After engaging in a bit of smalltalk, he finally got to work. The expert that he was in his trade, he precisely knew the problem at hand and how to go about fixing it. He laid bare the tools that he would be using for the next couple of hours. Heavy artillery like hammer, chisel, pliers, drilling machine, an assortment of machinist files, vacuum pump, blower, adhesives, burner, chemical solutions, et al. I had seen these many times in the past, but today the tools looked more sophisticated than before. Looks like technology had advanced in his field of expertise as well. He even had an assistant to help him now. Perhaps business was booming. With the logistics in place, he set off showing his dexterity and finesse.

He first took the chisel and started prodding the areas that looked weak. He found the target area in a jiffy. Thereafter he assessed the quantum of damage before getting his drilling machine ready. He chose the exact drill bit that would be needed to drill a hole into the impacted area. Not too long, not too fat, not too thin, not too coarse… but just the exact fit. He eased the drill bit into his drilling machine and tightened it into place. In the past he operated this drilling machine using a classic electric switch, which he used to switch it on and off. He had a separate hose to spray water to help him drill easily. And he had to pour out the water and residue every now and then. But now it was really sophisticated. The machine not only accommodated the drill bit, but also had a tiny hose which supplied water. He could switch the drilling machine and the water hose; on and off using his leg VIA a pedal. His assistant operated a vacuum pump to extract the water and residue, as he ploughed on with his drilling. I could easily guess that this was really more productive and efficient for him.

He drilled and chipped away at ease and removed the impacted area completely. He had dug a neat hole which gave him a clear view of the recess hidden until now. He used a blower to pump compressed air to further clean the area. He examined the abyss and shook his head as he saw the muck that had accumulated, which was the root cause of the problem. He then took out his files [I mean the machinist files] to clean this up. A few years ago, he used to manually file everything, moving his hand steadily up and down the recesses. But now he had a small motor to help do this. All he had to do was to attach the file to the motor and navigate it carefully to the appropriate spaces. It took him a good half an hour to clean everything. In between he had to use the drilling machine a couple of time, to create more space.

After being satisfied with the scrubbing and scraping, he used a couple of chemical solutions to cleanse everything. He examined everything carefully and finally said that he was done with his cleaning. It was now time to fill the hole and seal it. He had the required adhesives for this. He put them in place, heated one end of a steel rod and placed the heated end on the adhesives. This quickly started filling up the empty spaces, which he had dug and cleaned. He repeated this four to five times, by when everything looked almost back to normal. He further cleaned it all up with some liquids and finally wiped it spick and span.

He did the final customary inspection of his work of art. Satisfied with what he had done, he looked at me and said “I am finished now. Did it pain a lot?” I could not feel anything on the right side of my face…  jaw, gums, cheek, tongue… all of it was numb and senseless, thanks to the local anesthesia that he had administered, before starting the root canal treatment. I felt odd while speaking, but managed to tell him that it was not too painful. He then prescribed some antibiotics and painkillers for the next three days and asked me to visit him again in a week so that he can put the artificial enamel crown to the tooth, which would actually complete the entire treatment. Having undergone root canal treatment at least half a dozen times, I was relieved that the difficult part was over. Getting a dentists crown is akin to a coronation ceremony for me, albeit a painful one.

Poor oral hygiene right from childhood meant that I have had to visit the dentist many times in my life. The experience is a nightmare which I would not wish upon anyone. It is hard to imagine how the tools and techniques used by mechanics, plumbers, electricians, masons, painters and many other professions converge into this field of medicine. In the umpteen visits so far in my life, I have had tooth extractions; minor surgery for wisdom tooth extraction; many root canal treatments; a very sophisticated titanium implant procedure and god knows the other treatments that I have forgotten. Thankfully the dentist I have been frequenting for almost two decades is an expert in what he does. It also helps that he is my cousin’s husband and hence more than trustworthy… someone whom I would safely trust my teeth with. God bless him!