Monday, August 26, 2013
Does a Root Canal Hurt?
I wanted to post this entry for random people on the internet who are Googling that exact wording:
"Does a root canal hurt?"
So there comes a time in someone's life where they might need a root canal. That time came for me earlier this month. I didn't realize I had lost a filling because a bit of decay was moving up my tooth from the site of the filling. Then my tooth started to hurt. Gross!
All of this could have perhaps been prevented had I actually gone to the dentist in the past seven years. Yes, my wedding day came, I moved away from home and I started putting off the dentist. For years.
The answer to the question "does a root canal hurt" depends a lot on 1) your endodontist 2) the extent of your infection.
I had to have three shots in my mouth for my root canal. I didn't feel the first two hardly at all, and the third one was in the roof of my mouth, which doesn't sound fun at all. My endodontist was so gentle and careful that the shot to the roof of my mouth felt like a tiny pinch.
Do I have a low pain tolerance? Yes. I got a tattoo that took 5 minutes and I wanted to cry. However, I always have pain in my mouth because I am prone to lots of canker sores. I also didn't think my cleaning, which was very aggressive after 7 years of not having any cleanings, hurt. Perhaps canker sores, which sometimes are so painful you can't eat, have toughened me a bit when it comes to oral trauma.
So far, the answer to the question is: it could hurt just a little if you feel the needles that the endodontist gives you. However, as soon as the medicine starts moving from the needle to your gums, you immediately stop feeling it.
I was told that my root canal would be simple and straightforward which lead me to believe that the extent of my infection in my tooth was not very great. I talked to two people who said their root canals were painful due to the needles, and their affected teeth had very deep infections. I wonder if the affected tooth also has an impact on the amount of pain you may or may not experience. My root canal was in my top left molar. Just FYI.
The actual procedure was worse than the needles because it was very scary. There was a lot of drilling. Drilling is terrifying to me because I know it's supposed to hurt. Let me reiterate that nothing hurt. However, feeling the vibration of the drill against my tooth and also hearing the terrible sound it made was just awful. My friend asked me why I couldn't listen to headphones. Because I am jumpy. If something touches me and I don't know what it's going to sound or feel like, I will jump. That can't be good for precise dental work, so I had to just bear hearing all of what was happening.
The other part that kind of stinks is having your mouth being held open by a bite guard. Because my affected tooth was far back, it was uncomfortable keeping my mouth so open wide. My jaw started to feel sore and swallowing was weird.
So for the first procedure, I'll summarize: the needles don't really hurt, but the actual procedure is unpleasant because of the drilling and loud scary noises.
The second procedure involved getting a crown on the affected tooth. There was SO MUCH DRILLING for that because the dentist had to basically wear my tooth down so the crown could be put over it. That was not fun because of the above reasons. The needles I had to get for the crown and a filling on my bottom tooth were slightly more uncomfortable but again, I just describe them as little pinches. I'd rather have those than get another tattoo.
The materials that went into my mouth for the crown tasted funny, and there were a lot more breaks during the crown where I could relax and close my mouth. All in all, a less scary visit than the root canal. My crown feels awesome and my tooth pain is GONE!
I learned the importance of 1) getting regular cleanings, 2) brushing after every meal or snack, or at least staying hydrated after snacks so food doesn't just sit on your teeth all day and 3) taking ibuprofen before both procedures. Trust me, it helps.
Again, in summary. Root canals/crowns do not hurt if you have a great dentist and endodontist. How you choose to react to the terrifying, murderous noises going on close to your head is entirely up to you.