Root Canal Treatment – Ow!

Root canal treatment has taken up most of my spare thinking time in the last couple of weeks, When I wasn’t worrying about my tooth, I had a wonderful time at the Fringe World, Arts and Writing Festivals in Perth.

Cartoon tooth

A sensitive molar close to where my tonsils should be caused me to submit meekly to the dentist. Pain, and the dismal thought of one day being permanently fed a diet of minced chicken, mashed pumpkin and pureed peas. Or mashed potato and gravy. I’ve worked in aged care facilities and I know that’s what happens if you don’t look after your teeth.

I’ve been mortally terrified of dentists most of my long life. But a couple of years ago I met the lovely, modern  Colin. This young dentist made regular tooth care almost pleasant. I’ll amend that. What I should have said is, I no longer feel nauseated when I think the word ‘dentist’.

There was a time not all that long ago when I was so distressed that I asked for a rug to stop me shivering while a dentist completed a filling. They didn’t have a rug, but the nurse obligingly covered me in the lead apron they used to protect people from X-rays. Heavy, sure. But comforting.

After Colin poked around in my molar, he declared it too difficult. The tooth was too calcified for him to do the root canal treatment. He referred me to an endodentist – a specialist. This new dentist used  a microscope to peer into the root canal and do what he needed to do. He took X-rays without a lead apron in sight. He even held the X-ray plate in my mouth.

‘Digital X-rays,’ he said in the laconic way dentists tell their patients stuff. ‘Minute amounts of radiation.’

Patient ready for root canal treatment

Patient ready for root canal treatment

I should know more about what happened in my mouth. But I didn’t want to know. I was frightened to ask. Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep while it was happening. It wasn’t easy. My mouth was jacked open and my neck contorted at an impossible angle. In my mouth, the man inserted a green plastic dam, fifteen different instruments and ten fingers. I did try to sleep.

Three visits and several massive doses of Penicillin later, I had three wonderfully defined and filled root canals and a temporary filling about the size of the new Fiona Stanley Hospital. Sadly, like at the FSH, something went wrong. The filling fell out when I was not eating. Not even mashed pumpkin or pureed peas.

Back i went to the endodentist. The second filling is now a mere smear in the cavity where once I had a tooth. The crater is surrounded by jagged edges that I suspect are bits of tooth. I asked mildly if he would smooth the edges, but he wasn’t keen.

‘Use an emery board and do it yourself,’ he advised. ‘That way you’ll get the rough bits better.’

The next morning, the sharp-edged tooth had practically shredded the side of my tongue.  Eating hurt.  My ear hurt. Talking hurt. My diction was so distorted that people asked me to repeat everything I said. That hurt!

I frantically filed away with an emery board, pausing only to spit bits of coarse grit into a tissue. The edge of the tooth is still serrated.

Colin’s minder said he couldn’t see me until next Tuesday, after the Public Holiday. I pleaded, but she was adamant. The endodentist wasn’t at work.

I’ve resorted to using dental wax like the kids use to protect their mouths from sharp edges in their braces. I love it. I carefully mold little bits of the greenish substance and pack my tooth with it. About twenty times an hour. Already the ulcers on my tongue have begun to feel better. I can swallow without writing a strategic plan before I attempt it.

Next step? A three hour appointment with Colin in two weeks to have a crown inserted. It’s a pity the tooth is so far back. I’d like to put it on display for the world to see. In spite of my health benefits fund meeting costs half way, I might have to get a proper job to pay for my root canal treatment.

I’d welcome sympathetic comments!

14 thoughts on “Root Canal Treatment – Ow!

    • Thanks, Rosie. I feel really sorry for horses, having bits in their sensitive mouths. And I keep examining my conscience, hoping I’ve been sympathetic enough about other people’s dental problems. Or their tonsillectomies.

  1. Maureen my teeth are on edge just thinking about this. I think I had better go and get a check up before I follow suit.
    You have ALL my sympathy!
    Stephanie

    • Good to hear from you, Stephanie. Thanks for the sympathy. I think I’m on the home run now, with my dental wax and my tongue feeling better.

  2. Oh Maureen I feel your pain!

    I had root canal 9 years ago and it, too, was long, scary and laborious. I never completed the crown work due to $ until 4 years ago. Late last year I became aware of an abcess and infection and it needed to come out urgently. It was very distressing to be SO VULNERABLE to a frickin tooth! It took nearly a month for me to recover from the GA and the swelling etc. I now have a denture for all my missing molars. oh joy. You know how old I am! I was so miserable I dyed my hair pink to cheer myself up – I highly recommend it 🙂

    Hope you are feeling your usual indomitable self soon (without needing a job to pay for the treatment!). BTW If you need a good oral surgeon I can highly recommend the fellow I used. Get well soon x

    • That is really a sad story about your root canal, Laura. I was about your age when I had four done all at once. Probably the worst time of my life, which is really saying something! I love the idea of pink hair, too. I can’t imagine you with it. I think the worst of this one is over. I’m looking forward to having the the crown done, but the dental wax is working a treat. Magic stuff. I hope I don’t need an oral surgeon anytime soon. But I’ll keep you in mind if I do need one. Love M

  3. My dear Maureen,
    On my “Things to Do’ list which I wrote yesterday afternoon, I have” ring Maureen re teeth” – and now that I’ve read the awful amount of pain and discomfort you have been struggling with, I can only give heartfelt wishes for the successful completion of that procedure, and my admiration for your courage and fortitude. You have such an exceptionable way with words. I’m sure it will be a great relief to have it all completed, and I will look forward to reading your next, hopefully pain-free, mini-story.
    With love, Coral

    • Coral, that is very sweet of you. Now that I’ve written about it, I can laugh. Perhaps while I was writing it, I began to laugh, anyway. I do feel brave, though, I must say. And cross that the filling fell out and wasn’t dealt with in a way that made me feel comfortable after I asked. It was good to see you at the book club. Hope you, too are feeling more like reading soon.

  4. Sorry to hear of your tooth woes. I too had a root canal in molar…..dentist was surprised i never felt any discomfort. He was fantastic and felt no pain. BUT tooth cracked a few years later so had to have it removed! Pain from regular cleaning is worse than my root canal. Take care x

    • Thanks for commenting, Kathryn. How sad that your tooth cracked and had to be replaced. I can’t believe you had a painless root canal. Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

  5. Yes, I hate visits to the dentist. It always brings back memories of when I was a child and dentists would drill teeth without pain killers – every time I sit slowly, reluctantly, into the dentist chair, my stomach turns and shivers. dental pain is amazingly painful – I have often wondered why> has it got something to do with the fact that it is our mouths that have the ability to give us so much pleasure – the taste of things, the delectable sweetness, the sour sweetness, the fruity sweetness, the dark sweetness, etc. etc. Do we have to ‘pay'[ for all that sweetness – is dental pain just another negative we have to swallow for all the positives we enjoy?
    My thoughts are with you Maureen – keep strong. Elizabeth

    • I knew there’d be someone who would feel the way I do about dentists. Thank you for understanding, Elizabeth. It’s an interesting idea that our mouths hurt so much when they are in trouble because they provide so much pleasure. Not just food, but also talking. Thanks for commenting and your sympathy.

    • Good idea! But if you do have to visit a dentist, I hope you have someone very supportive to listen to you afterwards!

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