There’s a Hole in My Tooth

I’m waiting in the dentist’s office for root canal treatment and instead of thinking calming thoughts, my mind’s decided to fixate on the dental incident in A Million Little Things. Great right?

You know – the bit where the main character (whose name I’ve completely forgotten) outlines in enormous detail the horror, pain and basically, torture, of undergoing root canal treatment without anaesthetic. I remember reading this years ago and thinking root canal was the worst thing that could ever happen.

So you can imagine my delight when I turned up after a 12 year (yes that’s right – 12 year) hiatus for what I thought would be a routine filling, only for the pleasantly calm dentist to reel off a list of things they would do to my teeth now that I’d come in from the cold. I did what any sensible person would do and ran to the nearest NHS dentist for a second (and cheaper) opinion, but unfortunately, root canal seems to be the consensus. Followed by…other stuff.

I came up with the name for the Escape Artist Book Journal, based on how far fiction can take us from real life. Unfortunately, fiction also has a knack of creating mental images and vicarious agonies that arise just when you don’t really need them to.

Have you come across a book that makes going to the dentist seem like a non-traumatic experience? Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories features a sub-plot in which PI Jackson Brodie has a bad tooth and develops sepsis (a fear that plagued me until I managed to just ignore it about two years ago).

I also recall my cousin telling me that Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour made her book a belated dental appointment, but as she told me she had a haunted look in her eye and I refused the urge to ask to borrow it in case it had the same effect on me.

How is that dentistry has become a horror niche? And if anyone has any tips (because I’m pretty sure I can’t Dutch courage my way through this one…) please do let me know for next time!


  1. I recall hearing the exact same thing about root canals, and so I was kinda stunned when my root canal was no more challenging (or painful, or long, or anything) than a routine filling. Maybe I got lucky with dentist or with the procedure, but I was bracing myself…and it turned out to be nothing. (I was also told that if it ends up being painful during or after, then something is probably going wrong.)

    I’m not gonna wish you luck because you don’t need it – you’re gonna be fine. Boo to all the lit that told you (and me) otherwise!


    1. It’s actually quite weird how straightforward it was – I think the worst things is the discomfort of having your mouth hanging open all that time and (obviously) the sound of the drill against the tooth.

      Feel we could collaborate on a novel where the twist is that root canal… isn’t that bad!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aha! Sorry, I thought you had to wait to get it. And Yes! I’m so down for a story with that twist – root canal and done.

        Has your dentist ever offered you the little square block to hold your jaws open? I’ve never been closer to a panic attack then when I tried one of those. I discovered something new about myself that afternoon: there’s something claustrophobic about not being able to close your mouth and my brain was having none of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. She kept my mouth open with something and the only thing I can work out is that they were clamps that clipped into the sides of my mouth. I started panicking about not being able to swallow then choking to death though fortunately there was a lot of oxygen being pumped in which I think had something to do with the relaxing into it all that started about 15 minutes in!

        Liked by 1 person

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