Engaging Ones Abs During Root Canal While Humming The Little Brown Gal

c'est moi--the little brown gal

My first experience with root canal surgery left me believing that I would ask the doctor to pull all my teeth rather than have that arduous and terrifying acquaintance with The Drill ever again.

So when I recently started feeling sensitivity in one of my left  molars, I simply decided to favor the right side of my mouth–simple solution, right? Well, it was actually successful for three weeks when I came to the conclusion that forfeiting a summer without hot fudge sundaes and frappucinos (my new addiction) wasn’t the way to go.


Once I settled into the very cushy chair in Dr. Farber’s well-appointed  surgery room, he explained The Procedure, commencing first with nitrous oxide.

I knew he was making small talk while waiting for the laughing gas to take effect, calmly interjecting every so often, “Terry, do you feel anything yet? Any tingling sensation in your fingers and toes?  Any drowsiness?

To which I reply, “Nope.”

More questions about my recent houseboat vacation, “Terry, do you feel any tingling yet? Anything different? A slight heaviness? 

To which I again reply, “Nope.”

So, I am now at the maximum dose one can have of nitrous oxide and this makes me very nervous because I don’t want to feel any pain or tension. (And by the way, why the hell aren’t I laughing yet?)

My solution for warding off the impending nervousness is to engage my abs and do leg lifts. (Carrie, my trainer, would be so proud!) Through the sunglasses they made me wear, I see the assistant look in the direction of my legs and then at the doctor who proceeds to look at my legs also. They make eye contact again (wished I could see their faces), and the doctor continues with The Procedure.

Plop!  The first sandal falls off my foot, but I continue with the leg lifts, engaging my core. Minutes later. Plop!  The other sandal slides to the floor.

So now I hear the drilling and this totally FREAKS ME OUT, so I decide to hum  Little Brown Gal–for the next two hours straight! (Without exaggeration!) Over and over and over I hum, trying to picture the hand and leg movements so as to take me to a much  better place than the endodontic’s chair I am presently lying in.

After three and a half hours, the surgery is finally over. “Terry, there were some complications,” Dr. Farber tells me, looking drawn and tired. The doctor’s assistant, pat, pat, pats my hand, then rubs my arm and smiles sweetly. She’s been on her feet for three and a half hours too.  It is 7:35 and I first sat in the chair at 4:00 p.m.

What do you do when you are in a similar situation? What do you do when you are nervous?


12 thoughts on “Engaging Ones Abs During Root Canal While Humming The Little Brown Gal

  1. Wow. Were you really there that long? Maybe next time you can take a nap.
    How do I handle situations like that? I try to get all the drugs I’m allowed to have.

  2. Get on a plane over to the UK, I’ve never heard of anyone being in the dentist chair for that length of time! I’ve had several lots of root canal treatment, all a bit tedious but never ‘nasty’ The only way you get nitrous oxide in the UK is from a paramedic, midwife or in accident and emergency dept. Local anaesthetic is as much as you get (or is needed) from the dentist

  3. I hate getting dental work and like you, I am holding off doing on a crown that fell out… Ugh! 😦
    You look so confident as a little brown girl back in the day…. Beautiful! 🙂

  4. When I’m nervous I compile a list of the 100 all time greatest baseball players. And if this exercise fails to calm my nerves, I compile a list of the 100 all time greatest drinking baseball players. It usually includes the same players.

  5. I wonder if dentist are secretly sadist, I mean they do a good but sometimes I really do wonder!!! I hope this is the end to all your toothy problems.

  6. Ohhh…poor baby! I’ve had a couple of root canals, but not the same bad experience as you! My first was not exactly perfect though. As the endodontist was cleaning out the root pulp, I kept tasting bleach but couldn’t tell him because of the “tent” erected around the construction site in my gaping mouth. After I sat up and immediatley began to spit as soon as the tent was removed, he realized I had had a cavity below the gum line that allowed all the liquids he was squirting in to leak out down my throat. Yuck!

  7. Terrie: I was spellbound or maybe opened jaw during this entire post…feel your pain? I still do
    great descriptions…ouch!

  8. I certainly can sympathize (especially with the first part). I had to have all of my teeth pulled when I was 34! Now I have full upper and lower plates, and the dentist doesn’t scare me anymore!

    When I’m nervous, I usually pace (if I can), if not then I concentrate on deep breathing. 🙂

  9. I feel your pain. I am exactly the same when I visit the dentist. I have never had a root canal before but I have had my top wisdom teeth pulled out. It was literary done with a pair of pliers…It wasn’t my bravest moment!

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