Dr DOE: Probably?
C-DOG: I've still got some questions.
Dr DOE: Questions? OK, shoot.
C-DOG: Well, just say I got one of those drill bits lost somewhere in my head, would...
Dr DOE: Yeah?
C-DOG: ...would I have to pay for a replacement?
Dr DOE: [Laughing] No, no you wouldn't. The first few are on the house.
C-DOG: You know, I'd probably buy you a new one anyway - hopefully a better one than the one that broke. I think that's just being polite.
Dr DOE: Right. Thank you.
C-DOG: Another thing is almost everyone I've spoken to who has had root canal work done reckons it has largely been an expensive waste of time - the teeth break or turn beige and fall out, or keep oozing pus or pulp or hurting them in some way. Things like that.
Dr DOE: Actually, the real success-rate for the procedure is around 90%.
C-DOG: I'm not sure I understand. At what point after the operation is "success" indicated?
Dr DOE: I'm not sure.
C-DOG: It seems important to me - crucial.
Dr DOE: I can chase up the study if you want, but look, you know, the mouth is a very hostile environment. All dentistry is really just stalling tactics - delaying degeneration. It can't stop it.
C-DOG: Surely that's not just true of dentistry but of all medicine, isn't it?
Dr DOE: I guess so, when you put it like that.
Dr DOE: That's a bit depressing.
Depressing?!? I didn't conjure up this vision of nihilist medicine. He did.
C-DOG: Anyway, you see I'm still not sure I want to do it.
Dr DOE: The root canal work?
Dr DOE: Well, it's either that or get the tooth pulled. They're the only options, you know? There's not a lot of things you can do.
C-DOG: I know. I'll get my tooth pulled.
Dr DOE: What?
C-DOG: I'll get the tooth pulled.
Dr DOE: [LONG PAUSE] OK, that's easy.
C-DOG: Maybe - but I think I still want you to do it.
Dr DOE: You don't want to have a go yourself?
Dr DOE: Oh, OK then. We'll get started.
C-DOG: Because, you know, if I did it well you might feel humiliated, given that I've had no dental training.
Pause. Weirdish look from Dr Doe. Unsure if it's a half-smile or a wince.
Dr DOE: Well it's good in a way, because I've felt a bit sick today and, to be honest, I wasn't looking forward very much to starting the day with a RC procedure. So it suits me.
Yes, he really said that. In his defence, at one point today he excused himself and coughed violently in a corner of the room for a while. When he finished he muttered "I'm dying" (although but I'm sure he was saying it is the sense of "Zikes! I'm dying out here," rather than "I'm dying of cancer.")* Dr Doe traded some of his implements - swapped a multitude of space-age ones for a few brass and iron barbershop weapons - the ones you'd gravitate towards if a fight broke out in the surgery - or it was invaded - and you were forced to defend yourself.
The course was now set, and I was upbeat - albeit having a few articulation problems. "Everyone wins," I said. "And, you know, if I did get root canal work done I wouldn't be able close my mouth and lick my cheek."
"You want to do that?"
He loaded me up with lidocaine, not without some medium-to-large expressions of pain. From me. After the second injection he said: "I've got two seven year-old girls at home who are tougher than you."
"Two on one isn't fair. So I'm a wuss. I came here to get my teeth fixed, not my character."
I was out of there in just under twenty-five minutes. And it cost me $115. That's a saving of $2875 - although they didn't let me take my tooth home. Why not? "It's a biohazard." ("Listen, you're the one who's dying," I thought to myself - and then felt guilty in case he was, in fact, dying. OK Chris, he's not.)
A few hours out, I'm already enjoying pushing my tongue through the gap and licking the inside of my cheek - all with my mouth closed. I keep imagining that my tongue is a slug that pokes its head through a hole and steals some food before darting back to safety.
As I said, everyone wins. Thanks for people's valuable feedback. (Were any of you actually dentists? Or dental hobbyists? Pretty cocky bunch if you weren't.)
* Dr Doe appeared to change into "civilian" attire and leave straight after he finished with me. This would seem to corroborate his claim that he was not feeling well. But there are other possibilities: Was he even a dentist? Or could some needle-happy prankster just have walked in off the street and treated me for kicks?