There’s just a mm or so that I can’t quite get. I need more time.” He spoke these words so matter of factly. I was still having a hard time accepting this proclamation.

“And what would happen if we just left the root there? You got most of it, right? Let’s just call it a day.”

It was his turn to eye me with quizzical curiosity. I simply nodded and made a mental note to thank my parents for genetics that blessed me with long legs, long fingers, and as I realized now, long roots.

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