What to do in the 2 weeks before the root canal?
September 22, 2009 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Big throbbing hole in my tooth. Two weeks until the root canal. No instructions on what to do in the meantime.

I flossed out a very large filling the other week. I went to my local clinic on an emergency basis when I started feeling pain, and they said I'd have to schedule a root canal elsewhere. I've got an appointment...and it's in two weeks.

The initial consultation was done at a overburdened clinic for people on state medical/dental benefits, so no followup care/info is available there (I didn't even have anyone to explain to me what needed to happen next, beyond getting the actual referral--total time with dentist was 2 minutes, and I was lucky to get that....non-emergency appointments have a 6 month waiting list at this point).

I don't know what I should/shouldn't be eating, drinking, or doing to minimize the chances that the tooth will crack open, the decay will worsen, the pain will go from nagging to unbearable before the appt, etc. I don't even know if 2 weeks is a normal wait time for a root canal (not that I can afford to go anywhere else--the specialist I'll be seeing is one of the only ones in the state who accepts Medicaid).

I have the temporary filling cement you can buy at the drug store, but I don't even think that's a good idea.

Please help!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the temporary filling stuff is a great idea. I've used it from time to time and often it lasts weeks! YMMV, though. But, it at least helps with airflow not getting to the nerve which causes a lot of pain. You can also try anbesol to help with numbing the area to lessen the pain.

Is there a professional you can call to walk you through what you should do in the meantime if the pain does get unbearable - maybe an after-hours hotline of sorts, like doctors have? Do you know anyone who knows any dentists?
posted by Sassyfras at 9:24 PM on September 22, 2009

Another thought . . . why not ask a pharmacist? See what he/she might have to say. They can point you in the right direction with products and pain management.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:33 PM on September 22, 2009

The tooth is unlikely to decay in the next two weeks for any reason, and two weeks isn't an unreasonable wait for a root canal if it doesn't hurt to distraction.

I would suggest taking an ibuprofen pretty quickly if it does start to hurt, so that you don't end up having to take two or three later on. My rule of thumb with pain killers is that if it bugs me once, I ignore it, but if it bugs me twice, I take something.

Hot stuff is likely to make it feel worse, but cold stuff should be no problem. In fact, letting ice water hang out by your sick tooth might ease the nagging pain.

The rest is common sense: eat soft tacos, not crunchy ones! )and eat them on the other side of your mouth(
posted by zinfandel at 9:38 PM on September 22, 2009

Avoid cold and hot foods. Sensodyne (or any "sensitive care" toothpaste). Ibuprofen.
posted by base_16 at 9:39 PM on September 22, 2009

IIRC, clove oil is a natural painkiller for teeth/gums. And it probably* won't hurt to take an Extra Strength Tylenol or two every day for the next two weeks.

*Obviously, I am not a doctor and this may very well be terrible advice.
posted by zardoz at 9:41 PM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't chew on that side. Depending on the size and placement of the hole, the tooth could be weak, and you wouldn't want to break it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:47 PM on September 22, 2009

It looks like you have the root canal scheduled. Call the dentist (or endodontist) and ask the receptionist. They will consult with the dentist who will do the procedure and tell you what they think you should do. In my experience, some endodontists will have openings in their schedule for emergency root canals and may be able to fit you in earlier. Ask if they can put you on a waiting list so that if someone cancels their appointment you can go in earlier than two weeks from now. The dentist that you're scheduled with may also be able to call in a prescription for painkillers to your pharmacy to tide you over until the root canal is performed. In my experience, waiting for the root canal is worse than the root canal itself because the pain is persistent, and dentists and endodontists understand this and will usually prescribe pain relief if you need it.
posted by k8lin at 9:49 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Temporary filling paste is a good idea. It will help. I've used it before for weeks. Many brands contain eugenol, which is clove oil, and as zardoz mentioned, it will help with the pain a bit.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:49 PM on September 22, 2009

Dental wax, from any drugstore, is a gentle way to protect it. If it falls out, you can just pop a new bit in. Protecting the nerve from heat, cold or shock should keep it from getting too angry.
posted by bunji at 9:50 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Myrrh is also a good antiseptic/antibacterial mouthwash that also helps your gums. Tastes like tree though - and don't swallow!
posted by smartypantz at 9:58 PM on September 22, 2009

IAAD, but obviously NYD.
Keep it clean.
Temp filling is fine and will reduce the effects of temperature on the tooth. Cold will affect a live tooth, hot will affect a tooth that is abscessed.
Clove oil on a tiny piece of cotton under the temp will help.
NSAIDS (IBU, Naprosyn) will help (400mg evry 4 hrs should do, keep it in your system if you have no allergies or problems with these types of meds).

If you develop a fever or swelling in the gums near the tooth see someone who can assess the situation and possibly prescribe antibiotics if appropriate. DO NOT accept or take leftover antibiotics that are laying around, the world is full of resistant strains of bacteria (for many reasons) and this will only increase your likelihood of developing a resistant infection.
2 weeks is not out of bounds to wait in the absence of swelling.
Avoid eating on that side.
PM me if you have any further concerns.
Good luck.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:05 PM on September 22, 2009 [11 favorites]

Nthing the termp stuff....but your local place is incompetent in saying this doesn't count as an emergency.
posted by brujita at 11:01 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

TEMP stuff.
posted by brujita at 11:01 PM on September 22, 2009

I was in a similar situation, but had the hole filled immediately after it was created. ("Uh oh, this cavity is too deep to fill" kind of situation.) The tooth with the temp filling worked as normal until I had a root canal (albeit with only a few days of waiting).

I didn't know that you could fill your own cavities, but if you can, I recommend doing that. A root canal involves opening up a big hole in your tooth anyway, so drilling out the temporary filling should not be a problem. It wasn't for me, anyway. (In fact, my root canal was done over two visits, so a temp filling was drilled out twice.)

But just to be safe, call the endodontist and ask. It's a pretty expensive procedure, so a few questions beforehand are not unreasonable :)

BTW, don't worry too much about the root canal. I experienced no pain during or after the procedure. None. After the anesthetic wore off, I was eating normally.
posted by jrockway at 1:58 AM on September 23, 2009

You don't say if there is any signs of infection, but if there is I would avoid the temporary filling stuff, and just fill the void with cotton. If there is pain you may have an infection, and plugging the tooth with that temp stuff or wax may increase the chance of it becoming an abscess.
posted by Gungho at 6:33 AM on September 23, 2009

Clove oil works pretty well. In my area, I had to ask the pharmacist for it; apparently, there's a whole range of unadvertised stuff behind that counter. Put just a tiny, minimal drop right on the tooth. The oil will spread a bit, and likely numb the whole side of your mouth, cheek and tongue, too, but it doens't last very long, and gives good relief.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:02 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I seem to remember that you can buy little bottles of local anesthetic for teething babies - I don't know if this would be stronger or weaker than clove oil.
posted by jb at 8:50 AM on September 23, 2009

I am not a doctor so cannot say that this is safe or advisable, but I was taking 800 mgs of ibuprofin every 4-6 hours for pain the last few days before my root canal. It stopped the pain for a few hours.

Also, if pressure makes it hurt, don't push on it. Duh, but I was doing it until the dentist explained to me that it made it hurt more. He also prescribed Oxycodone, but it did nothing for me except make me feel strange (but still in pain until I took ibuprofin.)
posted by callmejay at 11:52 AM on September 23, 2009

If the pain gets unbearable, a good anaesthetic is brandy on a cottonball. And lots of ibuprofen.
posted by Ouisch at 12:14 PM on September 23, 2009

I used the clove oil by dipping a Q-tip in it and rubbing the Q-tip along the side of my mouth that hurt (the gums) a few times a day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2009

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