“ Root canal therapy refers to the process by which a dentist treats the inner aspects of a tooth, specifically that area inside a tooth that is occupied by its "pulp tissue." Most people would probably refer to a tooth's pulp tissue as its "nerve." While a tooth's pulp tissue does contain nerve fibers it is also composed of arteries, veins, lymph vessels, and connective tissue. „
People hate visiting there dentist and I am no different but when I heard a few months ago I would need potential root canal treatment I began to fear the worst. Stories online are never usually positive so this was definitely one of those occasions where I had to do research before the big day.
== My Tooth ==
In the past I have had issues with wisdom teeth and they are without doubt my biggest ever problem in my mouth. I have a few odd fillings and a chipped tooth but nothing really serious at all to moan about.
Around Christmas time I had this unusual pain during the night in one of my teeth on the upper row and near the centre tooth and the pain was basically a dull tooth ache which came and went like a heartbeat throbbing sensation.
However, the next morning things began to get worse. The pain had gone and I felt very stiff around my upper lip where the pain had been and as I was having a shave and pressing around my top lip I felt this insane pain.
The pain felt like a bubble of puss stick inside the gum and inside my mouth yet when I opened my mouth to look it was nowhere to be seen. My gum when pressed felt bruised and painful.
I rang the dentist and arranged a visit and this is when he informed me it was a root canal procedure which needed to take place.
== The Procedure ==
I began the preparation for this treatment with research because I feel research can seriously assist people who have worries and are afraid like I was with a treatment I had never had nor had any friends of mine.
I was given some antibiotics to help ease this potential infection in my gum. The irony was I had no hole in the tooth or problem in terms of gum disease but the tooth had developed an infection due to the root dying.
I did not understand fully the extent to which it was dead until it came to my procedure. The dentist began to drill a small hole underneath the tooth without any sort of pain relief or anaesthetic either.
I was waving at him for pain relief and he then told me that the tooth was dead and to proof this he was already touching his drill into the tooth so deep I would be crying in pain if the tooth was alive.
He did try and tell me the procedure but it was all these rather amusing sized needles or that was what they appeared to be. He placed a very long file into the tooth which had at the end a colour and he asked me to visit the x ray room.
He took some x rays and began to wait for the results and he could see how deep this nail file had become. He was looking to see how much room was left until he reached the very limit of the tooth and the root.
He then began this annoying movement where he was shaping the tooth and it began with him scraping inside the hole he created and he did this continuously or over 15 minutes until he was happy. He was doing this rather annoying scraping but also pouring a liquid which had a smell to it.
He never spoke much he just said he was nearly there and another 10 minutes had passed and he kept on going and eventually after 40 minutes he had stopped and began filling up the hole with a small filling and told me to go and everything would be okay.
I left the dentist with a pain still inside the tooth area but I felt more confident it would pass.
== What the Dentist Actually Did ==
My dentist never spoke much during the procedure all he told me was be prepared to sit down for a while and this might last some time. The tooth was dead he knew that and this was why I had pain and an infection which never cleared even with antibiotics.
He took some x rays to evaluate where he was and how deep he could go with his hole. The idea is he wanted to see where the pulp or centre of the tooth was before he removed it. I had no idea these nail files he was using where to shape the tooth and also remove this pulp.
I found the horrible smell was disinfectant which was being used to clean the tooth every so often in a spray like form and the idea was he did this in case any sort of bacteria entered the hole he produced and caused another infection after he had finished the procedure.
He then filled up the tooth with a substance to sort of replace the pulp of my tooth and I never felt this at all and it meant to be a type of glue of some sort and enables you to use the tooth.
The filling at the end is used to make the tooth look all pretty and as if nothing has happened at all when it has in fact had a very odd procedure done helped to remove a stubborn infection or dead root.
== Recovery ==
There was no recovery time in terms of pain from the procedure because the tooth was dead so I never felt a thing just heard and smelt those annoying smells of disinfectant spray and the nail file rubbing against my tooth.
The problem with me was the tooth had a dead root and he removed this but all that bruising was causing issues after I had this treatment done in terms of me brushing my teeth and touching my face to have a shave.
This pain remained for around 3-4 days later before it began to slowly disappear and the pain never went fully away until a month afterwards. This procedure is done to eradicate pain which is does do but in my view very slowly.
The tooth had no signs of a hole in the first place so I was confident the infection would not return but you are anxious and worried that if you use the tooth after this procedure you could end up with even more problems later on.
I was not told to do anything different at all so things such as using special toothpaste or using a mouth wash were not given to me and also I was not told about any foods to avoid either so I felt kind of strange about how it all occurred.
There is another lingering problem with this procedure and this is the taste afterwards of that disinfectant which is there for a few days and it can be nasty but you know it is harmless but can make other food you eat taste vile.
== Problems and Other Reasons to Have Treatment ==
There are problems of course with anything to do with teeth I have seen and heard all sorts and felt my own pain in the past.
The biggest problem with root canal is the type you have done. With me my tooth was dead so I never felt a thing and even when the procedure was over it was all done. Some people have a variation of treatments done and largely this is down to why you have this infection there.
Some people do not have a problem with a dead tooth but keep having an infection which is never cured by antibiotics and need to have this treatment done to get rid of the pain but also to potentially remove the root as well.
People will encounter x rays but you also have the biggest issue which is not being able to drink and sit up for a while whist the procedure is being conducted. I had a small towel fitted around my mouth to keep the area dry so no sort of bacteria could sneak inside the hole.
Some people develop infections after they have root canal and this can lead to severe pain and can even cause infections to other teeth as well nearby to this problem tooth.
Another issue for people to deal with is if the dentist has run out of time he might put a temporary filling on the tooth which means you can eat only certain types of foods in case the tooth opens up. The reason a dentist does not put a normal filling in is due to cost but also the fact he will have to drill through it again a few weeks later.
As you can see it all depends on the procedure you have done and what you need to do and if your tooth is shaped at a very funny angle and the root is hidden away this procedure may take 2-3 visits.
== Summary ==
Having this procedure was odd and not the best experience because of the problems I had before and the lack of reaction from my own dentist.
If you are having this done make sure you tell your dentist to talk to you throughout the procedure about what everything is and the tools he is using because when you have your mouth open for a long period and not being able to shut it for up to an hour you can't ask these questions.
If your dentist informs you about everything he is doing it can ease your fears and create a peace of mind which can really do you the power of good in the long run.
The pain did go eventually for me but it was sudden and came on overnight for no apparent reason. If you notice any usually pain report it immediately to a dentist otherwise you could lose a tooth. The cost of this treatment is not cheap and is expensive.
Well, a couple of years ago I chipped my front two teeth, literally in half. So that same day I went to the dentist and had them built up, with the same thing you'd have a filling with.
Now, I've had two abscesses before- so I know the feeling, and a few weeks ago I was sure I had an abscess at the very top of my front left tooth. I immediately booked a dentist appointment and he told me it had to be root treated. He said the abscess was there, because all the nerve had got infected and died, so I got an abscess.
I must admit, I was very nervous to have it, because it's a famously painful procedure, but let me tell you, I didn't have a thing to worry about! I had one injection right above the tooth, which didn't hurt, and he drilled the hole at the back and cleaned the hole out, then put some cotton wool in the tooth (to keep out food and spit) and them put a temporary filling over the back. I couldn't feel a thing, and afterwards there was no pain.
The second appointment, he didn't even use anaesthetic, and again, apart from slight discomfort, I could barely feel a thing. No pain afterwards either, and the abscess has gone!
All in all, I would say completely pain free (apart from jaw ache, as I had my mouth open for 30 minutes the first time, and 40 the second) and I'm happy to say I didn't have a thing to worry about!
How exciting, another dental treatment I have done myself AND been subjected to!
In my dental centre, Root canal treatment (RCT or endodontics) is done for one of two reasons. The first is "Traumatic exposure" where one of my patients has broken a tooth and the nerve is exposed. This is fairly rare (I've done it twice in three years) in my experience, and often we can treat the tooth so that we don't have to remove the nerve. The other reason we do it is when a patient presents with Chronic Pulpitis, periapical periodontitis, or a periapical abscess (can be acute or chronic). These conditions are usually caused by dental decay but can be caused by trauma-I had to have RCT after breaking my front tooth in a fight with my brother mediated by the kitchen door, a periapical abscess developed three years later- and in some cases, the cause is dental treatment.
In order to explain RCT more fully, I'll delve into some tooth anatomy.
The hard, outer surface of the tooth is made of enamel (the hardest substance in the body), under this is dentine which is softer and made of microscopic tubes (tubules) underneath this is the "pulp", where the nerves and blood vessels live.
When a tooth begins to decay, millions and millions of bacteria attack the enamel, this has often been weakened by sugar, and form a hole. Once the defensive layer of enamel has been broken, the bacteria get into the dentine which is like a massive orgy for them. The dentine is easily digestible and is porous, meaning the bacteria can whizz in and out as they please. Even if the actual decay has got nowhere near the pulp, often the bacteria will have caused the pulp to become inflamed because they have got down one of the tubules that leads to the pulp.
Sometimes, this means a patient will present with pain such as a throbbing ache that lasts 10min or more, keeps them awake at night, arrives spontaneously but is worse with hot, maybe relieved by cold, isn't touched by painkillers and generally makes them want to do anything to get the tooth out. (More on this later).
Other times, the patient will present with a hole in their tooth, or pain on hot, cold, or sweet. So we will do a simple filling and next week the patient returns with an abscess saying "It was fine til I had the filling". As I mentioned, when there is a hole, the bacteria can get in and out as they please. Once we have sealed the hole up with a smashing filling, we have trapped the bacteria inside the tooth. Sometimes they die, sometimes they don't. If they don't, they start to multiply and (as with any infected body part) the pulp tries to swell. It can't swell because the tooth is rigid and the pressure causes severe pain. Hope that makes sense.
Anyway, once there is bacteria inside the root canal system (this is quite a complicated system with up to six nerve canals in one tooth, they often divide and join again and have branches going off left right and centre), the entire tooth is infected. The dentine (which is porous) also becomes infected as the bacteria can travel down the tubules.
Now this has happened, the only real way to relieve the pain is to "extirpate" the tooth. This means removing the pulp and putting an antibacterial dressing inside the tooth. Antibiotics are sometimes given but there is no evidence that they work other than having a "placebo effect" (which is better than no effect at all!!).
As I mentioned in an earlier review, once teeth are infected, the local anaesthetic just doesn't work as well. This is a nightmare scenario, patient already in pain, trying to treat the tooth to get rid of the pain but causing more in the short term- I hate it!!
Not all people who need RCT will present in pain, sometimes a chronic abscess is an incidental find on x-ray or they get a sinus (where the chronic abscess drains through the gum-nice) or the tooth simply changes colour. The pain isn't always horrendous either, my toothache was just annoying.
So, once the acute pain has been fixed, the patient will (should) come back to finish the treatment. This is always difficult-patient sometimes thinks "pain has gone, I don't need to spend my hard earned cash getting the treatment finished".
Unfortunately, now the nerve and blood vessels have been removed (or died) the tooth has no immune system of its own, so any bacteria that are chancing along in your blood stream or bugs that get in through the top of the tooth, can get in and have a party. Causing more infection, abscess, nasty taste etc etc.
So, when you go back for your RCT, the dentis SHOULD do a few things to increase your confidence that she is operating within the guidelines set by our reguulatory bodies and professional dudes (like the Royal College of Surgeons and the BDA etc etc). The first is that they should use "rubber dam", this is a rubber sheet that fits over your tooth and is clamped in place.
The idea of this is fourfold-
Firstly, it is a heck of a lot easier to see the tooth properly.
Secondly, the bugs in your saliva don't get in and re-infect the tooth
Thirdly, it means we can use the strongest chemicals allowed to disinfect your tooth without worrying about you swallowing them or them getting in contact with your cheeks or tongue etc
Fourthly, the instruments we use are very fine, if one of them breaks, you won't swallow it or even worse, inhale it.
So after the rubber dam, your dentist should really be using some sort of magnification, this can range from odd looking (for odd, read sexy) glasses with extra lenses in called "loupes", to having an enormous operating microscope (worth about £15k), to help them look down the tooth. Apparently in Australia, it's illegal to do RCT without magnification.
One other issue is that all of the instrumentts used in RCT are supposed to be only used on one patient. They can be used as many times as appropriate on that one patient but never on anyone else.
If you are happy that your fang farrier has all these bases covered-let the games begin!
Anaesthetic in, rubber dam applied now we need to find all of the root canals. Upper incisors have one, as do upper laterals, upper and lower canines and lower premolars. Lower incisors have two, as do upper premolars. Upper first molars have 4-6, lowers have 3-4, second molars have 3-6 and I don't know anyone who treats third molars.
You can =/-1 canal to all of the above as there is so much variation between individuals.
The point I'm trying to make is RCT is hard, at the beginning, the canals can be as small as a hair and they can be soooooo hard to find.
Once the canals are found, the top part is shaped using a Gates Glidden (this had a walk on part in finding Nemo). This shaping allows the canal to be rinsed out with disinfectant and allows us to see as far down the canal as possible.
After this, the canal is shaped using files-these can either be in a drill or done by hand (personal preference for me is by hand), the canal is constantly washed out with the disinfectant to remove any bugs that may be lurking.
All this is hard work for the dentist and patient by the way, I have to do them before lunch as the hunger makes me more attentive.
At some point during the filing procedure, an x-ray will be taken to make sure the file is at the correct length (ie-at the end of the root), in my experience, the average is about 21mm but some are much longer.
The filing and disinfecting can often be done over two or more visits depending on a number of factors including the severity of the infection, the number of root canals and the difficulty of access.
Once your dentist is happy that the tooth is as clean as possible, and that the canals are the right shape, she can begin filling the tooth.
The filling material normally used is called "gutta percha" (GP) and is a sort of rubber. There are loads of ways to fill the tooth, some using lots of GP "points" (little sticks of the stuff that can be placed all the way to the end of the root), some using just one, some using heat to condense the GP, some using hand instruments. Again, this always comes down to personal preference of the dentist.
Once the filling is in, usually a temporary filling will be put in the tooth and another x-ray taken. This is to ensure the filling is up to scratch. Once the dentist is happy with the filling, some sort of permanent restoration will be put in place. What sort of restoration this is will depend on lots and lots of things and is something I don't want to go into on here as it varies so much.
That's a lot of work for £42 NHS pounds! Fortunately I don't have to charge my patients, even so-it's blimmin hard work!
Unfortunately, at any stage during the treatment, or afterwards, it can be decided that the treatment is not progressing satisfactorily and that the tooth would be better in the bin. Sometimes the canals are blocked, sometimes the instruments can break (not always the end of the world) or the instruments can push through the side of the tooth, I could go on and on.......
That's a lot of work for £42 NHS pounds! Fortunately I don't have to charge my patients, even so-it's blimmin hard work!
So basically, if you want to keep your tooth-be prepared for a while in the chair. Otherwise, get it taken out!
I've not been very good recently. I let my dentist appointments lapse, while pregnant I couldn't face letting anyone near my mouth as he morning sickness would have made me gag, and after pregnancy I was just so busy. That meant that it had been 3 years since Id been to the dentist and things got to a horrible stage. I got an intense pain in one tooth in particular. I took paracetemol and eventually I had to admit defeat when I had my Caesarean Section and found that my toothache was hurting more than the Wound from my operation was! When I got out of hospital I had to re-register with a new dentist as I had lost my NHS dentist from having waited so long and after 4 weeks I had my first appointment with my new dentist.
Luckily it was only one tooth that needed work, but I nearly hit the floor when the dentist told me the condition of that particular tooth was very bad indeed and it was going to be a case of getting a Root Canal or having the tooth pulled. The first option was cheap (not cheerful!) and the second option was preferable to me cosmetically but would cost £250. He said he would start to kill the root anyway and cover the hole and give me a few weeks grace to decide as it was a lot of money to spend.
My first reactions was "Pull it out!" why would I pay £250 to keep a dead tooth but as I discussed it with my mum she convinced me that it could have a much larger effect on my appearance than just a gap in my mouth. She had a tooth removed on either side for medical reasons many years ago and she found that it changed the shape of he face, so I saved up and rang the dentist and said we would go down the Root Canal route.
I am not afraid of dentists. I have a huge and very real phobia of having blood drawn, but I'm desensitised to dental work having had fixed and removable braces at different stages of my teenage years so I really don't fuss too much over injections and drills. But still, the very idea of having this procedure did curl my toes a little. I knew what was in store as he had been scraping at the root the last day and it is just a horrid sensation and I knew there would be more of that type of thing.
The Day of the Root Canal
The Day arrived of the Root Canal arrived and my dentists previous appointment had not arrived so the surgery had rang my mobile just as I had pulled in to the car park and they said I could come in early so I got to the desk and was sent straight up the stairs... no time to sit and dwell on things!
The dentist had me lie down in the chair and he had a quick look, asking how it felt and when I said I hadn't had any pain he said that sounded great as if it had been hurting then there would probably be an infection in there and he would not be able to complete the work. I (stupidly) asked him how he would know if there was an infection and he explained that there would be a blob of a pussy substance in there and it would have to be treated before he would be able to continue. He told me that it did happen regularly when there was a gap between first appointment and second but not having any pain was a good sign.
I had to tilt my head back as he injected me so that everything would go numb and he could start his work. A few minutes later and I couldn't feel where my tongue was. I had an injection at the lower gum and an injection at the upper hinge of my jaw. I never really find that these hurt, it's just a quick nip although I did once have an injection that didn't work but the dentist just gave me more and it worked then. When he was satisfied that I was numb work began.
He began to drill out the temporary cover that he had placed on the tooth at my appointment a few weeks back and I could taste clove in my mouth. When he was finished I asked where the clove taste came from and he told me that the temporary filling had clove in it as a natural antiseptic. Then he washed out the tooth and took an X-Ray of the tooth. Being incredibly nosey I asked if there was a lot of danger in that X-Ray as both the dentist and assistant had left the room for it and he said no, not at all, but with the number of them that he has to do in his lifetime its better to leave where he can.
At one stage I raised my hand (our symbol for STOP!) as there was a sudden and awful taste in my mouth. I asked him if I was bleeding or something as the taste was metallic, but I wasn't and after a quick mouth rinse we continued. It was whatever he was using to clean out the inside of the tooth that was giving me a bad taste. Thankfully it didn't last long. A bracket thing was screwed around the tooth and a silver stick came from this and it helped to hold my mouth open for the work.
I didn't open my eyes too much but I did take a glance at one stage and I knew what was coming- the teeny tiny files to scrape and clean the inside of the tooth. That was the part that I was dreading. Obviously I didn't feel it, but the sound and sensation is chilling. Think nails on a blackboard inside your head and it just going on and on and on. He told me to think nice thoughts and I tried to recall my two children's faces but I was so irritated by the scraping that I couldn't even picture my babies! When he stopped to change files I asked if that was us done but no, we still had MORE! I would have gritted my teeth but my mouth had been held open for the best part of an hour, so I ended up wringing my hands together until the scraping was finally done.
I'm fairly positive as a person and don't take myself too seriously so the mood was light in the room and he laughed every time I hopefully asked "is that it done now?" becoming less understandable as my mouth was swollen. But I have to admit to being very relieved when he finally announced that the scraping was done now and we could fill the tooth and I could get on my way.
The dental assistant made up the filling and the dentist explained that he was filling from the root in three layers, filling, clove filling for antiseptic and a final mercury filling on top. And then, we were done. I got up, went downstairs and paid for the treatment, and spend the rest of the day talking oddly with my swollen mouth and chewing on one side.
I expected a lot of pain last night (this was only done yesterday morning) and I am relieved to say there wasn't any pain at all this morning when I woke up and I have even tentatively chewed on that side today.
Over all, it wasn't the horrific experience that it sounded it would be, but I certainly don't want another one, my lesson is learned and I will be visiting the dentist regularly from now one.
When I found out that I needed to have a root canal treatment I nearly had a heart attack. I hate anything to do with needles and having had no surgery whatsoever, I am absolutely petrified of the thought of undergoing any procedure whether it's major or minor. However the most important reason for not liking the whole root canal idea was that I absolutely hate the dentist!
I know for a fact that I'm not alone when I say that I hate the dentist as most people admit to having an extreme phobia of getting in that chair. Maybe it's the thought of not being in control or maybe it's the lovely array of the dentist's torture equipment that practically stares you right in the face once you're in there that does it? Whatever it is, it is enough to put people off going until it is absolutely necessary, until the pain is just too unbearable. That is exactly what I did and boy do I wish I hadn't waited until it was too late to get things sorted!
Personally I had never heard of root canal treatment before so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had to research everything as even though my dentist explained a little about what he was going to do, I was still in the dark about the actual procedure. So I researched as much as possible. In fact it took up most of my spare time I was obsessed with knowing what I was letting myself in for. It turned out though that although there was some very useful information out there on the procedure itself, there were also a lot of horror stories and by the time I'd finished reading them I was even more scared than I was originally.
Through all my research I didn't find one persons experience written down from start to finish. It was all well and good reading what was involved in the procedure and reading few peoples reviews saying that they had it and it wasn't as bad as they thought it was, but I wanted details. I wanted a step by step account of what happened from somebody who has actually had it done. I wanted to know if it hurt, what they went through, how long it took and everything, but I didn't get it. So that is why I suggested this category to ciao. I'm hoping that by giving my own detailed - no bits barred - account of what I went through, I can help other people who are facing having a root canal and provide to people who knew nothing about the procedure, with enough information in case they ever do need one. So sit back, grab a coffee, put down those sweets (just in case) and prepare to be informed!
*** How I came To Have My Root Canal? ***
I found out that I needed a root canal after my back tooth started to really cause me pain. This was due to part of the tooth breaking off three years ago whilst I was eating a chicken burger and after years of not doing anything about it, the tooth had started to decay through daily wear and tear. The decay was so close to my nerve that it started to cause me problems.
I went through a further year and a bit of fairly mild pain, sometimes getting quite bad and in stages I had to take painkillers every day until it decided to calm down again and disappear for a while. It seemed to get worse when I ate any kind of junk food but it still didn't deter me from eating it! I simply took painkillers and it went away. However it got to a point where the pain got worse and I couldn't take it anymore so I went to see a dentist.
Now I hadn't been to a dentist in at least ten years and I wasn't registered so I had to ring around and try and get registered somewhere. Unfortunately I ended up with a private dentist who charged me £49 registration and initial consultation fee. That in itself was expensive I thought but little did I know just how expensive they actually were! The woman was friendly and she told me I would need a root canal treatment, it would take two appointments and each would take around 45 minutes each. She would then put a cap on after the treatment was done which she assured me wouldn't cost too much. So off I went to the reception ready to book. The receptionist printed out how much it was all going to cost and to my utter disbelief it was £499!What did they think I was made of money? So I had to find another dentist, I rang around and got registered with an NHS dentist who told me the most their treatment would cost me would be £180 which was a lot better and affordable in a few months of saving!
So I went to the dentist, registered and was told that I needed a filling. So I went back for a filling, had it done and was then told I would probably need a root canal treatment as the x-ray had shown that the decay was actually closer to the tooth than he had first thought and it was extremely likely it could cause me further problems. I was instructed to go back to him if I had any pain whatsoever. So back at home and a few months later I started getting pain again. I had, had permanent mouth ulcers since my last visit and my mouth was in extreme pain. I never wanted to go back there again. The injection I had to numb my mouth before the filling had made me nearly collapse which was highly embarrassing and the whole procedure of the filling was an ordeal in itself that I really didn't want to go back! So I took painkillers and got on with my life. Then six months later it was back!
The pain started off mild and I took painkillers to control it which seemed to work (as it always did before) and it even disappeared again. Then a month ago it came back with a vengeance! I was in absolute agony! I thought the pain I had before was bad but this was unbearable. It steadily got worse up until the point where it made the whole of the left side of my face hurt like hell. It got so bad I couldn't sleep; all I could do was cry because the pain was too much to bear. I ended up having to make an emergency appointment and luckily enough the dentist agreed to see me that same day, however it was at 4:10pm and that seemed like ages away. I had to spend all day on the sofa with a hot water bottle held against my face. I couldn't move, I felt terrible and whenever I took the hot water bottle away, the pain came back even more unbearable than the last time. I knew I definitely had to have the root canal treatment now and after visiting my dentist he gave me a prescription for some very strong painkillers which he assured me would take the pain away until my next visit to him for the actual procedure which was a week away. I was slightly scared just in case the painkillers didn't work but luckily enough they worked a treat and took my pain away completely. Unfortunately he hadn't given me enough supply and I had to last one day where I was in a lot of pain before I could get it treated.
I absolutely knew I needed a root canal but as I mentioned earlier I was petrified!
*** What Is a Root Canal? ***
OK so I researched as much as I could and I found out that technically this is what a root canal is:
Root canal treatment involves treating the inner aspects of a tooth. There is living tissue inside each tooth and that tissue can get damaged if the tooth is injured or if there is deep decay within the tooth. Without treatment it could cause a dental abscess and the mouth could become swollen and it could make it difficult to swallow and you could end up in extreme pain like I did.
A root canal opens up the pulp chamber in the tooth and cleans out infected tissue then the pulp chamber is filled to prevent further infection. The nerve is also taken out of the tooth before the tooth is cleaned out so that you should feel no more pain in that tooth as technically it is dead.
It is common for a root canal to be done in two appointments. The first the dentist usually takes the nerve out and cleans the tooth out and then they will put a temporary filling on until you go back for your next appointment. Then they will take the filling off, do some further cleaning and finish off with either a cap or a filling.
*** My Experience ***
Above I gave a little description of what a root canal is. Now it's time to find out EXACTLY what goes on in a root canal operation and exactly how much pain is involved!
1) My first appointment
It finally came time for me to have my first appointment. Luckily it was in the morning so I had little time to think about it before I had to actually have it done. To be honest it was a slight relief that I wouldn't be feeling that unbearable pain again and that's the only thing that got me through that day.
I knew I had to have an injection and I knew from my filling that I was going to have to have three to numb the whole of the left side of my face. I was still in pain though so I wasn't too bothered by the thought of the injections this time.
So in I went and I got onto the dentist chair ready for my injections. He told me he was going to give me the injections ready for the operation so I relaxed down until I saw it. The needle is quite long and the worst thing about it is you cannot look away, I suppose you could close your eyes but I didn't, I just watched it go into my mouth and then I felt it. The way the flesh ripped away as the needle pushed itself into my gum at the back of my mouth, it was slightly into the cheek and I can still feel it now. Then another refill of the liquid stuff and another injection went into the upper gum at the back. Then finally the third and the one that irritated me the most, the one to the front of my mouth into the gum just by my bottom teeth. That one really stung and it actually made me squint with the pain. It was nothing compared to the pain in my tooth though so I got over it fairly quick and went into the waiting room for the injections to kick in. This time I was prepared and I read a magazine and had a sip of my water when the numbness started to kick in. For some reason I start to feel really sick and faint when the pins and needles kick in so I always have to take my mind off it now.
Anyway my mouth went numb or at least parts of it did but my tooth still felt quite sensitive. I'd read people's experiences online about the injections not working and the dentist drilling into their tooth when they have still been in agony and because I could still feel something in that tooth I was now extremely worried! So in I went again and I got into the chair. The dentist asked me if my mouth was numb and I said that my tooth was still slightly sensitive. He asked me if my tongue was numb and it was so he said it was fine.
I got into the chair and the dentist was asking the dental nurse for certain dentist things and then I heard it, the drill. Now to be honest I was already mentally prepared for whatever was going to happen in that chair but I still felt slightly nervous. He started drilling into my tooth and it felt really sensitive. It wasn't painful, just sensitive but it was still unpleasant and I was left wondering if it was supposed to feel like that. I must have been making funny faces because he asked me if I was in pain and I again told him it was sensitive. So he then informed me he would need to give me another injection straight into the tooth. I couldn't believe it but I was in no position to argue and in went another injection into the front of that tooth in the gum just below it. Then hang on, what's he doing? Another injection? Oh yes I had yet another injection into the back of that tooth. So that made five injections in total!
Finally it numbed and I couldn't feel a thing which was good because he was drilling again and I can remember some extremely nasty tasting stuff going into my mouth. God it was horrible! The smell was horrendous too. I spent most of my time with my face screwed up as the taste and the smell was awful! The drilling wasn't too bad I got used to the sound of it and I couldn't feel it so it was no big deal. What I did find annoying was not being able to swallow much which is pretty uncomfortable. Then when I did actually get to swallow I had to swallow that horrible stuff which tasted foul!
After the drilling, some files were inserted into my tooth. The files clean out the tooth. The dentist gave me an x-ray to determine how long my root canal was so he knew exactly which size file he should use to clean out my tooth. I had to wait a couple of minutes for the x-ray pictures to come through and then the file was inserted again and twisted around to clean the tooth.
When it came to pulling the file out I actually felt something. It seemed to get stuck halfway coming out and so he pulled it again and that's when I felt a bit of pain. I was a little worried and then I felt pins and needles in my tongue and the left side of my mouth. I was positive the injections were wearing off and my anxiety levels were going up. I didn't say anything though and before I knew it I was having the temporary filling put on, I was asked to rinse my mouth and that was it. I was a little stunned that the appointment was over already. He told me he'd taken the nerve out of the tooth which I was surprised with as I didn't see anything or feel anything. I expected to really notice if the nerve had been taken out but I honestly had no idea. I was expecting to be in that chair for ages but it didn't seem to be more than five minutes to me! I was actually in there for twenty minutes which wasn't too bad and the procedure itself, although uncomfortable in places was actually fairly painless compared to the pain I had felt before hand. It was such a relief to have my mouth numb for a while!
I was informed that I would have to take some painkillers once the numbness wore off which wasn't until another two hours later. I was told I didn't have to go back into work afterwards but I decided to anyway. However I got no recognition that I had gone back in, nobody bothered to ask how I was and when the numbness wore off and I was in agony nobody could care less so I made a vow that on my second appointment I would book the day off!
So all in all the first appointment was fairly mixed. The injections were the worst part for me and then the feeling of the numbness kicking in. However after that the procedure didn't seem to take that long, it wasn't too uncomfortable, the dentist kept asking if I was in any pain which I helped me to relax because I felt like he actually cared and I was in safe hands. The dental nurse was also very good at sucking out all the excess liquid. The taste of the nasty stuff whatever the hell that was, was absolutely disgusting! That for me was probably the worst part. The dentist did apologise for the nasty taste but it really doesn't make it any better I assure you!
I did find that normal painkillers worked to take the pain away after the numbness had worn off but if you are in any doubt and you want really strong ones, I find Paramol work extremely well (but that's a whole new review!). The main worry for me after the first appointment was that I had to wait almost a month for the dentist to finish it off as he was going on holiday. I was also informed that the next appointment would be a lot longer which confused me as I thought all that needed to be done now was the tooth to be filed and a permanent filling to be put on.
2) In-between Appointments
As I mentioned I had to wait almost a month before I could have the treatment finished off. I found that although I coped really well in the actual appointment, a few days afterwards the shock kicked in of what I had been through. The dentist for me is a really traumatic experience and I couldn't get over the fact that I had, had five needles. It didn't take too long to get back to normal though; it was just my body trying to recover from the ordeal.
One thing I noticed afterwards was the fact that my tooth felt like it was higher up than the rest of my other teeth and that meant that every time I closed my mouth, it somehow managed to touch that tooth and it irritated me a little. Even though I couldn't feel any pain because the nerve wasn't there anymore, it still felt a little sensitive and I was worried about the temporary filling.
I was told I had to be very careful on that filling because it could break off if I ate really hard stuff on it. I also researched online and I found out that if the filling came off and anything got into it, including your own saliva, it could get infected again and the whole procedure would have to be done all over again (without the nerve of course!). So when a bit of it broke off one day while I was eating, as you can imagine I was more than a little worried!
I had gotten used to eating on one side of my mouth. I hadn't eaten anything too bad that could damage the filling and I couldn't have been more careful if I tried. Yet somehow a piece of it did break off and my tooth now felt sharp. It also started to become sensitive and I was convinced that I would have to have the whole thing started again which I really didn't want! I still had a couple of weeks to go until my appointment and day by day the filling seemed to get smaller.
When it is first done you can actually see the filling really clearly. It looks like a piece of rubber that has been just stuck onto the tooth. It looks fake and really messy. At first it covered the whole tooth but by the time it came to have my second appointment finally, it seemed to have come off quite a bit and there was almost a little hole there. I was nervous and when I got to the dentist I explained about it and he said it was no problem. If I had have had to wait any longer than those three weeks I would have probably had no filling left and the whole thing would have had to have been done all over again!
All in all I felt a little sensitivity to the tooth and a lot of pain for an hour or so after the numbness had worn off but apart from that nothing went hugely wrong. I would recommend you get yourself some painkillers in and just be careful with what you eat. The filling is fairly strong and can withstand a certain amount of pressure but don't tempt fate with it, look after it and you will be fine! Also try to get a second appointment sooner than three weeks if you can, that way it will cut down the worry that I had of will the filling actually last until my next appointment?
3) My Second Appointment
Finally my second and final appointment came around. I felt really strange on the day and my left cheek where the injections would go was really sensitive and I was shaking and panicking. I can remember wondering why on earth I was getting so wound up over having an injection when I had five the time before then it clicked that I could still feel the injection going into my cheek. I'm really squeamish and it wasn't the pain of the injection (in fact the injection didn't really hurt), it was the feel of it going into my cheek that made me feel like passing out.
So I was sat in the waiting room saying to my partner "God I wish I didn't have to have an injection, I don't think I can handle it today". Anyway I got called in by the dentist and as much as I tried to prep myself up, I still felt like I was going to cry. I was a right mess! Then my prayers were answered. The dental nurse put the blue pinny thing on me and I was lowered down into the chair. It was then that I realised, I wasn't going to be having an injection! I always have to go into the waiting room before I have the pinny on in order to let the injection kick in, so the fact that I already had the pinny on showed to me that I was safe! Then a whole new fear kicked in. I wouldn't be having an injection! Was it going to hurt? What if they started drilling? Still the thought of no injection still managed to keep me calm.
So here I am lying in the dentist chair, mouth open ready to start. The dentist picks up his equipment, the dental nurse comes over with the sucking thing and they are both hovering over me looking into my mouth, the dentist goes to start and then nothing happens. He takes the drill out of my mouth, looks at it and then starts saying things to the dental nurse which I can't understand. She starts looking in a cupboard and he's looking around. Meanwhile I'm just lying there watching wondering what is going on. They are having hurried conversations and he's getting frustrated. He then apologises in a muffled voice, goes out of the room and comes back in with something he'd borrowed from the dentist upstairs. Great, I thought, his equipment wasn't working - what a great start this is!
He finally got started and to my utter horror he started going to my front teeth. Now I had a lot of plaque build up on my teeth. No matter what I'd tried it wouldn't come off, an electric toothbrush didn't work, a needle didn't work! Nothing worked and so when I originally went to see the dentist he told me I would need to have it removed. There was never a mention of when this would be happening but he decided it would be fun to do it now. My god did it hurt! My bottom front teeth were the worst and that drill that they use to get the plaque off really hurt! I was literally squirming away from him because the pain was just too much. Afterwards I had to rinse and spit and the amount of blood that came out of my mouth was disgusting!
Finally the root canal treatment started. He chipped away at the temporary filling. I had to give it some due; the filling was fairly hard to get off. It was uncomfortable with him really trying to pull it off but it came off in about a minute and he was then left to file the tooth again. It wasn't like the one he did originally. I couldn't feel it being done and it was just strange having something shoved into your tooth that you couldn't feel.
I remember a lot of liquid being put into my mouth. Some of it was the same nasty stuff he had used the time before and the other just tasted like plain water. The first ten minutes or so weren't much different to the first appointment really only there was less filing and he was just sticking something into my tooth and spraying the liquid everywhere. Then things started to get stranger.
The main thing I remember in the whole of the appointment was when the dentist asked me to close my eyes. Now I thought this was because he was drilling further near the opening of my mouth and the liquid would go in my face as it had been doing previously. So I fully obliged and closed my eyes. I was right, liquid did go all over my face then a few seconds later after he had stopped I smelt it and tasted it. Bleach! Why on earth was he putting bleach in my mouth? I absolutely hate the smell of bleach and the fact that I had it all on my face and in my mouth was disgusting! I also remember reading online that when the dentist is cleaning out the tooth he puts a rubber thing over it so that the bleach that he uses doesn't get into the rest of the mouth as it could be dangerous. Now I was left wondering if my dentist knew what the hell he was doing because he cleaned my tooth out in the last appointment and this bleach was in the whole of my mouth. My mouth started to go numb. My tongue and the whole of my mouth right back to the back of my throat started going numb. I couldn't believe it and I was silently panicking but decided to just go with it, he had to know what he was doing.
Next the dentist was passing something over to the dental nurse. I couldn't see what it was so I was just there with my mouth open. Then I heard it. Was that the sound of a lighter? The dentist then put this thing into my mouth. I couldn't feel anything so it wasn't uncomfortable or anything in any way. Then he passed it to the dental nurse again and again I heard the distinct able sound of a lighter trying to light something. He then put this thing back in my mouth and I saw a really thin layer of smoke coming off it. I was right this thing, whatever it was, was being heated up and put into my mouth. What it was for I have no idea but I just thank my lucky stars I couldn't feel it! The bleach wore off and yet more drilling was done then he got something else and put it right up to my gum and to my shock it really hurt.
The dentist said that he would now be placing something into my gum and was I alright with that. "Yes" I said knowing I wasn't really in a position to argue as he already had part of it in my gum but then he started really putting it in. Further and further it went and the pain was quite strong. He then started tightening it up and it felt like he was literally screwing it into my gum. It tightened up and my body seemed to get used to it being in there but it really was uncomfortable. I couldn't swallow as I couldn't really move my mouth. The metal thing that was inserted into my gum was around an inch long and it was sticking up onto my lower lip so I had to keep my mouth open as it was quite sharp. I really don't know what the dentist was doing at this point as all my focus was on the thing sticking into my gum.
Finally after what seemed like forever he started taking it out and it was such a relief. Then to my horror he put it into a different position and again proceeded to insert it into my gum, again the pain was quite bad and it was tightened up. This time it was sticking up diagonally out into the middle of my mouth and this seemed even more uncomfortable than the last position it was in. This was the weirdest experience by far. Having something inserted into you without any pain relief (and I mean into the gum there for all you dirty minded people out there!), is not a nice experience!
So after that was over I thought it couldn't get any worse but I was wrong and you may find it hard to believe but the x-ray that I then had to have was actually the most painful part of the whole procedure. The thing that x-rays you has like a rounded bottom and you have to bite onto a ledge sticking out of the middle of it. Now for some unknown reason when I bit down onto the ledge, it pushed the bottom curved bit into my gum and it was slicing it and it hurt like hell! The dentist was getting it into position and telling me to bite harder which was absolutely impossible as the pain was just too much and it ended up popping almost completely out of my mouth when I could take the pain no more and had to release the stupid thing. The dentist was a little annoyed by this and assured me he knew it was uncomfortable but could I please just chew it a bit harder. Uncomfortable? Outright agony is more like it! Anyway I did it, they took the x-ray after what seemed like forever, and I had to wait again. Then the dental nurse came back and said there was a problem, the prints had gotten stuck or something so I had to do the whole thing all over again. I never in my life want to go through that x-ray ever again I can tell you!
Next was a pretty boring part of a stick thing being put against the tooth which had a red light which turned blue when it was against the tooth. This was placed against the tooth for around a minute. Then I had some liquid stuff put into the tooth and again he used the stick thing. I do apologise for my lack of technical knowledge on the equipment used but I'm pretty sure you could find this out on a website whereas the actual experience from a patient's point of view is a lot harder to find! Anyway after this was done he finished off cleaning my teeth and buffing them up which tasted really minty. I then had to rinse and again there was loads of blood. Then it was over with.
The dentist showed me the result which I was really happy with and I was on my way.
Now something I didn't mention was the fact that throughout my appointment the receptionists kept coming in and out talking to them and asking if they wanted a cup of tea or coffee. I mean come on, I'm lying there with my mouth open and all sorts stuck in my mouth and they are asking if anybody wants a cup of coffee? It was so uncomfortable having them coming in and out all the time!
The dentist also seemed a bit preoccupied and he managed to cut my gum below my front teeth with the drill. That's what made it so unbearable while he was cleaning my teeth because he'd actually cut me. Also when he went to pull a long needle type thing out of my mouth he managed to scrape my upper lip which he did apologise for but it still wasn't very comforting!
All in all the appointment took around 45 minutes and this time it felt like I was in there a while. To say I didn't have any pain relief I didn't have much pain throughout the procedure. It was uncomfortable and the x-ray hurt like hell but everything else was bearable, even the things being inserted into my gum didn't hurt after a while. The only complaint I would have is how stressed the dentist seemed to be and the fact that he cut me with his drill. Apart from that everything went smoothly and I'm really happy with the results.
*** Nearly a Month On ***
I have had absolutely no pain whatsoever since the root canal was finished, not even any sensitivity which I am extremely pleased with. The tooth was also smoothed and filed down so that it wasn't any higher than my other teeth and I can close my mouth properly now which is great. I can also eat what I want on it and junk food is definitely in now, (though I really shouldn't I know!), and I haven't looked back.
*** The All Important Price ***
Now obviously things like this don't come for free and I ended up paying £176 for the whole treatment. They did give me a flexible option where I could pay it in parts which really helped. So I paid £100 the first appointment and £76 the next time. You also have to take into account the cost of the prescription. Now I got my painkillers from boots and they cost me £8. I don't know if it is cheaper to go to other chemists. Personally I thought all chemists charged the same price but I don't know.
So although it is fairly expensive it is nothing compared to the £499 it would cost to go private.
*** Would I Recommend It? ***
If you need a root canal I would definitely recommend you have one. There is no alternative really and the pain will only get worse if you leave it. If I had a chance I would have had the root canal done when they originally said I needed one when I wasn't in so much pain. I wouldn't have needed five injections for one thing if I'd have had it done earlier!
Although the thought of the procedure and even though my experience was fairly traumatic, it honestly wasn't as bad as what I thought it would be. I am one of the wimpiest people I know when it comes to things like this and I was surprised at how well I actually handled it all. I found it helped to think "In an hour this will all be over with and I will have no more pain". That really helped and that's all I kept telling myself throughout the whole thing.
Honestly do not put it off. If I can go through it I know anybody can! It's surprising how little pain is involved with the amount of things that go into your mouth; it's more uncomfortable than anything.
I hope this review has helped at least one person and I also hope that now you have some idea of what to expect. If anyone needs to chat about this procedure feel free to leave me a message in my guestbook. Thank you for reading!