When Two Root Canals In One Day Is A Wake-Up Call


Why a bookkeeper should be your BFF.

Felicia C. Sullivan

Yesterday, my mouth was a crime scene. Clamps, metal, blood, barbed tools, the whole massacre. I sat in an endodontic’s chair for five hours while she performed two root canals. Five hours during which I was numbed twice because I had started to feel pain and cried out that no, for the love of carbs and tiger tabby cats, Ativan and novocaine were playing a cruel cosmic joke on me. I’ve had a shattered collarbone, a dislocated knee, and a two-year drug problem in my twenties, and believe me when I say no pain is worse than mouth pain.

My relationship with dentists is complicated. My mother lived much of her adult life mired in mouth pain because who could afford expensive root canals and crowns when your fridge was anemic? When twenty-five cent bags of Dipsy Doodles served as a suitable lunch alternative. I watched her face balloon, felt her wince, and there was no way I would set foot into a dentist’s office.

Until I set foot in a dentist’s office. Back in the 80s, my grade school had a dentist in the nurse’s office. He filled cavities, cleaned teeth, and mended that which was broken. I don’t remember much from the experience only that drugs were non-existent. I’d soon wrench out my own teeth than let that sadist in a white coat within a five-mile radius of my mouth. For much of my life, I didn’t see a dentist because I was either too frightened or too poor.


We believed taking care of yourself was a luxury. We didn’t have electricity and gas and an eye doctor visit. You either ate or took Tylenol for the pain. In our house, our language was reduced to either-or, never and.

Even as an adult when I was earning a healthy, six-figure salary, my dental visits were infrequent. There was the incompetent guy who pulled a tooth for cosmetic reasons and another dentist shook his head and said it would cost more money to fix stupidity. In New York, everyone was expensive or incompetent or a combination of both.

I’ve endured a lifetime of pain for free, why would I pay someone to strap me in and inflict torture? Pain isn’t my party. I don’t need the torture to feel — the problem is I already feel too much. I need warehouses and canisters and buckets to house all my pain.

But in my late 30s, I decided to get serious about the business of teeth. I visited what I believed to be a highly-competent doctor in New York’s tony UES, and perhaps I thought he was so smart because he made me feel so stupid — who knows? All I know is I spent thousands of dollars on root canals, fillings, you name it to then move to Los Angeles to hear a specialist tell me that one of the tools my former dentist used during my root canal broke off and was currently setting up shop somewhere in my root.

You should know I suffer from rage blackouts. In 2016, I saw the best specialists in Los Angeles and nearly auctioned my spleen on eBay in the process. And even though their fees were outrageous (as I would soon learn), I was never in pain and mostly drugged up before, during, and after each visit.

Until this year. Until they told me it would cost $10,000 to get two root canals and crowns and I laughed and said I wasn’t making Kardashian money. Or even Tori Spelling money. They shamed me, saying that every dentist and specialist in L.A. would charge as much, which I repeated to my new dentist and specialist. If I could snap a photo of their gaped open mouths, I would. One of them laughed and said he wished he could charge $5,000 per tooth — he’d be able to spend more time with his kids.

This month, I’ll drop $4,000 on unexpected dental work, and believe me when I tell you that while I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a fork than return to the corporate world, but I sure do miss affordable medical and dentist benefits. I miss not having to stare at my bank account and wonder how one procures $4,000 in a month.

I’ve had the most profitable year since I’ve left New York in 2015. I’m paying down my debts, I’ve reduced my living expenses by half by living in Airbnbs for the next year, and I buy only second-hand. I make all my meals at home, and I drink far less than I used to. I reuse, repair, and mend — I’m proud to say I’ve stabbed myself with a sewing needle on many occasions.

Here I was, living responsibly, able to afford the occasional indulgence when a $4,000 bill hits. A bill not currently covered by my current client roster, budget, and income streams. A bill that can’t be paid off over time because everyone wants their money yesterday, and hey, you can apply for that loan that bears a 1,000% interest rate — a loan from which you’ll be rejected because of that bankruptcy snafu.

It occurred to me that while I’m an expert at many things, managing my money is not one of them. Last week, I wrote an article about delegating. And while delegating isn’t the new, shiny toy all the kids want to play with, it’s essential for consultants and entrepreneurs who want to grow their business — people who come to the realization that they shouldn’t do it all.

When I left my endodontic’s office yesterday, exhausted and in pain, with a dozen urgent client emails to attend to, I stopped in the middle of the street.

I can’t be an army of one anymore. Because had I had my bookkeeper (mine is Brittany Turner of, who is amazing) employed on a regular basis, managing my books, running projections, teaching me more about savings, I might have dodged this mouth mess.

Everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, needs an army, a wolf pack, capable peers, and people to make them laugh when biting down on hard food is the last thing you want to do.

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