Root canal for the heart

by Anna Blanch on March 6, 2012

Confirming what I have long suspected, my teeth have the worst timing known to all people with much on their plates, and international travel in their future. But in facing a second round of root canal in 12 months and the realisation that my dentist now knows way more about the stress in my life than my hairdresser who it has been an embarrasingly long time since I’ve been in front of, it struck me that whether it is the worst possible time (packing, shipping, writing a doctoral dissertation, planning travel for the rest of the year), it doesn’t change the reality that when an infection pops up that is so painful I couldn’t speak, let alone laugh (I know, it was rough!), you have to face it head on, or risk losing your tooth at best and a way more serious jaw or blood infection at worst.

It got me thinking about how we ignore festering infections in our lives. On the surface they look functional, even aesthetically acceptable, much like the fillings our dentist may have previously supplied us with, or even the surface of the tooth might look healthy. But deep within there is much ickiness.And much that will make us ill if we don’t deal with the root causes.

That was a pretty gruesome image, I know. But bear with me.

I’ve seen my dentist five times in the last week, and each time she treated my concerns and my poor tooth and jaw slightly differently. There’s a process, and step by step she needs to help my body to heal itself. With antibiotics and pain killers we seek to treat the infection and make me more comfortable but it isn’t until she pulls out her drill and starts uncovering the root of the problem that she really knows what is going on.

I’ve felt generally unwell because of the infection – as my body has fought it my battered immune system has succumbed to lethargy and flu symptoms. But, in knowing what the root cause is I have some power over seeking out treatment to hopefully get things healthy again.

Interestingly, even though It might seem counter intuitive my dentist told me that antibiotics can sometimes mask whether a problem has really been solved or whether you are merely treating the symptoms. I think sometimes I use activity or the legitimately diverse range of responsibilities facing me to mask deeper issues that need to be given time to heal. Sometimes we do ‘good things’ in the hopes that it will cover up the infections or underlying issues we can’t bring ourselves to deal with.

And sometimes no matter how well you’ve looked after yourself and sought to get at the roots of problems, you may have to lose the tooth in order be healthy in the long term. I wonder if there’s parts of lives that at some point we need to let go…or parts of our lives we need to let the healer of all heal step by step over time disinfecting our hearts and making us whole again to be able to live without pain!

As for me, I’m still really hoping my tooth and I are not parted any time soon…


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  • Tim Skellett


  • Tim Skellett

    Given that a root canal destroys the nerve and blood supply (of the tooth done, and yes, they say there is no substitute possible), the metaphor being used for the heart is somewhat alarming?

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