Root Canal - Describe Your Experience

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What happens during a root canal procedure?

To confirm that a tooth does indeed require root canal treatment, the dentist will take an X-ray of the root and may perform a pulp test. Most pulp tests involve placing a cold stimulus on the tooth to check for a healthy response. Many teeth will be tested to compare the responses. Then the root canal will be completed in either one or two appointments. The dentist will determine whether the root canal will be treated in one or two appointments based on the size and duration of an abscess and other factors. A tooth is likely to be treated in two appointments if it is getting a retreatment (being treated a second time). An endodontist, and some general dentists, will often perform root canal treatment using a microscope that attaches to the wall and hangs over the patient's mouth. This provides magnification that helps the treatment provider locate and treat all the necessary anatomy inside the tooth.

Before starting the root canal, the dentist will numb the tooth with local anesthesia (such as lidocaine) to ensure patient comfort. When the tooth has become sufficiently numb, the dentist will place a rubber dam over the tooth. The rubber dam consists of a metal clamp that holds a latex sheet in place around the tooth so it can remain clean and isolated from saliva and contaminants.

An opening is made through the top of the tooth and the pulp is removed from the chamber and canals. The canals are then cleaned with sodium hypochlorite or another disinfecting solution. The canals are then shaped with a series of files of increasing diameter to make sure all of the infected tooth structure is removed and there is room for an adequate root canal filling. A series of X-rays will be taken throughout the procedure to make sure the files are reaching the end of the root and all the canals are being adequately cleaned and shaped.

If the root canal is to be completed in two appointments, the dentist will place medicine like calcium hydroxide down the canal to help kill the bacteria at the end of the root and may prescribe an antibiotic to help combat the infection. A temporary filling will be placed to seal the opening in the tooth and a second appointment will be made for a week later or more. If the tooth is being treated in one appointment, the dentist will skip this part and go right to filling the root canal.

When the root canal is to be filled, the dentist will again numb the tooth, place a rubber dam, and remove the temporary filling material. The canals are filled with a rubber-like material called gutta percha surrounded by a sealing paste. If an endodontist has performed the root canal, a temporary filling will be placed in the opening and a general dentist will place the permanent filling. After the root canal is completed, the tooth will likely need a crown to protect it from fracturing in the future. A post may be placed down one of the canals to provide an anchor for the filling and the tooth will be built up with a permanent filling. The dentist may choose to do the crown immediately, or may wait a brief period of time to make sure the tooth is free of pain before continuing with the crown.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: dede, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: October 27

My root canal was on tooth number 30, the right back lower molar. I was referred to an endodontist since I had a filing and a crown on top of a cracked tooth. My dentist felt like it was worth saving, but for about USD 2,000! The endodontist's nitrous oxygen machine was broke so I had 3 painful shots before the procedure and 2 during. I still felt a lot of pressure and pulling. Now I have to go back. I wish I had it pulled, against the advice of 2 dentists. It was too much pain and expense, and 12 hours later, it's still hurting even after taking double hydrocodone tablets for a knee replacement.

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Comment from: woodstockrags, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: November 11

After going to the dentist for over a month for 1 small cavity, I ended up going 9 times and calling many more. I had the first filling removed and refilled using a white filling instead of silver. They wanted to do the others and I said not if I don't have to. I was still in pain, so they tried to do a filling in the tooth in front of it. They noticed I felt pain where I shouldn't have. I was in even worse pain, so they did the tooth behind it. I disagreed with it and them, saying that that isn't where the pain was, but they said let's get the first of the 2 pains fixed first, so we refilled the 3rd filling. I came back after each having to have them filed down even more. I about shot across the room when they worked on the 2nd tooth. So I would have said something was wrong with that tooth. I went back in saying I was in even more pain so they went in after 3 plus weeks of pain and they told me I had to have a root canal and that they did a partial one on it that day. It was a Thursday. I asked if I needed an antibiotic and they said no, it is infected but it will be fine. Monday morning 4:00 am I was screaming in pain as I tried sitting up in bed. I called and they said they will get me some antibiotics and to continue on the ibuprofen and Tylenol regimen. Thursday I was to have my root canal. He gave me the Novocain and asked me if I could feel my lips and I could; asked if anything was tingly, nope. After 3 1/2 hours, blacking out from feeling all of the pain, and him going to help other patients, I was done and in severe pain. I asked for something, and he said Advil and Tylenol regimen will be just fine. After an un-prescribed pain killer that knocks out migraines, and 2 trips to the emergency room (ER) I could finally talk without bawling and begging for pain relief. Two days later I had to go to ER for pain again even though I was on oxycodone. Infection felt like it was going to the brain. I am sitting at 10 days after the procedure still on pain killers, and was on Advil up to today. My stomach couldn't handle almost 400 medicines in a little over a month's time. I have diarrhea, a bad stomach ache and I still hurt in the mouth. I can't chew on that side, and anything in the mouth hurts. I went in 1 time for it to fit the bite; they might have done a root canal on the wrong tooth!

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