Over the next couple of weeks, the pain started to subside (medicated toothpaste helped), and I had a lot of stuff going on with the new job and impending move. Finally I called Dr. V and booked an appointment, and that happened this morning.
Dr. G had warned me that depending on what Dr. V found, I might need a root canal, and that's what Dr. V told me this morning. So I said 'OK, let's get it over with."
The phrase "root canal", at least among people of my generation and older, is proverbial for the most unpleasant experience you can imagine. I asked Dr. G about this, and he explained that a root canal simply means removing the blood vessels and nerves within the tooth - which you don't need anymore as an adult anyway - and replacing them with an inert filler; it's basically not too different from having a filling. The root canal's terrifying reputation, he said, came from earlier days when anaesthetics were less advanced; and from the fact that some root canals are necessitated by the presence of an abscess, which can render the anasethetic ineffective.
I asked Dr. V about this at this morning's appointment, and he verified the substance of what Dr. G had told me. And now, having survived the process, I can tell you it wasn't all that bad. The whole thing took around a half-hour. The anaesthetic did what it was supposed to do, and there was basically no pain at all, except for the gadgets they stuck in my mouth to keep my jaw open. Actually the worst part was just not being able to close my mouth, move my tongue normally, or swallow the mucus that I felt accumulating in the back of my throat.
Alas, the golden days when dentists would give you laughing gas (nitrous oxide) are long gone, and we haven't yet advanced to the point where they will hand you a bong. (Hey, this is Oregon.) But the procedure was not as unpleasant as I'd feared.
I'm also happy to report that I'm not experiencing much post-operative pain. Dr. V gave me a prescription for a pain-killer, which I promptly filled at the local pharmacy. But as things are, I'm doing just fine with over-the-counter medications which are readily available in all 50 states thanks to the 21st Amendment.