If I seem out of sorts today, you'll have to excuse me. I'm still recovering from the tag-team of dental demolition that I faced earlier this week. In retrospect, it was a foolhardy move to schedule an oral surgery appointment on the same day as my dental appointment. Then again, it's foolhardy to schedule a sneeze on the same day as a dental appointment. Either way, when the dust and dentists had cleared, I was left with a hole in my jaw, ravaged gums and paralysis in half my face. I had also drooled enough to thoroughly dampen my socks, though that's nothing out of the ordinary.

Trips to the dentist are never pleasant for me. My brushing habits are consistent enough, but it's flossing, or lack thereof, that does me in. I floss roughly four times a year. Coincidentally, two of those occasions occur on the mornings of my bi-annual dental appointments. The other two guilt-induced flossings fall sometime in-between, after which my skewed sense of invincibility assures me that I'm all set until the next check-up. As a result, families of plaque regard my mouth as a vacation hot spot and flock in for the plush gums and privacy that are provided.

Dentists hate plaque's guts. So, despite commenting that my teeth looked great, Bernie, my hygienist, decided that a bloodletting was necessary. When I think back to the golden days of my orthodontics, I remember smiling through a variety of painless procedures before leaving with some tooth-themed parting gift. As I've grown older I've climbed a ladder of oral agony, ranging from braces to cavities to the current situation: haphazard prodding and stabbing under the guise of "'cleaning.' Even thinking about calling it "'cleaning' is diabolically euphemistic; the process more closely resembles chiseling, as though Bernie was trying to carve a Rodin out of my bicuspids. By the end of the procedure it felt as if a small Gatling gun had been trained on my gums. When Bernie had finished, I hobbled out of the office: considering the amount of pain I was in, it seemed like the right thing to do.

In between appointments, "Voetsch" and I stained a deck, as is our trade. Moments after we finished, an apocalyptic rainfall spontaneously arrived, thus erasing the past few hours' worth of work. This did not help in relieving the pain of my perforated gums.

Later that afternoon was my oral surgery appointment. I've known that I needed a root canal for awhile, but I filed it alongside "a work ethic" and "real big biceps" in a folder labeled "things I need but will likely never have." Eventually common sense my parents won over, compelling me into an exhaustive search to find the best (only) endodontist in Rochester (covered by my insurance.) Strangely, the doctor could find no source for my ailment – evidently it was a "'divine infection' of sorts – but determined that I did in fact need a root canal. He asked when a good time for me was. I proposed August, 2011. He suggested fifteen minutes. I accepted.

I drool. Everywhere. It's always been a problem of mine, and seems to peak at the most inopportune moments, such as job interviews and formal dinners. My pillows may as well be sponges. My last girlfriend nearly drowned during an open-mouth kiss. The only thing keeping me from flooding the room with extraneous expectoration is the constant sucking that I do with my cheeks. Normally this works well enough, but when half of my face is numbed beyond feeling, things can get sloppy. Add a drill and my mouth becomes a veritable geyser. Thanks to my root canal, I now know this to be fact.

Trying to dehydrate the situation was Sara, the doctor's amiable assistant. Her job was to maneuver a small suction hose toward the gallons of spittle erupting from my mouth, and to this charge she was quite enthusiastic. Sara navigated the hose as if to ensure that, in addition to my mouth, she sufficiently dried my teeth, esophagus, stomach and kidneys. At one point she managed to steer the hose directly onto the tip of my tongue, which was sucked inside. The ensuing sound was something akin to a Hoover sucking a salmon out of a river. I spent a moment wondering whether it was best to sit still and forfeit my tongue, or start mumbling and flapping my arms wildly – my instinctual response to most stimuli – and likely lose every other part of my mouth to the drill. Fortunately, Sara noticed in time to move the hose deep into my cheek.

I am not a tough person. If the stories I'd heard about root canals – that they were worse than death; even more painful than a pine-cone catheter – were true, I likely would've gone catatonic in the chair and become a permanent fixture of the office, like some statue in the corner used as an example of a successful root canal and a bad haircut. But that wasn't the case. Vacuum-hose incidents notwithstanding, the procedure turned out to be quick, the Novocain made it painless, and the numbness finally gave me a valid three-hour excuse for drooling everywhere. I've had worse afternoons playing video games in my boxers. It seems now that I'm much tougher than I gave myself credit for. I mean, if I can brush off an afternoon of boring into my skull, what can't I handle?

I mean, beside the dentist.