The transition between life and dental work


What are the things one thinks about when sitting in a dental chair for 3 hours?

1.  I haven’t exactly had a near death experience, just an experience I interpret as heaven twice in my life during a cassette tape meditation. The joy, the knowledge that nothing can hurt you, a oneness connecting to and through; I don’t call it heaven…I call it “home.”

However, I have to agree with Isaac Asimov who said, “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

2.  Yesterday I was in a dental chair for 3 hours. The dental student was his usual kind, patient, caring self throughout. After the first hour of drilling, I felt like a child stuck in a car with nothing to do while going through Kansas in December. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we….”

It helps to have confidence in the person who is drilling out your molar with a jackhammer.

3. The filling was twice as deep as he first thought, requiring great care to drill out the decay and the existing filling. His assistant, a volunteer, was in charge of scooping out the water from my mouth with a suctioning hose. The water went left. The hose went right, forcing me to gargle tooth pieces and old amalgam splinters until the dental student told him where to stick it (to be clear, he was talking about the suctioning hose in my mouth and not a large dental appliance up the volunteer’s….I don’t think I’m going to go there).

You don’t want to know what he did with the drying thingy.

4. One of the blogs I follow is by a dental hygienist and writer. It’s called DentalEggs. (

As I was thinking about how convenient it would be to die after the first hour of dental work, I thought about her assertion that Dentistry and eggs have nothing to do with one another. 

Then it hit me like the blast of hot air accosting my tonsils. What does good dentistry have in common with eggs? Eggs are as fragile as the frightened patient walking through the door for dental work. With patience, kindness, encouragement, and understanding, a good dentist can keep from breaking a patient. It can mean the difference between a person caring for his or her teeth in partnership with a dentist, or avoiding a dentist altogether and teaching his/her children to do the same.

5.  One of the faculty asked if the dental student was doing a good job and I said, “I know when he’s doing the dental work it is always going to be excellent.”

That is the God’s honest truth. However, the transition between having a tooth that needs to be filled and the excellent work is rather like Asimov’s insightful point about the transition between life and death.

5. So then, what ways to die would be preferable?

  • In my sleep shortly after all 12 of my books are published
  • In my sleep, like my father.
  • Instantly, while sleeping in a car during a terrible accident.
  • Under anesthesia.

I think that when it’s time to get 2 root canals, I’ll ask if I can have them both done at the same time–while under anesthesia. If I have to go out, I want my teeth to look their very best.