How scary are modern root canals?

Yesterday I went to the dentist with the second toothache I’ve ever had. The first one was 11-12 years ago and resulted in my wisdom teeth being removed; this one will result in a root canal. The procedure is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

How much should I be dreading this? Having a root canal is an old running joke/euphemism for “I’d rather be doing anything else,” but Wikipedia assures me that modern root canals are typically no more painful than getting a filling. My dentist told me that I’d be numb for about an hour afterwards, and recommended that I bring 3 Advil with me to take before the numbness wears off. So I’m anticipating at least some pain/discomfort Tuesday evening. But if the procedure is finished at 4pm, should I be able to eat dinner at, say, 7?

Any recent root-canal-ees care to share their experience?

Don’t dread it. I had one a couple of years ago and was surprised to find out it was not that big a deal at all, certainly nothing like what I’d grown up hearing about.

I’m phobic as hell, and they’re not that big a deal. Bring some music to listen to and just hang out and think your own thoughts.

ETA: Yes, you can eat dinner three hours later, though corn on the cob would probably be a bad choice.

Scary? They’re plenty scary. But the good news is that they’re not very painful, most of the time.

I’ve only had the one, but I’ve also never had a filling. If that was any worse than having a filling, then I’ll take up getting fillings as a hobby. I was pretty terrified, but it was no big deal at all.

I did take some pretty high doses of Advil (with a small dose of Tylenol) for about 24 hours after - not because I was in pain, but because I wasn’t in pain and didn’t want to become in pain. Who knows, maybe I didn’t need it at all, but pain is almost always easier to prevent than to fight back.

Ask your dentist if you can take 1 Tylenol along with your Advil - Tylenol potentiates (makes stronger) the pain killing effect of Advil, so you can get better pain relief with less total medicine.

The Advil isn’t just for the pain; it’s for the irritation to the soft tissues of your mouth because that’s what hurts after a root canal. Prevent that and you prevent the pain.

Root canals aren’t scary at all. In fact, given the choice between an extraction, a filling and a root canal, I’ll take the root canal. I’m just weird that way.


Do you want the truth or the sugar coating?

I had a root canal last year and it was pretty uncomfortable. I developed an abscess after losing a crown. The abscessed tooth was not salvageable so I required new crowns and bridgework at the same time. My entire mouth was in an uproar and everything hurt. It took six months and several trips to the dentist and many many antibiotics and pain pills to recover.

In contrast, I had another done about 15 years ago and it wasn’t bad at all. Very little pain, done in about an hour.

To sum up, I guess it depends on how bad the situation is when going into it. The only thing worse than a root canal is not having a root canal when you need it.

They aren’t painful as much as they are exhausting.
I can withstand the slight pain and discomfort but after 45 minutes it begins to wear on you.
Like getting a shot is fairly painless but if some continued giving you shots over an hour you’d get annoyed.

Anyone I’ve ever talked to who had one “then” and “now” said there’s no comparison. They are as simple as getting a filling, as far as the patient is concerned. My dad was thoroughly impressed by the simplicity and painlessness.

I’ve had several over the years. My first was around 1970, which was primitive times. Back then, they were very worried about bacteria getting in and causing infections. So I had to keep going back and getting cultures taken. I think they also hit the inside of the tooth with acid to kill stuff. But none of this hurt, since after the first procedure, the nerve was gone. And getting rid of the nerve is not painful, either.

Nowadays, you go to an endodontist and get the thing done in about an hour. And you can get general anesthesia. So it’s really no big deal at all. The only pain comes from the bill (~$950 for my most recent one).

I have a major dental phobia which resulted in me taking phenomenally good care of my teeth. Nevertheless, old, very deep fillings have failed and I’ve now had two root canals and will almost certainly need another three.

Because of my extreme fear, my endodontist prescribed Ambien and I (blessedly) don’t recall the hour or so each one took. Plus I went home and slept off the swelling and discomfort others have mentioned.

Truly I know root canals are not a big deal and perhaps before I die I won’t be so freaked out by dental instruments in my mouth. Until then I’ll take Ambien before a root canal :smiley:

I just had one Monday and it really wasn’t too bad. They had attempted to do it last week but I couldn’t get numb, so she sent me home with a course of antibiotic and tried again on Monday. It’s still a little sore but not nearly as bad as the toothache that I had before they did the root canal.
My recommendation, have a nice hearty meal an hour or two before you go in. IME the novocain is much less effective if you haven’t eaten all day. I tried to just find a cite for this and I’m coming up empty (no pun intended)…of course also if it goes all bad, you’ll be happy that you were plenty full before they fixed you so you can’t eat.

Do they still do those root canals with the paste? years ago, a dentist was experimenting with a new way of doing RCs-instead of drilling into the pulp cavity, he just filled it witha special past, and then covered it with a filling. did thsi work?

Not sure - but I had a root canal two years ago after exploding my front teeth out on a stairway railing.

Got the standard Novocaine, recline, spend an hour listlessly feeling a flexible rasp scrape around the upper regions of your jawbone. Some unusual sensations, a few moments of nail-on-chalkboard towards the end, but very little pain.

Still, if I did it again I’d probably request some additional drugs.

Sounds like you’re thinking of Sargenti paste, a filler containing (among other things) paraformaldehyde. It didn’t work well in practice - complications, ranging from pain to disfigurement, were much more common than with the standard gutta percha filler.

Sargenti paste is not approved by the FDA for endodontic treatment.

Don’t be surprised if you have to make at least one return visit. My recent root canal stretched into four visits:
First visit - open the tooth, remove dead/infected pulp tissue, pack canals with sterilizing material, get prescription for oral antibiotics.
Second visit (10 days later) - reopen tooth, examine canals for evidence of lingering infection/drainage (found). Reseal tooth with additional sterilizing material.
Third visit - reopen tooth, examine canals for evidence of drainage (none). Fill canals with gutta percha and seal. Prepare tooth for crown, take impressions. Place temporary crown.
Fourth visit - place permanent crown.

Don’t worry about pain. I had minimal pain after the first visit. Any pain I had seemed to be from inflamed and irritated issues around the tooth, and it was easily controlled with OTC analgesics. I had no pain to speak of after the other visits.

The loss of time and money - now THAT hurts!

For me there wasn’t so much pain in that particular tooth as the surrounding areas. My jaw gets hugely sore during any dental work, plus the endodontist was particularly cruel. On the other hand, she is adorably cute, and kept pulling my face into her breasts to steady me. And her assistant is a babe.

All in all, it was a mixed blessing. But I’d rather not go through it ever again.

I had one a few months ago, and it wasn’t too bad. It was on a tooth with a crown, which made it easier, since she could pop the top off. I needed about five shots before I got numb, which was the most uncomfortable thing about it. That and the dentist saying “good job” when I turned my head the right way, in exactly the same tones I used with my dog. :slight_smile:

I’ve had two in the past 10 years. I won’t lie - I’d rate them as highly unpleasant. I’d say they are a big deal. Maybe not so much raw pain, but icky, icky, icky. My last one I did have some pretty severe pain the day after. I took Advil and survived. And the cost, if you don’t have dental ins. like I don’t, is pretty horrifying, too.

I’ve had 2 root canals using 2 different techniques. One involved novocaine shots and the other used a combination of shots and nerve deadening agent. DO NOT USE THE SECOND METHOD. The dentist deadened the nerve as he went and his instructions were: “if you feel anything let me know”. Since I’m used to a little pain during a filling procedure I had no clue. The difference between feeling a little pain and getting kicked in the balls was 1 second. I knocked the instruments out of his hand. There was not much of a buffer between any feeling at all and extreme pain.

Sounds like you’re getting the full novocaine treatment, which is the way to go. Any pain afterward will be surrounding tissue/jaw muscle tension and not from the root canal.

No more unpleasant than a filling, but it takes a lot longer. My only complaint was that my mouth was jammed open for a couple of hours and my jaw muscles were pretty sore for a day or so.

But let’s compare the pain of an abscessed tooth to the time spent in a chair, numbed up, watching TV…uh, root canal for the win.

I’ll take a root canal over head-smashing dental pain any day.