Experiences with root canals

Long story very short, I’m booked for a root canal tomorrow afternoon and I’m terrified.

I’ve got no infection, so it shouldn’t be too bad, right? RIGHT?!?

Umm…calm my nerves. I’m gunna be :o for about 2 hours.

Relax. I went for one a few months back, and it was so much better than what I anticipated. They gave me a blanket, and headphones, and let me choose a CD, even! Maybe bring a walkman in with you? It really helps drown out the scary noises. I didn’t really find it that painful, mostly just an annoying pressure. My tooth was sore for maybe 3 or 4 days after, and Advil took care of it no problem. It was NOTHING like the pain I had in the tooth prior to the root canal.

I hope everything goes well for you!

I had one a couple of years ago. The novacane kept me from feeling a thing.

I’ve had some minor issues (pain in the tooth, especially with pressure changes), but those are fading.

It really isn’t painful. It is unpleasant though, because it seems to go on and on and on.

I had really bad pain last week for about 2 or 3 days, which prompted the trip to the dentist to begin with. If I can deal with that pain, I’m hoping I can deal with this.

Thanks!!! I think I’ll bring my MP3 player with me.

I hope the novacane does the same for me, thanks!

I’ve heard that too. Time I can deal with, it’s the anticipation and pain I can’t.

I’ve had 4 root canals. Usually the worst part is keeping your mouth open so long that your jaw hurts afterwards. If you have a good dentist, it shouldn’t be any worse than a filling, it just takes longer. If you feel anything, let them know right away. (I’ve gutted through some procedures just because I wanted to get out of the chair, and not wait for the anesthesia to take effect. I don’t recommend this.) Overall, the procedure should be annoying (why is it taking so long?) and boring, not painful. I’ve never needed to take anything for pain afterwards, but some people do. I think most dentists recommend OTC painkillers.

Tell the dentist that you’re worried/scared/terrified, and ask them to explain what they’ll be doing if that makes you feel better. Your dentist may have music or TV to keep you entertained. If they offer you nitrous in addition to the anesthesia, take it. IME, it makes the time pass faster. While I wouldn’t choose getting a root canal as fun way to pass the time, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I think root canals used to be much, much more painful than they are now. Dentistry has come a long way since then.

On preview, if you’ve been having pain, you’ll feel a lot better afterwards.

I once had a root canal with barely any anasthesia.

I didn’t feel a thing.

As has been recommended, if they offer you gas, take it. The “loopiness” it induces makes the proceedure feel more like a dream than anything else, and once you “wake up,” it feels as though it barely happened. Although it can be difficult to breathe it at first, in my experience.

Unless you have some weird problem with novacaine/lidocaine/whatever the hell it is, the worst part of a root canal is getting the bill. Root canals can actually be a relief, especially if you whine a bit to get the good drugs for the day after. My jaw is always sore from keeping my small mouth that wide open for that long.

If you’re scared, tell the receptionist, and the assistant **and ** the dentist. They tend to understand being afraid of a root canal, and can explain exactly what’s going to happen (if the nerve is already dead, it won’t hurt, but you’ll hear a lot of drilling, still feel pressure, and it might stink when they cauterize the nerve, for example) and take additional care to minimize the trauma.

If you do have some weird problem with novacaine/lidocaine/whatever the hell it is, whine a lot, in advance. Modern pharmacology is a wonderful thing for the dental phobic.

I’ve had several root canals and the only unpleasant thing I remember is the discomfort of getting the anesthetic shot.

I just had my first (and hopefully only!) a couple months ago and it was nothing. And I DID have an infection, so your’s should be even less than nothing. I did take some advil and tylenol beforehand, and kept it up for 24 hours, but since I was feeling nothing at all, I chanced stopping that, and there was still nothing, so it was great.

It didn’t take that long, either. 40 minutes from walking in the door, I was walking back out with a rubbery feeling lip from the Novocaine.

There are two other recent threads on root canals, here and here, including my own positive experiences.

So THAT’S what that weird burning smell was!

I had to have a cap put on a tooth when I was 11, and a root canal was part of the proceedure. I was scared stiff when I tried to ask the dentist what he was going to do in my mouth, but he refused to tell me, waving me off and saying “You wouldn’t understand it.” I may not have been old enough to take a biology class, but I’ll get it if you tell me that you’re going to cut into my gums and mess around with my nerves (or words to that effect). I’m one of those people who finds the unknown far more frightening than anything outlined and detailed, no matter how grisly it is. Should I ever have to have surgery, I am going to make well sure that that surgeon describes the procedure to me in excruciating detail before he or she can get a scalpel anywhere near me.

A favorite family story in this vein concerns the time I cut the back of my head open on a doorframe when I was five. When I finally got into the hospital room (…after about two hours of waiting…), the doctor asked my mother if I should be sedated with an injection before being given stitches or just be given staples. My mother looked at the doctor and said, “Ask her.”

The doctor turned to me and asked, “Do you want stiches or staples?”

I asked, “Will the injection hurt?”

“Yes, probably a little.”

“And I’ll have to wait for the medicine will work, right?”


“And then the stiches will hurt again, even with the medicine?”

“A little bit, maybe.”

“Give me the staples. I wanna go HOME.”

“They’ll still hurt–”

“I want this OVER WITH.”

I was very calm about the whole ordeal after that, although I did still wince while getting the back of my head stapled shut. I don’t actually mind most medical procedures and am relatively calm about most of them (except for injections, because I am terrified of needles), so long as I know what they are.

If you have a heart murmur, you might want to ask about going on antibiotics beforehand. For a while there, that was recommended in order to stave off some kind of infection or another; I don’t know if it’s still being done.

OTOH, I had a root canal 2 years ago and never did get around to having a crown put on. Guess I probably ought to do that. The root canal didn’t hurt, though.

I had a root canal last month. I didn’t feel a thing. It wasn’t sore afterward, either. In fact, after all the horror stories I’d heard about them, I had to wonder what all the panic was about. Now, there are some people in this thread who have had a bad experience with it, so it must depend on the skill of your dentist. For me, I am thrilled to pieces that my tooth is never going to abscess again and make my face swell up and cause me to go to the emergency room to ask them to drain it - and find out that they wouldn’t. If you trust your dentist, it should be fine, but you may also experience some discomfort. They have drugs for that!

I had to have a root canal on a front tooth, and they had to cut the gumline to get the rest of the infection out. All without any painkillers in a dental clinic.

I damn near passed out on my way out, and nobody said anything to me. That was the worst part.

Thanks for all the responses guys, you’re making me feel a whole lot better.

I’ve been on antibiotics for 8 days to get rid of any infections that might have been there, so it should be good.

I’ve had two. One was done by a normal dentist that did have significant discomfort (note I said discomfort, not agony) - apparently it was because I had curvy nerves or something. The other was by an endodontist, and I’ve had MUCH more discomfort with getting some of my normal cavities filled than I did with that root canal. Of course, YMMV, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

Oh, and don’t freak if you see a tiny wisp of smoke. There certainly were a couple during the one the endodontist did. I had my normal dentist explain why to me later, but I’ve forgotten the explanation - something to do with what they stick in there and what they do with it (it definitely saw the smoke - I have a very poor sense of smell, so I’m not misremembering just a smell). Again, notwithstanding the smoke, the one at the endodontist was no problem at all.

The worst part was the “pinch” at the beginning when I got the lidocain. Otherwise the main difference betweeen this and getting a cavity filled was that this took longer. Can you bring your ipod?

The anesthesia made mine fine. Certainly a lot better than the crippling throbbing pain my tooth was causing. The most annoying thing is having people sticking their hands in your mouth for an hour and a half.