The Ballad of The 24 Year Root Canal

Last week I was basking in the glow of learning that my special, Half-Blackface, was streaming free on Amazon Prime, but like all things related to my comedy career, the basking was brief in duration. I woke up last Monday with a toothache and it only got worse until I finally made it to my dentist two days later.  It appeared that I had an infection, possibly stemming from a root canal I had had in college.  This was only the beginning of my problems, but first some background.

Fall 2000 – The First Root Canal

I was a senior in college. Having had a youth filled with candy, cavities were not something foreign to me, but the pain I had begun experiencing in one of my lower left teeth was something of a completely different order.  Having always hated the dentist, I did not want to go to the dentist in Williamstown, MA because if I am going to have someone go to war on my mouth I at least want it to be the Manhattan sadist I was used to.  I honestly think the original phrasing of “it’s the devil you know” was “it’s the dentist you know” and it got lost in translation throughout the years.

But by day 3 I was taking about 35 Advil to gain even temporary relief (Hulu has chosen not to go forward with me miniseries The Most Boring Drug Addiction Story Ever) and I thought, “internal organ failure seems like a steep price to pay to endure tooth pain.” I made an appointment for the dentist in Williamstown and I only remember two things: they had to basically inject through my tooth (top down through a small hole) to fully numb the area and that 2 seconds was the most painful 2 seconds of my life.  And the second thing I remember is that after they gave me a root canal and a crown and my pain was gone.

Fall 2000-2021: The Legacy of the Root Canal

For years  the dentists I would see would comment on what a good job the dentist had done with the root canal, but after the pandemic, perhaps sensing that I had gained immeasurable wealth and fame during Covid, my dentist said that the crown needed to be replaced (I kid my dentist – I have been seeing him for over a decade). He said that 20 years for a root canal and crown was an impressive amount of time, so we redid the crown and I hung the crown he had removed from the rafters of the dental museum.  I had dental insurance which covered a majority of the new crown and I left hoping for another 20 year run of root canal greatness.

April 2024 – The End is Nigh

My dentist, who squeezed me in on a busy day before he left for the week for his normal days off and the Passover holiday, took some x-rays and cleaned up a filling next to the root canal tooth suggesting that some space might have led to the infection, but that the root canal might also be infected. Either way he proscribed amoxicillin and Motrin and said I should feel better in a couple of days.

Sadly I did not feel better in a few days so I went to my brother’s dentist and was told the same thing – to let the amoxicillin work and if I did not feel better by Monday to see an endodontist.

But on Saturday I was in more pain so I went to a boutique dental office that had Saturday hours and emergency care.  The took x-rays and said that the root canal was failing (like all great athletes there is a time when you just haven’t got it anymore) and that there was clearly an infection around the root canal.  They recommended extraction, bone graft and implant. I am not going to tell you how much this cost, but when the dentist leaves so that the “patient care coordinator” can come in, you know it isn’t cheap.  When an office has someone whose job it is to tell people that their wallet pain may exceed their oral pain, you know you are in trouble.  I of course said yes.  And if you have not figured out my luck, of course I no longer have dental insurance, as I lost the job that came as a small requirement to keep said insurance.

What followed was a 45 minute ordeal that is the closest I will ever get to the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.  Of course I needed extra Novocain (because I am very large, a pussy, or both). But needless to say I had both long and stubborn roots (I like my teeth like I like my commitment to comedy) and it took quite a while to full remove the GOAT root canal tooth.  Now when I entered the office I had everyone laughing as I made gallows’ humor jokes. When it was done I was literally shaking from the trauma and basically had the body language of  Theo on Game of Thrones after he had fully been broken into Reek. When I sat up I noticed some tooth shavings and a tiny morsel of bloody root on my bib/shirt. I felt like the Nazi in The Zone of Interest when he sees his children bathing in Jewish remains in their river (minus all of the Nazism and atrocities against Jews, though some people have told me I look like Seinfeld).

When I finally made it out of the chair I saw that the dentist was fairly short and I thought, was this a “short king” flex?  Me strapped down like Gulliver while he went to work?  He was very friendly, but isn’t that how a truly confident short king would act? I envisioned him saying to the support staff after I left, “Guess who doesn’t have jokes anymore?”

The Aftermath

I made my way to my local CVS to pick up my stronger Amoxicillin and pain meds and when I walked in U2’s Beautiful Day was playing. You may think I am making this up, but I am not. In Fall 2000 when I got the root canal, U2 had just released their new single off there new album, Beautiful Day.  Now, as if a funeral hymn for the gone root canal tooth, here it was playing again.

As I sit here today, I am three hours away from a just scheduled appointment with Short King, DDS to look at my mouth because the swelling has not gone away and there is still a decent amount of pain radiating in my mouth. My guess is that I need a different antibiotic than Amoxicillin, because of course I would be unresponsive to an antibiotic I have not had in 3 decades.

The Lesson

I don’t know if a root canal can teach anything about life, but when i think about something lasting twenty years, exceeding expectations, people and experts commenting on its quality and then ending up in the trash I begin thinking, “has my comedy career just been one long root canal?”

Technically this s the first blog of 2024 that missed my self-imposed “one blog a week” New Year’s Resolution, but hopefully you will excuse it as it was the result of a medical issue.

  • Tony Monteleone

    I DO know how much it costs…I’m a dentist! Been following you for a while and the Trump stuff is hilarious…I do standup in Pittsburgh…you’re right, when the treatment coordinator comes in better brace yourself 😆🦷💵 …stay well my man and don’t let anyone bullshit you with implant stuff…let me know if I can help as I’m clinical director at a large dental lab/prosthetics company in Pittsburgh

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Good to know!

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