Vikings, Throwing Axes, and Trips to La-La Land


This story has its origins over 20 years ago. If I tell the story correctly, you will squirm in your chair and maybe even laugh a little. I will assure you that the story is completely true but does contain some fantasmal elements that I am not even sure I can understand.

In the Beginning, About 20 Years Ago

It all started innocently enough when I probably was in my mid-30’s. One day I realized that my lower right back molar had become temperature and/or pressure sensitive. Life isn’t perfect, and neither are teeth.

This problem occurred because a micro fracture had developed in the tooth. I probably had bit into something too hard one day and caused the fracture.

After a trip to the dentist, another appointment was set to put a crown on top of the tooth in an attempt to stave off any more fracturing and save it for the rest of my life.

Well, that intervention lasted for a while. Eventually the problem returned and I was sent to a specialist known as an endodontist. The guy I saw for this work had a stellar reputation but also had the same chair-side personality that a black-hole would exhibit. He sucked the life (and money) right out of me, while intensifying the pain at the same time.

The Endodontist (The Antagonist In This Story)

On my first trip to see him, he took a strip of cloth and dipped it into a highly volatile organic liquid and set it directly on the tooth. I knew I should have paid better attention in chemistry! The rapid evaporation of the liquid simulated a cold drink and that was the first time I wanted to pop out of the chair and crack him upside his head! Just for the fun of it, he also took a small dental device and did a percussion test on the tooth, which was akin to having a jack hammer placed in my mouth and turned on full-tilt.

Now in fairness to him, I know that he had to do his diagnostic work. That is part of determining the course of treatment. He had to determine how bad my situation was before recommending what to do.

He told me that the tooth had become painful likely due to an infection that was causing nerve irritation (blah blah blah) and that I would need a root canal, as evidenced by my reaction to the cold sensation and percussion test. “No shit Sherlock”, is what I thought.

I had already told him the tooth was sensitive and I didn’t need a couple of verification studies to prove it. My brain had already processed the data and I knew the results! After sending me home with heavy does of antibiotics to reduce the infection, he told me to come back for some more pain (err, treatments) in a week or two.

Being the compliant person that I have always been, I obliged and returned when requested. During this visit, I received what seemed to be an unending series of shots all over the inside of my mouth. The needle kept poking and prodding, in my gums, in the roof of my mouth, and everywhere else I could imagine. I squirmed in that chair like a worm trying to get off the fishing hook.

That experience hurt and my brain still remembers it just like watching Dustin Hoffman undergoing the dental treatment being delivered by Sir Laurence Olivier in the 1976 movie Marathon Man. Somewhere deep in my reptilian brain, I am still wondering: “Is it Safe?”.

In fact, these shots stung as bad as the time I stepped into a swarm of yellow jackets on the side of Sullivan County Landfill. That occurred one hot summer day when I was walking directly behind a bulldozer that rolled over the ground hive and awoke those buzzers.

When the bulldozer driver looked back to see why I was screaming, he said that all he could see was a cloud of flying insects and a faint human form running/sliding down the landfill. Although I’ll have to save more of that story for later, the endodontist needed the be cracked upside the head again for the barbaric treatment he was dishing out to me with all those shots. Maybe I should have sent him a box of yellow jackets as a gift for doing my root canal.

After he drilled a mile into my molar, right through my beautiful crown, he proclaimed that the tooth should be “good to go”. Well, little did he realize how prophetic those words would be about a decade and a half later.

About 4 years Ago, The Pain Returned

About 4 years ago, after having suffered through a series painful episodes due to another emerging infection in or beneath that molar, I began the journey that I’m about to share with you.

Now if you are masochistic and enjoy stories of pain, including more details of what I just outlined, you can read this closely related story, which I titled the “Pinnacle of Pain“. This is a great story because it discusses the beginnings of my increased nutritional awareness and my introduction to Rich Roll.

Meeting Dr Slater About 2.5 Years Ago (The Protagonist In This Story)

I first met Dr. Otto Slater (Figure 1) about 2.5 years ago. Although the picture shown below was taken 2 days ago, I still want to share those experiences with you. As you can see, I like Dr Slater, even though I knew that he was about to send me la-la land.


Figure 1 – Ken Black and Dr Otto Slater, October 4, 2016, just before Ken got sent to la-la land.

Now this part of the story started innocently enough, once again 2.5 years ago. On a visit to my regular dentist, I told him that my back molar was clicking when I chewed my food. After looking at the tooth, he gave me the bad news:

Well Ken, that tooth is being rejected by your body. You have an infection below the tooth that is causing the tooth to bulge out and be rejected. It has to be pulled and you need an oral surgeon to do that work because you also have a lot of bone loss.

As he showed me the x-ray with the very dark area near the roots of the tooth,  I immediately knew that I was going to be in for some intense dental work. That dark area indicated bone loss and infection, which is a double whammy I don’t wish on anyone. Infections like this can be very serious if they leave the localized area and enter your bloodstream. In fact, you might not survive such an episode if it were to happen to you.

Luckily for me, I was referred to Dr. Slater, because he is the man that has inspired this story. He is also the man that has made it possible for me to recover a missing tooth that is critical for proper chewing of food. He is also responsible for me now having braces. For these reasons, and the fact that I’m still alive and kicking, I am very thankful to Dr Slater and now consider him one of my heroes.

The First Visit to Dr. Slater – March 2014

Each visit I have had with Dr. Slater is accompanied by memories, trips to la-la land, and deeply-seeded words of wisdom. In other words, you get a lot of value when you visit Dr. Slater. Even after your visit, he will call you and possibly even send you a gift!

When you meet Otto for the first time, you are greeted with a bear hug and you immediately become best friends. For me, he instantly became like a brother, two years older than me, and just as caring as he can be.

I immediately wanted to hang-out with this guy because of his magnanimous personality, intelligence and his professional expertise. I have never met anyone like him, although the three other protagonists in this story (Dr. Hicks, Dr. Johns, and Dr Dean) are also all very cool.

On my first trip, Dr. Slater had to remove the offending tooth. This was a big job that required strong medications that sent me to la-la land.

This was the first time I had an out-of body experience due to anesthesia, but not the first time I have had this type of experience. If you want to know how and when that occurred, you can read this story.

Well, I distinctly remember being in the chair, receiving a little O2 and nitrous oxide, when the big shot was administered. Before I knew what hit me, I was floating at the ceiling level, looking down at Dr Slater and his staff as he pulled that tooth out of my mouth. I was cheering him on, saying “go doc go, you can do it”. The others in the room were talking and moving as the job was being completed. I thought I could talk to them, but nobody was listening to me.

The video shown below, is from the aftermath of that procedure as I sat recovering in the chair. My baby Jett was 2.5 years old and he was wanting his daddy to open his applesauce for him, but daddy was still in la-la land.

The Second Trip to Dr. Slater – About 9 Days Later

One of the side-effects of bone loss in your jaw can be that the bone gets jagged, exhibiting topography like the swiss alps. In my case, since the bone loss was significant and Dr Slater had to remove the infection and parts of damaged bone, I had a bit of a setback a few days later.

What I noticed within a few days was a lot of pain as my bone started cutting through my gums. After about a week of being a hard-guy and trying to tolerate the situation, I called his office and they told me to high-tail it over to see them.

When I got there, Dr Slater asked me what was going on. I explained to him what I thought was happening, that my bone was cutting through the gums. He hesitated for a moment and than told me to open up. When I did, this was the conversation as I remember it:

Dr Slater: How long has this been going on?

Me: About a week.

Dr. Slater: You are one Tough Son of a Bitch!  Whenever this happens, patients come crying to me in a few minutes, and you lasted a week!

Me: Well, I thought I had it right. The bone is sticking out, isn’t it?

Dr Slater: Yep, and now I’m going to take care of that!

Well, this precipitated another trip to la-la land. I don’t have any video to prove it, but the good Doc filed the bone down smoothly and stitched me back up so that the problem went away.

Although I cannot be sure if it happened during the first visit or this one, he also introduced some cadaver bone in the area where I lost the bone due to infection. The cadavar bone material promotes new bone formation and prepared the area for the next step of the procedure – getting an implant so that a new molar could be fabricated to replace the missing tooth.

I also believe that is was during this trip that Dr. Slater gave me these words of wisdom:

Dr Slater: Has anyone ever told you that you would have a great outcome by having some orthodontal work on your lower teeth?

Me: No. Why?

Dr. Slater: I just came out of ortho and have learned a lot about it. You are a perfect candidate for it because you have the somewhat rare condition of having too much space in your lower teeth.

Me: OK. I’ll think about it.

Well, think about it I did, which eventually lead me to another great guy – Dr. Hicks. I’ll save this part of the story for later but you will see a small snippet of his work coming up later in this article.

The Third Trip to Dr. Slater – March 2016

During this procedure, Dr. Slater sent me to la-la land for the third time when he installed the anchor (Figure 2) for my new new molar. Although it looks like a bullet lodged in my jawbone, it actually is a threaded insert in disquise. This will be used to hold my replacement tooth.


Figure 2 – The molar anchor sitting in my jawbone. This reminds me of all threaded inserts I installed during my woodworking days, although I didn’t have to deal with things like living tissue and nerves when I installed them.

This time I was gone for a while in la-la land. After the following video was shot, I slept for nine hours and then it took about a week for my brain to clear. That trip was deep and my wife caught the aftermath of it in this video when she brought me home after the operation.

Apparently I tried to dance my way out of the office, which probably wasn’t a performance worthy of Dancing With The Stars since I have never learned how to dance!

The Fourth Trip to Dr. Slater – Two Days Ago (October 4, 2016)

Well, the journey is nearing its end. I had my last visit with Otto a couple of days ago. I had a great plan to record the day and use the videos to make this article. I just thought it would be cool to tell another story that took 20 years to develop.

I was able to execute a part of the plan, but then again, I am not able to remember a lot of what happened because I got sent back to la-la land, as you will see.

Before going on the final trip, I discussed the need for the trip with Dr. Slater. Here is the essence of that conversation:

Ken: Do I need the big stuff today, or is this a slice and dice procedure? Can you give me a local and send me on my merry way?

Dr Slater: No, this is a BIG deal. The treatment of the soft tissue is of primary importance (blah blah blah) and I’m going to give you the best stuff I’ve got. You will always get the best treatment I can give you (blah blah blah).

Once those words were spoken, I flipped the mental switch and got ready to strap it on, as I like to say. I got ready for another trip to la-la land.

My Final Trip to La-La Land

Here is the story, as best as I can remember it. I have to ask to you ignore the fact that I started the video off by two months – it wasn’t August 4, it was October 4th! (getting old does have its disadvantages):

The job for this trip was to access that anchor and place an abutment, which is essentially a screw that gets put into the anchor as a placeholder until the new tooth is created. A torque test was also thrown in just for fun.

This was a sensitive job, requiring a lot of precision, so Dr. Slater decided to send me on another trip without me ever leaving the room. So before leaving to la-la land, this is what happened.

My glasses and phone were taken from me as the Doc got ready to do the work. As the assistant shot my arm with a cold blast of some kind of chemical to hide the needle stick, Dr Slater sent the la-la land potion into my left arm vein and my journey began. Before I left, however, some great conversation started:

Dr. Slater: This weekend I’m going to build a big A-frame timber frame device to hold some oak boards that I have. I can then use this structure to hold the oak boards so that I can throw axes and knifes into these boards in a sort of manly competition. It sounds like a great idea to me because I’ve got this type of ax….

Ken Interrupts: I’m a timber framer – I can help you with that! I’ve got 20 foot long civil-war era timbers of virgin heart pine…

At this point, the molecules of anesthesia start circulating through my body and begin entering my brain. Suddenly scenes from the Games of Thrones, maurading Vikings, flying axes, timber framing tools, and mortise and tenon joints got mixed up in my brain. Just as suddenly, my trip to la-la land began and I was gone.

The next thing I knew was that I was being driven home by my wife. After signaling to her to pull over so I could dry-heave a few times out the door, I found myself asleep in bed for a few hours. I don’t remember any details of the experience other than that. My wife said she had to pull into the Food City parking lot as I did the deed.

When I awoke in my bed, I was very surprised to find some content on my phone (selfie shots and a selfie video) that I had no memory of making. For your viewing pleasure, I have decided to unleash the final uncensored video that I plan on ever using. Exposing yourself in this way is uncomfortable but it does make for a good laugh!

Here is the somewhat garbled text that goes along with the video:

Yes, I’m definitely in la-la land;

At this point after the  procedure, but I’m starting to look around and figure out what I’m doing;

I’m trying to come out quicker than last time.

To whomever gave me my phone to make that video, thank you!  I’ll never know what happened but you allowed me to complete my story. I have no clue how I even knew what to do with the phone when that video was made.

Thanks for reading!

Next up, Dr. Hicks and his orthodontist work. If you ever have thought about needing braces as an adult, have I got a story for you! Stay tuned.

For more information about teeth and pain, read this article.

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