Root canals

February 17, 2007

Root-CanalWhen I grew up, dentistry was about drilling & filling, not prevention. And I grew up in Japan, where pain builds character. So every visit to the dentist involved pain, and it really wasn’t until we moved to California that I began seeing a dentist regularly for check-ups and prevention. I also learned the wonders of nitrous oxide for reducing the anxiety I still carry.

People still talk about root canals as a big deal, but they have become so so fast and painless. The only thing you are likely to experience is jaw-ache for a couple of days, just from the abuse. Nothing like the root canal I had done in Japan 20 years ago! Our local dentist would drill down until I’d start waving my arms, and he’d say, “Hang on, a little bit more.” Then he’d smear something on, and ask me to come back in a few days. Repeat this a few times. Finally, he inserted a long wire, wound it around inside my tooth, and pulled. My body convulsed and I broke out in a cold sweat, and he held up the nerve with a smile saying, “There, it’s done.”

So my root canal a week-and-a-half ago was no problem. But something ain’t right, because after I recovered from the jaw-ache, the pain returned with a vengeance. Was the procedure not successful? I doubt that, because I see a specialist who uses a microscope and computer-enhanced x-ray imagery to check his work. Is another tooth in the area upset? That seems unlikely; I didn’t think I had any more teeth back there that still had nerves! I’m betting that because I had to wait so long to get the root canal, something else got infected. So I’m back on antibiotics, but they don’t seem to be doing the trick. I have spent nearly a week in pain. Even when I look OK, I’m actually tolerating some amount of pain. Like right now.

Update (2/20): The endodontist saw me yesterday afternoon. He touched the sides of various teeth with a cold cotton swab as I watched in a mirror. The one he had last done didn’t feel at all, as expected. Others just felt cold. But two teeth away, it went zing!

So I had another root canal, and now I feel so much better.

This endodontist is so fast that I was in the middle of the 6th song on my iPod when he finished — and I skipped at least two of those songs. Granted, this was a tooth with only one root, but still!

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

7 responses to Root canals

  1. ((John)) I’m sorry you are in pain. Been there, done that. The root canal I had was really painful, and that was done with all the great stuff we have here in the US. Wow, your experience in Japan sounds TRULY nasty. It seems like I am almost daily saying “Thank you Lord that I was born in the USA.” We have so much here, it is a true blessing.
    Hope you are feeling better soon. One piece of advice a friend gave me about pain – use it as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with the Lord. It worked for me.
    I was saying to a friend, if I have to go through pain in order to see the Lord’s Glory – Bring It On! It’s all good.

  2. Thanks, Helen. How did you use pain as a pathway to God? Could you blog something about it?

  3. Geez, that sounds terrible. Have you thought about going back to the doctor to get x-rays of the tooth to see if he/she filled in all of the roots appropriately, etc.? I had a root canal done in Honduras which sounds similar to your root canal done in Japan, and it hurt for years later (though not to the extent you are describing) until I finally saw a surgeon here, who re-did the root canal for me (two of the roots were not filled properly). Man, that sucks that you’re in so much pain…and it doesn’t sound quite right, if you ask me…

  4. Yellow, I’ll be giving the endodontist a call tomorrow. And I’ll try not to get a root canal done in the Honduras!

  5. Ouch! Get thee back to the dentist – you shouldn’t still be hurting. Dentists in Germany seemed to employ the same philosophy as those in Japan – I didn’t have my first local anesthesia for dentist work until we moved to the US. The memories. Shudder.

  6. Wow. Suck. There was this dude I worked with here at Shaklee that had a root canal and the packing material that they use to fill up the space before they put the crown or whatever back on was not done properly, and it gouged the inside socket and that got infected. He literally had puss oozing out the side of his swolen face for like 2 months (they had to put in a drainage thing). It was totally nasty. Go get that checked ASAP!!!!

  7. Birgit: Maybe it’s something about the old Axis powers!
    Noelle: Ewww. I’ve never had anything that bad, but it reminds me of my wisdom teeth. They stuffed gauze in the holes while they healed, but when I went back, one of the holes seemed to be missing the gauze. Uh, seemed to be. Weeks later, I found it and pulled it out, and my breath was no longer foul.