I returned after a week for the second appointment as we had agreed. Dr Sarah was in her element, cheerful and a good mood, just as she was the first time I saw her. After greetings, I was directed to the X-ray machine where a technician took the image. Dr Sarah confirmed that the tooth had healed and that it was now time for the second part of the procedure. I lay on the dental chair as she began. I thought it would take as long as it did the last time, but I was wrong. The second procedure took longer and seemed more intense. Substances that looked like pins would be inserted to the tooth, after which intense grinding would follow. One after another and in a meticulous fashion, Dr Sarah would go on, sometimes gesturing on the assistant to bring this or that element of the process. Saliva poured, and the suction pipes did their job.
This second part of the process was more tedious, and I had to keep my mouth open for long. The salty fluid projected by the water nozzle would sometime go right to the back of my mouth, and I had no option but to swallow it. On and on Dr Sarah went, and I could only hope that with every action, the end neared. Cotton wool inserted in between the gum and the cheek on the one hand and the bottom of the tongue on the other was a source of great discomfort. Dr Sarah insisted that it was imperative to get this part right because for the filling to stick, it had to be mounted on a dry surface. The grinding and levelling were just as hectic as I had to bite and release a piece of foil repeatedly to ascertain that the tooth had been levelled accordingly. After a process that felt as if it had lasted forever, we were done. I stretched in relief as I rinsed my mouth with the salty mouthwash. My mouth felt swollen, and I struggled to keep the fluid from escaping from the side of my mouth. After a brief chat with Dr Sarah, I left, promising to come back after some time for the fitting of the crown. I had a short conversation with the cashier as she swiped my insurance card to deduct the payment.
As I rode home, I found myself reflecting on my experience with Dr Sarah. I had not known much about dentistry in the past. I had seen it as a profession that lacked excitement. However, my root canal treatment had given me a unique perspective on dentistry. I remembered all the pain I had endured in the past, settling on pain killers. Then I recalled a cheerful Dr Sarah, who was happy that she was a dentist. I went back to that Tuesday morning, seeing the faces of the patients that were in a foul mood, perhaps because their teeth hurt so badly. Dr Sarah was able to make them both healthy and happy was something that I found praiseworthy. Maybe I would be just as fulfilled as Dr Sarah if I brought such joy to people as well. Maybe dentistry was my calling. I could not know for sure, but at the very least, I needed to think about it. It should not have been a hard choice, though, because I had experienced what every patient felt – the relief that came when pain disappeared. It would be a nice thing if I too would make others feel just like I had felt. I needed time to decide. However, one thing was sure: Dr Sarah, had given me a unique perspective about dentists and modern dentistry.