I’d rather have a root canal!

Dec 1, 2010 | 1 comment

Shamrock and Reliable, 1905

     Yesterday I went to Longview for a consultation on my broken molar.  One of the suggested treatments is a root canal and so I made an appointment to talk with a specialist – an endodontist.  I have had two root canals previously, or maybe three.  I really can’t remember, perhaps because contrary to popular opinion, a root canal is a painless procedure.  The only memorable part to me is the Longview dentist and her cutting-edge techniques.
     I was not disappointed in the “new techniques arena” yesterday, even though my appointment was only for a half-hour to discuss options.  As expected, two x-rays were taken.  The unexpected part was that they immediately showed up on a large computer monitor to my left.  None of the usual “I’ll just go and develop these films and then the doctor will be in” business.  Instant imaging!
     On the way home, I thought of how far dentistry has come in my lifetime and I thought about some of the stories my mother told me about going to the dentist when she was a child.  In those days, the dentist nearest to Oysterville was in South Bend.  To get there, mom remembered, they went by wagon or buggy to Nahcotta and caught one of the two packet launches – the Shamrock or the Reliable – that made the twice-daily trip across the bay and up the Willapa River.  She always dreaded that trip, ending as it did with the dentist’s large foot-driven drill grinding away at cavities with a big noise and the smell of burning teeth.
     Her most memorable trip to the dentist, though, wasn’t for dental work at all. In 1916 she and her brothers, Willard and Edwin, were taken for the removal of their tonsils.  Mom was five, Willard was six, and Edwin was eight. Even at age 90, my mother had vivid memories of that particular trip to the dentist:
     His office was right across from the Cassels’ Hotel.  Mama got a room and then took Edwin, Willard, and me over to the dentist.  Edwin went first.  He didn’t make any noise but Willard and I were mighty scared when we saw the dentist carry him out and take him across the street to the hotel.  Next was Willard.  He screamed and when the dentist carried him out I thought he might be dead.  I was the youngest so I was last.  I don’t remember much about the afterwards – we ate ice cream I think.  It was the before that I could never forget!
     As barbaric as that sounds today, the procedure was no doubt considered much improved over the experience of a generation or two earlier when it was the barber who removed tonsils!  We’ve come a long way for sure and I can safely say that by comparison, I’d rather have a root canal!

1 Comment

  1. Bette

    Over the years, my worst fears involved visits to the dentist. I, too, am amazed at how painless procedures have become. Had a tooth pulled and an implant placed in front of it a few weeks ago; was in an out of the office in less than an hour and although I couldn’t drive immediately, I was up and about in a couple hours. Regarding x-rays–the last one I had involved me standing still while the machine whirled around my head; no more putting those nasty cardboard squares in your mouth. Have found an excellent dentist nearby and he only gives referrals to specialists who have treated his personal family members. What a guy!


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