I haven’t had a root canal in quite a while, so a few months ago I decided to make an appointment to get one done. That took an initial appointment so my dentist, Dr. Grimm (his real name) and I could agree on which tooth he should work on. He applied something super cold to various teeth, to see if any of them made me jump out of the chair, and he hit it on the third one. We agreed that was the tooth.
So, the appointment was made for today, at 1300, and that’s where I spent my afternoon visiting with Tracy and the good doctor. All of the dentists I’ve visited in the past palmed off root canals to another practice that specializes in them which incurs another office visit. My dentist, however, is a many of many trades and works in an office that provides all required services from start to stop. I like the change because it’s going to get done faster and I’ll only have one guy to blame if things go south on this tooth which was put out of its misery right at 1310, or so. That’s when I got the needle. A really long one.
After Dr. Grimm was almost finished, Tracy was kind enough to snap this photo of me on my iPad.
I was pleasantly pleased to note that nothing was hanging out of my nose. That’s one of my main concerns when I visit the dentist because I know, for sure, that’s where they always look first. I guess that’s a little weird, but I’m OK with weird, as most of you know.
The red and white things are probes that are stuck into the roots so they would show up nicely on the x-ray Tracy took. Three roots were cleaned out so I don’t know where the blue probe went, unless it was deemed unnecessary for the x-ray. After ensuring himself things were progressing as planned, the Good Doctor proceeded to fill them with nifty little sticks of gutta-percha which is a latex material used to waterproof underwater cables during the last half of the nineteenth century. When it was first used in dentistry is not documented on the link, but I suspect it was not long after companies began making latex gloves for surgical procedures.
A large industry, whose name escapes me at the moment, was created around the many uses for gutta-percha, including a niche for dentists, and latex gloves used in many surgical procedures, including those for dentists who do not like slobber on their tender skin while working on teeth.
Latex gloves became very popular and, as all popular things do, also became a problem when it came time to dispose of them. Considering that anyone in the medical industry, and those who refinish furniture, use these gloves in mass quantities, you can appreciate what a burden this created for the dumps littering the world. Burning them wasn’t a solution, either, because doing so created a medical problem for pretty much anything that breathes. So, someone began collecting all the discarded latex gloves, melted them down, and began making condoms out of them as a way of helping curb the soaring world population and to ensure young girls still in school did not become impregnated before her parents told her it was OK to do so.
One day an enterprising dentist accidentally melted a brand new latex condom and, through a process only he knows, discovered that it worked well for filling reamed out roots in one’s teeth. Through this humble beginning, dentists quickly resorted to using virgin gutta-percha because none of them wanted to waste their expensive condoms by melting them down. Then, too, there were suspected cases that some dentists were using used condoms for this purpose. Such dentists were relieved of their rights to practice dentistry and forced to become lawyers who could only serve as pro-bono public defenders.
Now the process has been refined to the point where little, tiny gutta-percha slivers are used to obturate the empty space in the roots of a tooth after it has undergone endodontic therapy. Discovering that caused me a to question the use of that term, therapy. I mean, c’mon, they’re drilling large holes in teeth. How can that be therapy? Then, after a bit of serious thinking, I could only agree because they are, after all, ‘making it better.’ And that’s therapy, right?
Dr. Grimm filled three roots with gutta-percha, then broke out another entire set of little tiny rasps and began scraping the nerve from a 4th root he had found. Thankfully he found it before it was all closed up. Once done, he filled the 4th root with gutta-percha slivers, then applied a nifty little tool that melted them into the holes, sealing them from further incursion by bodily fluids. Then he topped it off with something else. I don’t know what it is, but it dried very quickly, it was ground off a bit, and I was sent on my way to schedule my next visit for the crown. That’s going to be on January 15th.
If you’ve read this far, not knowing just a little bit about how my little head works, most of what you’ve just read is not true. Not all, just most. I leave it to your discretion as to what parts you wish to believe.
Again, if you read this far, thanks. I appreciate it.