Revisiting the Dentist: Do I Need a Root Canal or Not?

Today, I went back to visit Dr. Heath for the large cavity that I’ve got. It was up in the air whether they could treat the cavity… or whether it would require a root canal.


During my time in the waiting room, I was trying to figure out what I wanted more: pain in the present, or greater pain in the future. I really couldn’t decide which one was worse.

On getting into the chair, I got two shots of Novocaine immediately. Turns out, they needed to go in anyway to assess the state of things.

To be honest, the Novocaine shots weren’t bad at all – I could barely feel them. As I learned from Dr. Tobias, the shot itself doesn’t hurt. Most people react badly to the Novocaine entering the system (the feeling of cold is what people perceive as pain). I barely noticed my shots at all.

After sitting and letting the shots work for about 30 minutes… Dr. Heath came back. I mentioned that I didn’t feel totally numb, and just to be safe – he gave me a third shot (which I didn’t feel AT ALL).

During the procedure, they used a dental dam – a device that sort of clamps over the mouth and prevents debris from falling down into the throat/airway. It’s used mostly for teeth that are far in back. The worst part of today was trying to keep my mouth open, wide, for upwards of 45 minutes.

Here was the worst part: at one point, I was reacting strongly to drilling that got close to the pulp/center of the tooth. Dr. Heath then took a fourth shot of Novocaine, and shot it directly into the pulp. THAT was a slight surprise (but actually a lot less painful than you’d think).

Here’s what ended up happening: there was significant decay, and the pulp of the tooth was infected. Dr. Heath basically removed the top part of the pulp, and patched things up as best he could… putting on a temporary filling.

I now have to call another group that Dr. Heath referred me to, for them to give me a root canal. After that’s done, I need to return to Dr. Heath two more times – once to get prepped for a crown, and a second time to get the crown placed permanently.

Dr. Heath gave me a pretty thorough walkthrough as to what a root canal was, and the whole process. Basically he told me that a lot of people get root canals. But the reason why it gets such a bad rep is because it’s the folks who have a super-bad experience end up spreading the stories.

A root canal is a procedure that removes all the pulp from the tooth. The pulp, all the way down to the roots, is removed… and replaced with some other thing (I’m not sure what) that takes up the absence that’s left. The roots themselves remain… it’s the pulp that’s removed/replaced.

According to Dr. Heath, my time today with him was the worst part of the whole root canal process. If that’s true… well, I really hope that’s true. I know of a root canal only as others know it – as some kind of mysterious, terribly painful experience. Hopefully, my experience won’t be enough to warrant a big story.

In many ways, this serves me right for avoiding a dentist for so long. If anyone out there learns a lesson from this – go get a checkup, earlier rather than later. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to go through what I’ll go through.

Root canal, here I come.

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