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novocaine for the soul

I sit down in the dentist chair. The assistant makes small-talk, while we wait for Dr. Dold to come and fill the cavities. He comes, decides to just fill the good-sized one on my upper right molar, leaving the one on my wisdom tooth for some later date (if at all). He swabs some juice onto my gums. Then we wait; dentist, assistant and I. It was comical in some ways, all of us just thinking of other things we’d rather be doing. Then it was time for the fun.

When I was young, I would imagine the needle being smallish. One time, I decided to turn around and look. It’s not small. In fact, it’s amazing that the needle doesn’t poke right through your gums. The “novocaine”, or lidocaine/marcaine/articaine used by most dentists, is injected in several spots to block certain nerves in your gumline. All of these different anesthetics are members of the cocaine family. Meanwhile, I sit very still, while the dentist shoves a needle into my gum, over and over and over. Then it’s time for the other side, with the same process repeated. He used two different needles, most likely with two different drugs. I’ve heard that it’s better to do it slow, as the anesthetic has more time to take effect while the needle goes in… and I think this might be right. I do have to thank my dentist’s steady hands.

The right side of my mouth, and parts of my face start going numb, and he begins drilling. He can usually use the KCP (or Kinetic Cavity Preparation) machine, but he couldn’t this time. I feel nothing, but there is something much worse. The smell. I don’t know for sure, but I believe that the drill spins so fast that it starts burning the tooth material as it drills, creating this stench that just isn’t right. The smell of teeth burning. He uses two different drill bits, and after a few minutes of this, stops to check his work. He seemed to have drilled quite a large part of my tooth away, then rubbed some material on the tooth with a swab. Green, blue, and maybe even red goo was applied to the surface, and a strange “light-wand” was used to harden the tooth-colored filling. After several rounds of goo and curing, I was done.

Honestly, this much be a million times better than my parents had it when they were little. After all, they didn’t have “light-wands” and special goo that hardens into a tooth-like substance. And this was certainly not my first painful dentist procedure. But I still get the impression that dentistry is behind the other medical fields. Maybe the teeth are just not as advanced as other areas of the body, requiring less technology to do the job well.

My mouth, including my cheek and even half of my nose, was numb for a few hours afterwards. I’m just glad I wasn’t supposed to smile at work, or flare my nostrils; both impossible.

My wisdom teeth have another 6 month lease. Good for them.


  1. Rachel Rachel

    One more comment for you. The high quality of your entries each and every time deserves more comments. Everyone should follow suit and comment it up. hehe.

  2. jerod jerod


  3. No matter how far dental technology comes, in the end it’s all archaic. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, I only had local anesthesia and it was disturbing as hell. Gotta love seeing your blood spray on someone else’s face as they crack your teeth into pieces to pull them out of your mouth, using your head to brace themselves.

    btw – i love that eels song.

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