Warren’s World: The Root Canal

By Beacon Staff

The other evening my wife and I were at a dinner party where someone asked the lady next to me,“How’d you do with that black Labrador’s root canal?”

In any other place in the world this would have been good for a CNN camera crew to record the root canal event while it was happening. It, however, is the sort of thing that is a normal occurrence here on this island in northwest Washington.

This is what I was told happened:

She was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room with someone else who she thought was the patient just ahead of her. On the other patient’s knee was a whimpering, salivating, 150-pound black Labrador retriever. Well, almost black, because the dog was already turning gray around the head and neck from old age.

The other patient’s name was called and she disappeared into the drilling room with her whimpering, salivating dog. It seemed a little unusual to my friend for someone to have a root canal done while her dog sat beside her in a regular dentist’s office, but the nurse at the party who was telling the story said, “Don’t worry it happens all of the time here on the island. The dentist’s wife is a veterinarian and she comes into the office every month or so with a local dog who really likes to chew on rocks from the beach because they have a lot of salt in them. “

The walls of the dental office are about as thick and soundproof as a quarter-inch sheet of plywood – because that’s what they are made of.

“Make Duffy open his mouth and have him tell me where he thinks it’s hurting him?”

Now, I’m wondering if the dentist and the veterinarian use the same chair and instruments that they will use during my next appointment. Who will be drilling on the dogs’ teeth, the vet or the dentist? Does the dog sit up in the dental chair, or lay on his side on top of a filing cabinet while he is getting his root canal? How does the dentist keep from getting bitten when he gives the dog his shot of Novocain? Or does the dentist put the dog out first? How does the dog tell the dentist where it hurts? Will the owner hold her dog’s paw while he’s being root canalled? Does the dentist drill and fill any other bad teeth at the same time that he does the root canal, or does he just pull them? During the root canal, is it a case of sound economics for the owner to get the dog’s teeth cleaned at the same time? Will the dog get a balloon and some bubble gum when he is through with the root canal operation? He should because the dog is only six years old. If both the dentist and the vet work together, will the bill be twice as much, or should it be the same because the job will only take half the time?

If I had been sitting in the waiting room about the time the dog started barking, I would have told the nurse, “I’m going to go out and have a cup of coffee and I might or might not be back in a half hour.”

I would then go to the local sprouts and cucumber sandwich specialty restaurant, sit out on the deck and call a dentist in Seattle for an appointment so I could get my dental work done somewhere else. The lady at the dinner party who was telling the story was unable to tell us the outcome of the root canal operation. She never did find out if the root canal was done by the dentist, or his wife, the veterinarian, or whether the dog got the balloon and bubble gum reward for not biting the person doing the root canal.

I do know that you can’t afford to be in business on a small island like this and have very many failures.