Be honest with me

I have to get a root canal done. How much does it hurt? Why do people say it is one of the worst things to go through? I would think it should be like getting a really big cavity filled. I know they use anasthetic. So why does everyone have such horror stories about them?
Personally I think the bill is going to hurt more than the procedure.
Any dentists out there?

I have had a horrible root canal experience. Apparently, if you have long roots, it makes it worse. Incompetent dentist + long roots= hell. But then I went to an endodontist, a root canal specialist, and it was fine. So, I guess it depends on who’s doing it. If it gets infected while it’s being done, also hell.

I don’t get it though. Does the anesthetic not work? Why is it hell? Can you feel pain?

The bill was, for me, by far the most painful part of the experience.

I’ve never had a filling, so I can’t really compare them for you. It just…didn’t hurt. It smelled horrid during some parts (I guess the drill tends to burn some of the tooth, or something? Smelled like burning hair.) and it felt weird, but no, there really wasn’t pain. My jaw was a bit achy from holding my mouth open so long, but a little Advil took care of that.

Are you getting a crown? Make sure you bite all the way down when the dentist takes molds, and if it feels like your crown hits your opposing teeth before the teeth on either side of the crown, tell him ASAP. A crown that’s too high…*that *hurts.

ETA: Oh, and when I got mine done, I asked the same thing: why is a root canal portrayed as like, the worst thing ever? The answer seems to be that dental techniques and tools have changed a lot over the last 30 years, and a root canal used to be as bad as, well, a root canal.


My recent root canal was really expensive and 100% painless. The man was an endodontic artist – not even the Novocain shot hurt. My jaw was a little sore for a few hours afterward, but no big deal and the relief I felt at having the whole thing over with and such a cake walk pretty much canceled out any minor discomfort.

The actual proceedure wasn’t bad for me. But after a while the anesthetic wears off.
Sure they give you a scrip for painkilers but they just take the edge off.
I still hurt quite a bit for about 3 days.

My wife on the other hand seemed fine and had just some minor discomfort so it seems to vary quite a bit.

I have had a number of root canals. The bill was the most painful part. Some dentists are really reluctant to use enough anasthetic, but ones who do can pull a root painlessly. I have had both kinds of dentists, but even the worst caused pain, but nothing like, say, a urinary tract infection. Which is not the worst thing I am sure. It is more of a nuisance than anything else.

I just had a root canal on Tuesday. It was slightly complicated by the fact that the tooth had a crown on it and the endodontist was trying to not do any damage to the crown so I wouldn’t have to have it replaced. I was in the chair for a little over an hour, and the worst part of the actual procedure was having to lay there with my mouth open the whole time. The bill, as others have said, was the worst part, even after the insurance.

I was given a prescription for Tramadol, which took the edge off the dull throbbing and tenderness. I stopped taking it after yesterday morning, and my mouth feels fine now.

I’m on antibiotics for a week to take care of any possible infection, and I need to go back in three weeks to make sure that everything has healed properly; if it has, then she’ll put a permanent seal on it and that should be the end of it.

Root canals do NOT hurt. I’ve had nine of them done and never once had any pain.

It’s what happens BEFORE the root canal that hurts. That is why people say they hurt. They mean the pain before the root canal will hurt.

One thing to note about the root canal is the cap on the tooth will never change color. This is problematic for me as I drink coffee and it’s not totally bad, in my case, you can tell which teeth are real.

If you can get a gold cap, it’s better. Of course you wouldn’t want a gold tooth in front, probably. Gold is much better than porcelain for caps. Porcelain is a great material but it’s hard on natural teeth. So if you have a top molar capped with porcelain the tooth directly below it is going to be hit harder when you chew, than with a natural tooth. That means in future check ups always have the dentist look carefully at the teeth directly opposite the porcelain crown so you can prevent any damage ASAP.

Also root canals can fail. I had two of mine fail within a year. Basically it was $3,000 down the drain. One of the teeth had to be pulled and the other root canal was redone and that has held fine since 2003.

But there never should be any pain with a root canal. In fact the worse part is when they go to mold the tooth. They put some stuff in your mouth, which is like modeling clay. You have to bite down on it and hold it for like five minutes.

It doesn’t hurt, but it makes me wanna gag :slight_smile:

Basically it’s a three part step

First part they x-ray tooth and then they go in and remove the nerves and clean out the pulp. Sometimes it’s a bit tricky, like in my case, one of my teeth had an extra root. So they go in numb you and take out the nerve and use a tiny file to remove the pulp. You don’t feel any pain.

Then they fill up the spaces where the nerves were with temporary material. You generally wait a week. Then you come back and they go in and remove the temp material and again go in and file out any remaining nerve and pulp. They want to make sure there’s no infection either. If there is a sign of infection, you’ll be given antibiotics and you’ll have to repeat step 2.

They also make a mold of your teeth and then give you a temporary cap. They say you can eat on the temp cap and you can but use reason. Don’t chew gum on a temp cap or eat taffy or anything like that.

The third visit they take the final x-ray and put in the tooth. Hopefully it matches colorwise. If not insist they redue it. Don’t listen if the dentist says the cap will darken, they NEVER do.

They have to take the final x-ray as that is what they send in for insurance, the insurance company wants to see the before and after x-rays for payment. If you pay out of pocket you probably won’t get an x-ray on the 3rd visit.

They don’t do root canals on teeth that are sound enough for a simple filling. I don’t know what the usual cause of root canals is, but mine was done because of an infection in the root. My dentist did a little drilling, then gave me pain killers, an antibiotic to take for three days, and an appointment with an endodontist. He said that he only felt comfortable doing very simple root canals, and mine was a squishy one.

During the root canal, they use drills to get through the main part of the tooth, and then little tiny files to file out the nerve in each root. Once the root nerves are gone, the tooth itself can’t feel pain. But they stuff the roots with, I think, gutta percha, which might cause a bit of irritation to the surrounding tissue.

Ok. I checked wikipedia to see if they still used gutta percha, and it looks like they still do. It also confirmed that many teeth that get root canals already have infections and abceses and “the pus in the abscess may contain acids that inactivate any anesthetic injected around the tooth.”

So possible reasons root canals have a bad rap:

  • Used to be done with older style drills and anesthesia, which caused more pain,
  • Used to be done more often by dentists, who didn’t do them often or well, while now mostly done by endodontists,
  • Used to be done too quickly, so that infections negated anesthetic, whereas now the tooth is left with a temporary cap while up to a week of antiobiotics and/or anti-inflamitories is given. and
  • Even now, they’re not being done to happy teeth, but in situations where the tissues need to recover from an infection or abcess afterwards. Sometimes you’re also healing from having your gums or the roof of your mouth lanced, to let the infection drain.

It’s also possible that the post-op pain meds used to be weaker. When I had mine done, they gave me vioxx, which made my knees feel much better. When my Mother had hers, I don’t remember her taking even aspirin.

The root canal procedure isn’t painful, but you are sitting in the chair for over an hour with your mouth being worked on so it’s tedious and uncomfortable to keep your mouth opened wide for the duration.

The pain (or potential for it) is what makes you go get the root canal. An abscessed tooth is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, twice.

I’ve had many in the same mouth!
They all felt differently. I don’t have lasting memories of pain. The discomfort of a temp crown bothers me more. Why worry about pain that you know will be very temporary? That’s my motto.

Infected tissue does not numb well. It doesn’t matter how much local anesthetic the doc or dentist pumps into the tissue, if that tissue has an active infection, it’s gonna HURT. For this reason, these days most dentists will put the patient on an antibiotic and schedule a follow up appointment if there’s an active infection and the patient needs dental work. This goes for all tissue, by the way.

It used to be that doctors and dentists were not really sensitive about pain management. My sibs and I have compared notes, and we all agree that our childhood dentist was either extremely uncaring or just a plain sadistic SOB who didn’t give nearly enough anesthetic. These days, though, the thinking has changed, and it’s recognized that pain can usually be controlled, if not eliminated outright, in many instances.

Also, dental tools and techniques have really advanced.

As for personal experiences, I’ve had several root canals. Some were pretty painful, some didn’t hurt at all, other than the initial shot. I used to have one tooth that would NEVER get numb, no matter how much anesthetic the dentist put in, so I just had it pulled.

That stuff that they use to make the mold makes me gag, too. And yeah, the bill is usually pretty painful. I always imagine the stacks of books that I could buy with that money, and it makes me cry.

The actual procedure was no thing - mostly just like getting a regular filling. I had a lot of pain for the rest of the weekend, though.

The thing is my tooth doesn’t hurt at all. I have seen x-rays of the tooth that needs the root canal and I did go get a second opinion and both sentists say I need a root canal.

Then consider yourself lucky to have it done in time. If you wait for too long a tooth gone bad will hurt like nothing else. As for having the root canal done? Not exactly pleasant, but if you have a good dentist it won’t be too bad, IME.

I had my first and (what damn well better be) my last root canal last year. There are enough drugs at my dentist’s office that the process itself didn’t hurt at all, although it was disturbing to hear that much grinding and drilling coming from inside of my face. What hurt was afterward when the drugs wore off. The entire right side of my face hurt like a motherfuck. Regular aspirin wasn’t cutting it, so my dentist prescribed some real drugs. Thank gods, because I foolishly scheduled my root canal two days before a vacation. What a lousy way to have spent that time off from work it would have been.

The root canal I had didn’t hurt much at all, it was the abscess that made it necessary that hurt like hell. After the procedure I felt SO much better. Just sore for a few days. Over all I’ve had the one root canal, five crowns and I forget how many fillings. None of them hurt much at all.

Can’t say the same for the crown-lengthening surgery I had to have before getting one of the crowns though. An oral surgeon cut the gum on both sides of the tooth and basically scraped away bone from the tooth to expose more of it then stitched up the gum. The painkiller he prescribed for me afterwards may as well have been candy for all the good it did. Pure misery. Last time I was at my dentist, she thought that the bone might be growing back and I may have to have it done again.

I don’t think so.

I’m another one that will say for the most part, if you aren’t in horrible pain now from it being infected, it’s the cost that will hurt the most if you don’t have insurance.

I’ve had 2 done. The first one was infected and that pain came on slowly until I was totally miserable, but I had pain meds and my dentist sent me to an endodontist for the procedure. After the first 2 shots of Novocain, I was fine. Except for the having your mouth open for a long time. I think I took Advil for a day or two.

The 2nd one wasn’t infected so as long as I didn’t eat/drink anything that would bother it the only pain was the shots of Novocain and the mouth open for 2 hours soreness.

Good luck!

You can say that again. I’ve had a crown that was too high and HOLY CRAP that was sensitive. When they put that little carbon paper in there and tell you to tap and grind, make sure you really do it. Also, they’ll ask you if it feels okay - if it doesn’t feel okay, don’t be afraid to speak up. I didn’t once and had to come back that afternoon to have it shaved down (ironically, the only time they had open for an appointment was 2:30). After that, it was just fine.

None of my root canals have been particularly painful - no more so than a filling.