Getting a root canal soon, advice needed

I have a pain in my tooth. I go to the dentist. Turns out that the tooth is infected, and I need a root canal. I’m due for the RC on the eighth.

For those of you who have had root canals, what’s it like? Does it hurt? How long does it last? I know that some strong painkillers are used, will I be able to drive safely afterwards? Should I abstain from alcohol before the surgery? If so, for how long?

I know you don’t give medical advice here, I’m just interested in your own ancedotal stories.

I’ve never had a root canal but I can offer some advice. The questions above should be asked of your dentist - now!

If you might be woosy after the procedure it won’t do to show up without someone to get you home will it?

I know nothing about medicine but I would assume that going without alcohol and maybe any other drugs before a medical procedure is certainly a possibility. Do you know how to find out? Ask your dentist - now!

Don’t live with uncertainty when the answers are readily available from your dentist - now!

A quick call to your endodontist can answer your questions, but from personal experience (I’ve had several root canals):

My endo is a genius. Numb the gum with a topical, jack in a ton of Novacaine, then attach a dental dam to mask off all but the tooth to be worked on. I kept my eyes closed the entire first time. It took about 30 minutes, and I felt zero pain during the procedure.

Endo: Want to see the inside of your tooth?

Me: NO!


Endo: Want to see what a nerve looks like?

Me: N…well, yeah! :stuck_out_tongue:

I was able to drive home with no problem afterwards. A little aching as the Novacaine wore off, but not too bad. Got a crown for the tooth, and it has been no problem ever since. I’d lay off the booze the night before, just to be safe.

Good luck! (Don’t panic. It isn’t that bad!) :smiley:

It’s basically no different from a really massive filling.

Different docs have different techniques for filling the root, however.See, once they rip the pulp out of the root (you’re numb for this), they have to fill the resulting tunnel (canal). My doc drilled & cleaned out my rot canal & then gave me a temporary filling for a couple days. When I came back he removed the temp (no novacaine) and set to work using probes to determine the depth of the canal. this consisted of inserting a number of wires of varying lengths into the root. When My head exploded, he knew he’d inserted a probe of the correct length to reach my main nerve–he then numbed me up and set about filling my cavity.

Apart from the probe, I really didn’t mind it any more than any other filling.

My root canal was great (and it happened to be the second time I had been to a dentist EVER, the first being to get a little treatment for the molar that fell apart, and had to be root canaled (canald?)). The dentist shot me full of novicain, and kept shootiing me up with more every time I raised my hand. I couldn’t feel my ears here, folks.

Of course, one of the reasons mine was so painless, apparently, was that due to 25 years without a dentist, that tooth had gotten a cavity, hollowed out a bit, pretty much died off, and had filled with food for a while. One day, I was eating some cashews, and boom, it split. By this time, the nerves were pretty much all dead. Meh. Funny thing, though, I never had very good dental hygene, but aside from that tooth, I only had, like, three other minor cavities.

Root canal work was once an unbearable ordeal, but that’s in the dim past. I’ve had five in the last decade, and they were all no big deal. I even slept though one. In Anderson, almost all the dentists send their RC work to Dr. Beck-Coon; that’s all he does, and he’s the best. Dr. Mohler (I’m not making this up) does all the extractions. If your dentist wants to do the root canal herself, ask for a specialist.

I’ve had…five root canals, and all five teeth now have crowns.

The first one, I’d developed an abscessed tooth, and had been in so much pain before the antibiotics that I think they could have drilled without any novacaine and it would have been minor compared to the abscess pain. 2 visits to the dentist were necessary, the first probably an hour, the second maybe 30 minutes.

The second one, I had a tooth essentially fall apart, so it was a little different than any of the others. He numbed it, ground/drilled (whatever) the tooth down, did the root canal, then it was crowned. Time frame was about the same as the first one, across either 2 or 3 visits.

The third was the worst: I wasn’t numb when he began drilling. Result? I started crying - I didn’t expect it to hurt from my previous experiences, so I was shocked into it. That meant that I had to manage to calm myself down before they could work anymore. The first visit for this one (the root canal itself) probably had me in the dentists office for around 3 hours. The second visit was very short.

The fourth and fifth were done at the same time - I avoided going back to the dentist after that last root canal until I had to. I went to another dentist in the same group, and had no problems at all. I think there was a note in my chart about the last visit - this dentist made sure there was no doubt that I was numb, and kept offering to put me under if I wanted that, so that I definitely wouldn’t feel anything (I live alone & would have had no one to drive me home, so I couldn’t go that way). Even though this was 2 teeth, the time wasn’t that much more than RC #1 and #2.

The RC itself shouldn’t hurt during the procedure. You may be sore afterwards - ask your dentist what you can take for any soreness (my last one, they wanted me to take either tylenol or advil, but definitely not the other - and I don’t remember which one they wanted me to take).

Whether you can drive afterward depends on what kind of painkillers they use. If they put you to sleep, don’t plan on being able to drive. If they just use novacaine, then you should be fine to drive - but call your dentist ahead of time and ask.

Alcohol - I don’t know about their stand on that. I’d abstain at least the day before, but then I’m not a big drinker anyway. Call your dentist and ask.

Root canals aren’t the terrible things that people make them out to be. No, it’s not my favorite way to spend a morning or an afternoon (despite what my history of rc’s might indicate), but unless you just aren’t numb (and tell the dentist if you’re not!) it shouldn’t be that bad - and with the infection, may feel a lot better after it’s done.

If you’re having a crown put on, pay attention when they are seating the permanent crown in your mouth. A little bit off can cause significant pain (this happended with #4&5 for me), but generally it takes almost no time for them to correct. I went in, they took a little height off the top of the crown, and I was out of there and feeling a lot better.

I’ve had 2 root canals. No big deal, like almost everyone said.

:eek: My dentist numbed me, then took a couple of x-rays to see if the wire was the right length. This only hurt my wallet a bit.

It was an Army dentist.

That’s all I got to say 'bout that.

I’ve had one, and my dentist was quite good - the procedure itself was basically like a filling from my standpoint, although fillings really bother me, so YMMV, of course. I can’t stand the Novocaine needles. The difficult part was afterward - I was in a good deal of pain once the anasthetic wore off, and the codeine they gave me made me itch (and of course I’d gone out of town.) I was in pain for about a week, which si quite abnormal. They hadn’t given me an anti-inflammatory, like they evidently do most of the time, and when I went to a doc-in-the-box where I was they gave me one and that fixed it right up within a day and a half.

I got somebody to drive me home, but then I do that for fillings too - my body can’t really deal with all that fight-or-flight very well, and I always come out a little shaky. I’d rather have somebody else drive if that’s possible.

Oh, and thanks everybody for all that vicarious tooth exploding. I feel ill. :frowning:

I agree with those who are saying that root canals are really no big deal. I had one about 7 years ago. A molar had had a cavity that shouldn’t have been a problem to fill. For some reaseon it hurt like hell despite a couple follow up visits to the dentist. I couldn’t eat or drink anything that wasn’t at room temperature.

Finally, I went to a different dentist who tested the tooth’s severity with some kind of frozen drop. I about jumped out of the chair it hurt so bad. He decided the root canal was necessary, even though he really didn’t want to do it because I was only 23 at the time. He got to work right away, and it only took about 30 minutes. No pain or really even any discomfort. I thought being pain free was pretty much a miracle. I haven’t had any problems since.

Since you’re looking for personal experiences more than hard facts, I’ll move this thread to the IMHO forum.

moderator GQ

Ya know, I gotta say, for us dental-phobes out there, your story is possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t care what sort of dentist did it (though I can’t say I’m surprised!) but if a dentist even proposed doing that with me I would take off at approximately warp nine to get away. :eek: :eek: :eek:

i had a root canal done by a general dentist, i didn’t see an endodontist. It wasn’t bad, i just had local anaesthesia per my request since i had to drive myself home.

The crown fits, however once in a great while i will get a little sharp pain in my tooth that had the root canal done on it. i could never figure out why.

But the procedure is painless if you have enough anaesthesia. I never had any troubles driving myself home and didn’t need any of the tylenol-3’s they gave me afterwards. The smell is alot worse than anything though.

When i had the dentist use those wires on my teeth i didn’t feel anything. Lucky me. Well, i did feel pain during the procedure but i think that’s because i didn’t ask for enough novocaine. I have found through experience it takes 2 shots for me to get numb, 1 shot only gives partial numbness and i only got 1 shot for the root canal.

Its a 3 visit procedure though. I cant remember the steps exactly but on the first visit your tooth is hollowed out, i think on the second a temporary goo is put in and a crown fitting is determined and on the third a crown is put on.

I’ve had 4 done. No big deal, as others have said. You might be a bit more sore for a little while than after a filling, but nothing aspirin can’t handle.

The only info I have to add is that a tooth which has had a root canal is dead, which means it becomes brittle over time. The first tooth I had one done on, a bicuspid, snapped off at the gumline after 18 years. Another one, a molar, split after about 10 years. In both cases, got a bridge. The other two are still okay.

Incidentally, if a tooth ever splits on you, it will become infected and can cause bone damage at an alarming rate. Fortunately, it’s so damn painful that you’ll be well aware something nasty is going on.

Advice? Run like hell!

Just kidding. I’ve never had one, but I do have a story to add to the other positive ones. One of my cow-orkers had to have a root canal a couple of years back. She went in one afternoon for what she thought was a preliminary check-up or something, and came back to work. Then, on the day she thought she was supposed to be having the root canal, it turned out it was just a follow-up … she’d had the root canal at the first appointment. I don’t know how she didn’t know that, but it must not have been too bad if she felt up to coming back to work for the rest of the afternoon afterward, and didn’t even realize she’d just had a root canal. Here’s hoping you have one of those experiences!

The first one, nothing at all. The only pain during the root canal was from having to hold my jaw open for so long without “resting,” a tylenol 30 minutes after it was over was all the pain relief I needed (and I really could have done without that). I couldn’t see what the big deal about a root canal was.

The second - the tooth had been in a lot of pain for what had seemed like an eternity. (a week or so - but it had ebbed and flowed, every time I worked out, it felt like hell… I had the worst massage of my life. The masseur (who really was doing a good job) kept telling me that I was getting more tense during the massage - which I was because I kept feeling incredible pain from the tooth). When it was time to do whatever to the thing, it wouldn’t numb and it wouldn’t die - I kept getting more and more novacaine - I couldn’t feel anything else, I’d have my eyes shut, no way of knowing that I was being poked in the tooth, if it wasn’t hideously painful. It hurt all the way through the procedure…it kept hurting all day long, and into the next, and it only eventually wore off.
That tooth still sucks - and I’m convinced that there’s still an evil nerve in there.

I had a partial one once.
Like amarinth, the only annoyance was not being able to close my mouth at ALL for 30 minutes.

I’d had so many novocaine shots and teeth pulled in my life, I am used to novocaine by now.

He just hollowed it out, took the root and filled it (it was a molar) with putty.

I was to come back in 2 weeks for the real filling and possible crown but chickened out and never went back.

4 years later, the putty came out and a dentist said it was totally rotted and no way would he even try to save it.

So I went(to a different dentist) who took 15 minutes to pull it out and take out the pieces of tooth(it broke into pieces) and stitched up a little.

I’ve almost never had pain afterwards, only slight pain when the novocaine wears off(5 minutes only).

I wouldn’t worry if I were you.

I’m really nervous around dentists (I once burst out crying just from scheduling an appointment) and I couldn’t afford sedation although it was really attractive to me. So my dentist gave me Xanax, which made me extremely woozy and unable to care the least bit that nerves were getting sucked out of my head. I remember thinking the vibrations of the drill was kind of neat.

My advice is to bring headphones. Staying still for half an hour sucks, but with music (especially if your in a drugged out state) it can be tolerable.

WHY did I open a dentist thread :smack: :smack: :smack:

I get shaky just at the thought of going for a checkup, and last time I had a filling I discovered that I had developed a HUGE tolerance for the local anaesthetic, so there was no way for him to effectively numb me. Anyway, since you don’t seem to be as much of a useless big girl’s blouse as me, I’m sure you will be fine. I doubt if I would have been able to make myself go into the surgey to even find out how bad it was.

Anyway, good luck, as people have said, they haven’t had too many bad experiences, but I never said my fear (did I say fear? Try abject terror) was rational.

Hell, 21 year old bloke and I am scared of dentists. I feel so pathetic :frowning:
::goes to get a coffee, and try to stop trembling::