My Root Canal

 

Getting a root canal was not on my “Things to Do Today” when I woke up this morning. It was on my “What I Got Done Today” list by dinnertime.

A root canal is famously something you choose in preference to something you really, really wish to avoid. You know, “There’s an opening in Bob’s group today. I think you would be a good fit.” ” I’d rather have a root canal than work for Bob.” “It’s only 100 yards of driveway you have to shovel. C’mon, the snow’s only two feet deep. It won’t be that hard even with the snowblower broken. ” I’d rather have a root canal.” “Hey, there are only 50 kids coming to your nephew Johnny’s eighth birthday party. You don’t mind helping out?” ” I’d rather have a root canal.”  You get the drift.

No, a root canal was not on the schedule this morning. Rather, I had a 2 p.m. dentist’s appointment. A tooth they had been watching was giving trouble.  Every time I bit down it hurt. Not Apaches are roasting your toes hurt, but a “hmm, I don’t want to chew almonds on that side” hurt. It had been hurting a couple of days. I made an appointment with my dentist figuring the crown had finally blown and it needed replacing.

Nope. The dentist looks at the x-rays and says, “The root’s inflamed. That is what is hurting. I think the nerve is dead or dying. You need to see an endodontist.” “What’s that?” I ask. “Oh, they do root canals, if it is necessary.”

She checks. The endodontist who did my last root canal ten years ago was available. (Although that was two dentists ago, I am still using the same practice, and they have my dental records back to the 1980s. They use the same endodontist practice as they did back then.) Not only that, there was an opening at 3:15.

I belong to the “eat a toad first thing each morning so you have nothing worse to look forward to” school of philosophy. Might as well get something unpleasant over with. So, 30 minutes later, I’m sitting at Endodontist Associates of etc. Get through the paperwork. The receptionist and I chat about my time at National Oilwell Varco (ten years ago when I had the last root canal) because her husband also worked there then. (Got laid off the same year I did.)  Then I go to the chair where the procedure will be done – if it is necessary.

The doctor comes in. We renew our acquaintanceship. He looks at the X-rays of my tooth.  “Yep. Inflamed. Looks like the nerve’s dead.” Does a few other tests (including touching the tooth with something chilled to 50 degrees above absolute zer0 – or something like that –  and I don’t feel a thing). Concludes – it is dead, Jim.

I have two choices: get the root canal or pull the tooth. I am attached to that tooth. (To the rest of them I was born with, too, save four impacted wisdom teeth long since pulled.) I decide not to break up the set. Go for the root canal.

“How long is it going to take?” I ask. “We should have you out of here 30 minutes after your gum is numbed.” “How long will it take for the crown to come in? How long will I have a temporary?” (Thinking back to my last experience.) “I don’t think we have to pull the crown,” the endodontist says. “This looks straightforward, we will just drill through the crown, clean out the root canal, fill it, and patch the crown. You’ll be good to go.”

I didn’t believe it. It sounded too good to be true. He did tell me how much noise the drill would make. I told him to go ahead.

Thirty minutes later we were done – root cleaned out and filled, crown patched, ready to go. Done. It took longer to drive home afterward than to do the procedure.  By the time I have dinner fixed, the anesthesia had gone away . . . and I can chew on the side with the root canal and it Does NOT Hurt. I am back to normal. With less problem than having a crown put in.

The only downside? I will never feel comfortable saying “I’d rather have a root canal” again.

I guess this really is the 21st century.

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  1. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Yeah, I can relate.  For years, I heard about the horrors of a root canal.  One woman I worked with told me that she would rather go through childbirth than have a root canal.  I was prepared for torture when I got into the endodontist’s chair.  

    I was finished in 25 minutes and felt like an idiot when I left his office.

     

    • #1
  2. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    You are blessed to have such a good endodontist.

    But no need to tell everyone outside of us about the ease of the procedure. You never know when the excuse “I’d love to help out with the nephew and his  50 friends at his birthday party, but I have a root canal scheduled that afternoon” might  come in handy.

    • #2
  3. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Just wait until you have an “Implant”!  It is 3 times more expensive and takes months to heal before a crown can be put on the tooth.

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I had the same experience multiple times.  “My” endodontist is a wizard, and a nice guy to boot.  And his office is the next parking lot over from my regular dentist.

    I have also had three implants in the last three years, and my oral surgeon is a very competent guy.  Good-looking, too!  The only problem was that I maxed out both my dental insurance plans, three years in a row.  Yeah, I come from a family with bad teeth.

    Covid Oral Surgery Getup.  Surgeon is the one on the right.  Isn’t he cute?

    • #4
  5. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Modern dentistry has absolutely changed and improved so much.  As a youngin, most (all?) of my molars were drilled and filled with amalgam. Our dentist at that time did not believe in local anesthesia.  His policy was,  if it hurts too much,  squeeze my knee, and I’ll stop for a few seconds… but you might as well just get it over with…

    My kids and their kids,  benefiting from fluoride treatments,  may not have a filing between them.  

    I just went in last week for a repair on a chipped molar,  a tiny piece broke off. It is surprising how much food impacted and stressed my gums with each chew, even when i thought i was avoiding that side with food. But, like you, 20 minutes after i received novacaine, I  was painlessly done and enjoying steak for dinner that evening.  

    • #5
  6. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    My dentist has a laser that replaces the drill for some cavities. He says it is painless. It is, but it  requires a continuous flow of water through the procedure. So, yeah, no pain. But kind of like a minor waterboarding experience.

    He likes modern stuff. I’m at the age where I occasionally have to get a crown because many of my teeth have more fillings than actual tooth. But he has a 3D milling machine that makes the crown in real time. So you come out of the appointment with your permanent crown, instead of the temporary one replaced by the final one a week or so later. That’s progress.

    • #6
  7. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    My dentist has a laser that replaces the drill for some cavities. He says it is painless. It is, but it requires a continuous flow of water through the procedure. So, yeah, no pain. But kind of like a minor waterboarding experience.

    He likes modern stuff. I’m at the age where I occasionally have to get a crown because many of my teeth have more fillings than actual tooth. But he has a 3D milling machine that makes the crown in real time. So you come out of the appointment with your permanent crown, instead of the temporary one replaced by the final one a week or so later. That’s progress.

    Cerec. My dentist has one too. 

    • #7
  8. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    The first one I had was in the early 80’s on active duty.  The dentist was a friend and explained everything in detail.  It took three different appointments.  At one stage he had scraped out the nerves and then I had to walk down the hall to the X-ray room for a picture.  I stopped to look in a mirror – the little file heads were visible sticking out of the tooth.  Years later I had another and it was a one day experience much like yours.

    • #8
  9. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    Whenever my daughter or I go to the dentist/oral surgeon for other than normal work, we tell them:

    “Is it safe?  Yes, it’s safe.  It’s very safe.  It’s so safe you wouldn’t believe it.”

    The last oral surgeon didn’t get it, but the assistant thought it was hilarious.

    • #9
  10. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Had my first one a couple years ago, also through a crown.  Apparently there were some peculiarities of my particular root canal that meant it would take up to two hours.  They could do it in two parts, sticking in a temp plug between, or all at one.  I’m also from the toad eating school of thought, so let’s get it done right now.  Not painful at all, but it’s dreadfully boring staring at the fake fish tank on the ortho’s ceiling for nearly two hours.

    I’m probably due again, a crown on the other side has got the twinges.  This time I’m taking my phone loaded with podcasts.  So it’ll probably be the 30 minute variety this time.

    • #10
  11. Hugh Member
    Hugh
    @Hugh

    I love root canals!  

    Imagine an hour (or two) when no-one can call me, txt me, email me or bother me in any way. 

    The pain is well worth the solitude.

    Crowns are good too! And you get to come back for a second visit! Woo Woo!

    • #11
  12. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Hugh (View Comment):

    I love root canals!

    Imagine an hour (or two) when no-one can call me, txt me, email me or bother me in any way.

    The pain is well worth the solitude.

    Crowns are good too! And you get to come back for a second visit! Woo Woo!

    You’d make a good hermit. I admire that.

    • #12
  13. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I had a half crown installed last year. No gloppy impression necessary. The technician invited me into the back room to watch the whiz-bang machine constructing it. One visit and done. Cool!

    • #13
  14. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    I had a half crown installed last year. No gloppy impression necessary. The technician invited me into the back room to watch the whiz-bang machine constructing it. One visit and done. Cool!

    Life in the 21st century is good.

    • #14