General Question

canidmajor's avatar

Root canal…as bad as the reputation or seriously maligned? (Please see details)

Asked by canidmajor (21397points) 3 weeks ago

If you have had a root canal in the last few years, please tell me that it wasn’t nearly as bad as it’s been touted to be. Pat my arm, hold my hand.
I don’t need advice on alleviating anxiety, or a discussion of how it’s done, or suggestions for drugs, I need you to tell me that it’s no worse than a filling.
I have been a dentistaphobe since childhood, I know how to cope, I never bite anyone, I just want some regular folks to reassure me.

Thanks guys.

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50 Answers

janbb's avatar

It really isn’t bad at all. They numb you well and you don’t feel much. I’ve had a few and been more worried in advance than it warranted.

Zounderkite's avatar

My father has had two root canals: one about 30 years ago, and the other two years ago. After the second one, he went on and on about how they must have improved the procedure because it wasn’t nearly as bad as he remembered it from the first one. He’s a very expressive man. If it had been as awful as people say, he would have said so.

gondwanalon's avatar

You can do this. It’s far more involved than a simple filling. But the pain is minimal in my experience.

There are no guarantees to having a successful root canal. After all efforts the tooth may still have to be extracted.

The procedure usually takes 2 visits to complete. If the tooth is a molar then expect to have to deal with wearing a rubber mouth dam for about an hour. That’s the hard part for me.

I had three root canal procedures over the last 40 years. Had no problem with the first two. The last root canal was done last year at this time. I’m still having pain from that tooth. The problem in my case is that the dentist couldn’t locate the canal of one of my molars 3 roots. He could only locate two canals. The dentist told me that with older teeth like mine the roots tend to shrink up. So he only cleared out and filled 2 of my molar’s 3 roots leaving one root untreated. I’m going back to see the dentist this Thursday about what to do next. I’m thinking it’s time to extract the tooth and start the implant process.

Good luck to you.
Good health!

chyna's avatar

It used to be an awful experience, but now it’s not really bad. The anticipation is worse than the deed. Kind of like a colonoscopy.

janbb's avatar

@chyna And unlike a colonoscopy, no awful prep!

chyna's avatar

Exactly!

canidmajor's avatar

I appreciate this, you guys, I do feel a bit better.

smudges's avatar

I’ve had 4 or so, and they have improved over the years. It used to take 4 visits, now it’s 1 or 2. I think the worst part is having to hold your mouth open for an hour – it gets tired. I’ve never had any pain with one, but have had an achiness for a few hours after the novocaine wore off. It’ll hurt your pocket more than your mouth.

It really is a case of exaggeration.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Seinfeld has a 4 minute video about going to the dentist. This might help you. :-)
Dentist

chyna's avatar

Oh yeah! That will help her relax!

canidmajor's avatar

Well, now I’m afraid to look!

canidmajor's avatar

Well, OK…

canidmajor's avatar

Well, I will certainly , now, be anticipating shenanigans!!!

RocketGuy's avatar

I’ve had several. The one was done by a cosmetic dentist who took 2 hr and resulted in a summer of pain. Don’t do that! Two done by an Endodontist was painless aside from the initial numbing injection. This guy had the charm of Lt. Data, but also the precision and speed. A proper root canal done in less than 1 hr. My latest root canal was done by a friendly Endodontist. Totally painless. Took a whole hour.

canidmajor's avatar

^^^ I am encouraged! I will be seeing an endodontist tomorrow, referred by my regular dentist, who is a good dentist, and a terrific person.

chyna's avatar

When will the festivities begin @canidmajor?

filmfann's avatar

I had one a few years back.
Within a few weeks of each other, I had a root canal, a colonoscopy, and saw the movie Joker. The movie was easily the worst experience.

canidmajor's avatar

@chyna, around 1:30 in the afternoon. I really am feeling less wacked about this. :-)

canidmajor's avatar

@filmfann, what’s something light and fun you could recommend I stream after, when I’m sprawled on my couch, recovering?

janbb's avatar

Bridgerton, Season 3 was quite delightful.

Brian1946's avatar

Don’t let the anti-dentite propaganda scare you: rooty-tooty canals are fun! ;-p

NovDel's avatar

I’ve had a couple done over the years, and I don’t know what all the fuss is about, to be honest. If you’re OK with having a tooth filled, a root canal is no worse. It takes a little longer, but the anaesthetic makes it painless. The first time the dentist told me I needed a root filling I was apprehensive, but when he’d finished and said, “OK you can rinse now”, I thought, “Is that it?”.

SnipSnip's avatar

I have had so many I’ve lost count. There is pain and expense. Prepare for both.

RocketGuy's avatar

If they screw up, it gets really bad. You want a Lt. Data type, not a Mr. Bean.

canidmajor's avatar

Well, I survived. I like team, they were pleasant and efficient. I am exhausted from the stress and length, (over an hour and a half with my mouth open) but it’s done.

And jeez, @RocketGuy and @SnipSnip, way to reassure me! (As specifically requested in the details) Glad I was already there and didn’t see your posts til after! :-p

RocketGuy's avatar

@canidmajor – yours must have been a good Endodontist if you are back posting online already.

smudges's avatar

Yeah, way to be supportive…NOT!

canidmajor's avatar

@RocketGuy, yeah, she was efficient. I looked her up after, and she is loaded with dental degrees and taught at Tufts. I am grateful my dentist recommended her.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Makes me feel better, My inclination is to “pull the tooth” over a root canal. Not facing that yet but, I know it will happen eventually.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@canidmajor Everyone was fully dressed and put together when you woke up. Efficient indeed. :-)

canidmajor's avatar

@Blackwater_Park That was first reaction, too, but the benefits, as explained clearly, convinced me. It’s the next morning, there’s no pain, no swelling, and I feel a little silly for the angst.

janbb's avatar

@Blackwater_Park @canidmajor Pull the tooth with an implant after is a much more painful, costly and lengthy procedure, taking months, over a root canal which is not really a big deal. I’ve had both and I hope to not face an implant again.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

My last crown was nearly a root canal. My dentist said he could do a crown but that I may want to consider a root canal and I opted not to do it. In hindsight, that tooth is cold-sensitive now and I wish I had done the canal.

canidmajor's avatar

@janbb, as it was my farthest aft molar, there wouldn’t have been an implant, but I have heard nightmare stories about them. I get anxious about a simple cleaning (damn, my hygienist is extraordinarily patient). I am such a baby.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@canidmajor It’s so common, my wife has anxiety for days before a simple cleaning to the point where she has to take a xanex to sleep. They have to give her nitrous during. She is terrified our hygenist will retire because she is so gentile, patient and understanding. I can fall asleep during a cleaning I’m so relaxed but if I need any actual work done it’s different. I have always been hard to numb up and I have to beg for like double the novocaine so I don’t feel the piercing pain and scream before he decides “You’re not numb yet ”

jca2's avatar

I’ve had 3 implants and I always recommend them. They’re expensive, for sure, but there are a bunch of advantages to them.

I’ve never had a root canal but I’ve heard bad stories about them, things that would make me nervous. A dentist told me once that root canals aren’t that bad, if you have a good dentist. I think the key to any dental procedure is to have a great dentist.

canidmajor's avatar

@Blackwater_Park I used to have a dentist who, on the “Novocain” line of my chart, wrote “Exceed legal limits” with a smiley face. Unfortunately, the nitrous makes me extra talkative, which is somewhat counterproductive. :-)

janbb's avatar

@jca2 If what you need is an implant, I agree it is worth it but if you can get away with a root canal or a crown, it’s cheaper and easier. My implant was about $6,000 all in and you have months with no tooth. Anyway, a good dentist whom you trust is key to all of it.

jca2's avatar

@Janbb my first two implants were to replace a tooth that wasn’t there (baby tooth without an adult tooth present) and my third implant was for an infected tooth, where I could have gone either way. I was happy with the implant all three times and felt they were worth the time and expense. None were painful, either during the procedure or for the recovery.

I was very nervous for the first two, and took Valium all 3 times.

smudges's avatar

@canidmajor and anyone else it applies to – I completely understand the anxiety of going to the dentist. I take a valium before every visit, including cleanings. For me, cleanings hurt. The hygienist applies a numbing gel which helps.

I have a heart murmur and when I was young they didn’t know if novocaine would affect it, so I got fillings done without it. YIKES! Nowadays, of course, they know it’s fine.

canidmajor's avatar

@smudges Yeah, my childhood was without Novocain also. My Dad hated the stuff, it made him ill, and didn’t want us kids to go through that. I inherited his swiss cheese teeth, and my mom’s super sensitivity. I pretended that I was OK. Much trauma from all that. Ugh. I have truly lovely professionals now who understand and are gentle and glad that I don’t bite them.

I sailed through cancer and chemo and radiation and all the attendant awfulnesses and damage with more grace than dental stuff. <eyeroll>

janbb's avatar

@canidmajor Mine was too because Dr Doom used a mammoth needle to inject it so I did without. Had lots of fillings. But now I’ve had several gentle dentists and I don’t fear it any more. In terms of cleanings, I floss vigorously for several days before a cleaning and that helps with any pain.

jca2's avatar

When I was little, until a teen, our dentist was one my grandmother had used when she was young and the whole family used him. He was quite old, with the eyeglasses that had several different lenses. He was the dentist and he had no staff. I remember a filling was 6 dollars. His dentist chair was from the 1920s and I saw a very similar one at the Smithsonian. There was no anesthesia for fillings, only for extractions and more intensive work.

gondwanalon's avatar

@jca2 Good memory.
When I was a kid (in the 50’s and early 60’s) I had a lot of cavities and many painful memories in the dental chair. The numbing agents that they used on me were far from effective. I think that the dentist thought that I was lying when I said the I was in pain from the drilling. The drill was part of this massive pulley system that towed overhead. And then there was this small sink next to the chair where I was told to spit blood, tooth particles and filling filings.

Dentistry has come a long was from those dark days. Thank goodness.

smudges's avatar

Wow! I had no idea so many children went without novocaine! My dentist was a kind, caring man – it was just because of the murmur that I did without.

jca2's avatar

@smudges When we saw that dentist, it was not just children that went without novacaine, it was everyone. He was a good dentist, very smart, very reasonable as far as his treatment went but I think when he learned dentistry, which was probably around the 1920s, novacaine was only for the most painful procedures, like extractions.

RocketGuy's avatar

I inherited bad teeth from my mother’s side of the family. Neither she nor my grandmother had any molars left by the age of 60. Not only that, turns out the nerves in my jaw overlap so pain signals from one side can go thru the other. Standard practices is to numb only one side. So just like @gondwanalon I had plenty of cavities and many painful memories. Most of my dentists said the pain was all in my head. It wasn’t until one of them realized I had the dual nerve path. When he shot up near the tooth (before the signals split off) there was no pain. What a revelation! I still cringe if I need any drilling but there is no pain anymore.

jca2's avatar

@RocketGuy When you look at footage of American soldiers in World War 1, most had bad teeth, even at such a young age, because their dental care was close to non-existent. Now, we’re getting our teeth and gums scraped every six months (hopefully) and so things are different now.

RocketGuy's avatar

My daughters have great teeth. Prob inherited from my wife’s side, in addition to better technology. Between the two, they’ve had 1 cavity. I used to get 1 cavity every 6 months at their age!

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