Unexpected Impediment

This past Thursday, I had an emergency root canal.  This pretty much undermined any plans I had for the week.

Elegant Impediment

Elegant Impediment

Well, not the root canal itself.  That was easily and efficiently handled by an endodontist and his assistant.  In fact, I left the endodontist’s office feeling better than I had since Monday, when what had been an occasional twinge turned into intermittent waves of burning pain that eventually spread from the vicinity of the tooth to flow along my left upper and lower jaw, then to below my ear and up the side of my face.

“Intermittent” is the reason I didn’t call the dentist sooner.  When the pain would quit – often without warning, certainly not in response to anything in particular – I’d think “Oh, it’s over.”

But it wasn’t.  As the week went on, and the surges became more common and the ebbs less so, I accepted that I needed help.

I learned that these waves of pain are not at all uncommon when a tooth nerve is “flaring.”  I also learned that most upper molars have three roots, but I only had two.  This caused both the endodontist and my friend Melissa (who is a dentist) a great deal of delight.  Apparently, two roots is an upper molar is rather rare.  It’s nice to make specialists happy.

What else did I learn from this experience?

Well, I learned that the actual root canal procedure is not much worse than having a difficult cavity filled.  However, I also learned that the aftermath can be – especially in the case of a situation like mine where there was a lot of pain – far worse than any cavity.

Because of the intensity of the pain I’d been in, the endodontist sent me home with prescriptions for both 800 mg of ibuprofen and a narcotic concoction.   While I was grateful to know the pain would be kept at bay, the treatment left me loopy and tired.   I ended up sleeping most of Friday afternoon.  When I was awake, I couldn’t read anything that demanded analytical thinking.  So much for the research I’d planned to immerse myself in.

Or for getting end of the year paperwork together.

Still, even as I was feeling sorry for myself, I was also incredibly grateful.  I found myself thinking how glad I was not to live in the days of yore when not only weren’t there charming dental professionals to remove the source of the pain, there weren’t x-rays to let them see the problem or carefully constructed tools to do the work.

If you were lucky, someone yanked out the tooth and you didn’t get an infection.  They didn’t send you home with the means to control the pain.  You might get a swig of something or you might be told to stop whining and get back to work.

Yeah…  Pain control – especially in historical or fantasy fiction – is something that is given far too little attention.  Characters get wounded, wipe off the blood, then hurry back to the adventure at hand.   There are numerous justifications for this, including “who wants to read about someone actually dealing with pain and suffering,” but still…

Another thing this little diversion got me thinking about was how many writers I know who don’t plan for impediments in their schedule.  They say to themselves: “I can write a book in six months.  I’ll add on two weeks to read through and edit, then move on.”  Then, they get sick – or their kid, spouse, or pet has an emergency or something breaks – and they find themselves running behind.  This, in turn, leads to the stress of having missed a deadline, which can further slow a writer up and…

So here’s a bit of advice.  When setting up a schedule for yourself, factor in a week or two for things to go wrong.  The date you give to your editor or whoever you’re turning the project in to includes this extra time.  Don’t let having allowed for extra time make you lazy.  Work as if you didn’t factor it in.  At the very worst, you’ll finish early.  But, at the best, you have breathing room for those times when a little twinge turns into a big deal.

You’ll thank yourself and so will the people you work with.  Trust me on that!

Now, off to catch up on all the things I didn’t get done.  One of these will be reviewing the short story I’m reading Friday night at the meeting of the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society.  Details are available on my website.


2 Responses to “Unexpected Impediment”

  1. Louis Robinson Says:

    Ouch! Sympathies, in spades.

    And encouragement to everyone to have your dentist look over your teeth at least twice a year. I only have 4 molars left, because the darned things didn’t start hurting soon enough to be saved. Regular check ups can catch most cavities before they’ve chewed all the way into the middle of the tooth – which is often when the serious discomfort starts. And while feeling an abscess pop is definitely weird, it’s not something I would encourage people to experience!

    • janelindskold Says:

      Thanks for the sympathies. This was not due to a cavity but to root resorption which, in turn, may be related to the fact that I have a thyroid imbalance. The human body is a complex thing.

      Actually, leave out “human.” Bodies are really complicated!

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