Tuesdays with Ana, one day later: On dealing with pain

Thank you, everyone who has messaged me to ask if I am all right. I hadn’t realized I’d neglected my blog for nearly a week! I’d meant to post, but life happened. Last week, my dentist gave me the highly unwelcome news that I needed a root canal. As in now.

I’m not fond of dentists at the moment.

I’m not too proud to admit that I started crying right there in the dentist’s office, lying backward while he and the hygienist fussed over my x-rays and records. The squeeze on my shoulder, the pat on my arm (they sat on each side of me, so comfort–and kleenex–came from both sides), and the practical advice on options helped me to blink back tears and focus on solutions. I spent the weekend re-doing my finances and finding ways to squeeze the necessary blood from stones, and yesterday I arrived, terrified, for my first root canal.

My First Root Canal. It sounds so gentle, doesn’t it? Like Elmo’s First Parade or Cookie Monster’s First Carrot (poor thing). Yet I trembled in the lobby as the endodontist’s (a word I hope I never have to use again) receptionist took my information. I leaned against the wall as she made phone calls trying to determine whether their patient chairs were made of leather. (I wish I could find a way to convey my leather allergy without making businesses feel they have to justify using synthetic leather. Fake leather is a godsend for someone like me.) In case you’re wondering, Ultraleather is not real leather. Thank goodness.

Still, just to be on the safe side (I think the receptionist didn’t want to admit that the leather was not real), she had the patient chair swathed in a thick, furry blanket. As I gripped the edges of the blanket, an assistant and the endodontist took new x-rays and got to work.

“This is a mean one,” said the endodontist as he lowered an enormous anesthetic needle into my mouth. Was it ever! I was grateful for the softness of the blanket and for the pre-numbing jelly swabs. Two long, painful injections later, my lips turned numb and I cringed while submerged under a teal blue “dental dam” (“dental” and “dam” are words I wanted to use, but not in that order!). The assistant hadn’t explain what she would do before coming at me with the rubbery sheet, and I fought panic as she immobilized my jaw and robbed me of speech.

“I wonder if this is what it feels like to be gagged,” I thought, casting my thoughts toward something, anything to distract myself. The medical establishment and I don’t get along that well, and I wish she had given me a chance to ask questions or say last words before she shut me up. Irrationally, at the same time I tasted something sweet from the rubbery sheet. I wondered whether it was a small kindness to the silenced patient, a hint of palatable flavor to soften the blow.

The endodontist was as good as his word, and I felt none of the pain I’d expected. I did cringe at the fingernails-against-chalkboard scraping and squealing, but I only felt the pain of keeping my jaw stretched open. “Take pain medicine in an hour, before the anesthetic wears off,” the assistant said, and anti-drug Ana made a beeline for the nearest store. I don’t like medication, but I’ve heard enough horror stories to risk medicine side effects rather than the throbbing, splitting aches and headaches.

Word to the wise: don’t search online for “ways to minimize root canal pain” when recovering from a root canal. I read far more horror stories than I ever want to see in my life. Still, I didn’t want to take a second dose of pain medicine unless absolutely necessary. I resolved to wait the full six hours (extra long for extra strength medicine), and at the five-hour mark I wavered. Did I feel all right because of the medication, or did I feel fine because the root canal was no big deal? (Clarification: “fine” meant baking bread, making soup, washing laundry, and working on a new writing project. Sometimes distraction is the best pain management.) I resolved to wait. One hour later, almost as soon as I took the next medicine, I regretted my decision. I struggled to focus on anything but the waves of pain.

Fortunately, unlike some of the horror stories I’ve read/heard, I slept through most of the night and did not wake up in agony. I took pain medicine right away (learned my lesson), and am crossing my fingers that the second and third days are not indeed progressively more painful. The endodontist’s and dentist’s cheery reassurances, “A root canal doesn’t hurt any more than a filling!” have been proven a lie, but I’m hoping not a complete one.

In unrelated news, I’ve found a small bottle of red wine in my fridge from…oh…last June. (Can you tell I don’t drink? :P) I bought the wine (the first in many years) for a friend’s visit, but we didn’t drink very much. I’ve been told I may now be the proud owner of red wine vinegar, or that I may need to throw it out as unsafe. I wish I liked to drink as an antidote to pain. 🙂

Have you ever had a root canal? How do you deal with pain? What advice do you have for recovery?

(I may be scarce this week as I try to catch up on lost work days, but please don’t worry. I’ll be back up and running in no time.)


21 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana, one day later: On dealing with pain

  1. Natasha Knight says:

    I’m sorry for you. I’ve had one but mine was really like a text book case of how it should go – I had no pain and still have a bottle full of Vicodin that expired some time ago! I don’t have any advice to give but to say to take it easy and pamper yourself.



    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Vicodin! I wish I had some. Wow, no pain at all. You must have had a very good doctor and/or a good tooth. I’m going to treat myself to folding laundry and making lasagna today…LOL. Oh well, it’s all good. 🙂 Thank you for the sympathy.


  2. quiet sara says:

    Oh dear. I was wondering where you were too. I have had you in my thoughts. I should have sent a note!

    Going to the dentist isn’t something I run to do either. I haven’t been in over a year and my dentist suddenly closed up shop so I have to find a new one. Once when I was there for some procedure, he had his fingers jammed in my mouth so far I started to panic. I had like a panic attack and began to cry. I couldn’t breathe. I was so embarrassed and I even had to undo my bra because I felt so constricted! How embarrassing! Anyway, I hope your tooth feels better soon. I completely understand not wanting to take extra medicine. I am so much like that! I never want the “good” drugs as they say and I take motrin sparingly! Feel better!

    ❤ sara


  3. Janey says:

    Oh Ana
    I know what you feel like.
    I went to the dentist in September complaining about a tooth. He drilled it and filled it and put a temporary crown on it, then I promptly got an abscess underneath it. He said there was nothing more he could do, I would have to be referred to the endo-thingy at the hospital for root canal treatment and warned me that might take up to 7 months. Of course he said I could pay and go private for about £800 to £1000 and get seen much sooner. I opted to wait.
    As it turned out I was seen three times in December and it’s done and dusted now. I hated that dental dam thing, it thought I would suffocate! I’m here to tell you it’s far better in the long run I feel so much better now, but tooth ache along with earache I think is one of the worst pains you can have.
    Hope you feel better soon x


  4. hollawrites says:

    Oh Ana, I’m so sorry you’re feely crappy. I have a better word than crappy, but trying to keep it on the clean side. :)
    Yes, I’ve had root canals. Yes, that’s plural. It is no fun and while I don’t have an allergy to leather, I have a deep-seated fear of dentists. I swear my childhood dentist was a Nazi prison camp torturer. He did not believe in using Novocain. In fact, I didn’t know there was such a thing until I was about twelve. When I complained to a friend about having to go to the dentist, she told me to just ask for Novocain. I went home and asked my mother if I could do that, and she said of course.
    When I asked him for the Novocain he told me I didn’t need it and asked me if I was a baby. I insisted and told him my mom said I could have it and he finally relented after making me feel like a big baby. What a difference! I still hated going to him but since he was another post World War II immigrant from the old country, my parents believed in him.
    The fear of dentists have stayed with me all my life. I’ve gripped my hands together so tightly they’ve been sore for hours after my appointment is over. Fortunately, I now have a gentle, caring dentist who understands my fear and makes my visits a lot less stressful, though not stress free.
    Like you, I don’t like taking meds, but after a root canal I will. Even with my knee replacements, I was off the pain meds as soon as I could manage it. Ice for swelling, pain meds, and rest.
    Feel better soon!


  5. sassytwatter says:

    I just want to give you a big hug! I’m so sorry not a huge fan of the dentist the noises like nails on a chalk board. I had to giggle with you imagining the dental dam similar to being gagged. Please take it easy….I have Vicodin I can send if you need it. I have had a root canal thanks to a feisty horse who knocked my front tooth out. Thankfully it went well and was done years and years ago. Wishing you a speedy recovery!


  6. Julie says:

    Oh Ana, I do (sympathetically, at least) feel your pain! I wish you’d thought to ask for Vicodin – as far as I could tell it’s really the only GOOD thing about a root canal. 🙂

    Feel better!


  7. pao says:

    It’s always the tiniest places that has the most nerves and will require more than one needle in you to numb it. Ugh! How to deal with pain… I usually just pass out and then hit my head on something hard so I stay under for longer 😛 I guess rest is most important to recover well. I hope you get well soon and don’t feel the pain of that nasty procedure!


  8. Joelle Casteel says:

    yeah, had one root canal- I was semi-freaked out by the dental dam, but more amused because it made me think of sex. I was too focused on that fact that I needed the root canal as one last step on the way to being able to get a breast reduction, which would probably (and thankfully did) reduce a lot of chronic pain that I’d been living with.

    lol at the wine… hopefully you can use it somehow


  9. Clara Baker says:

    Ewwwwwww, Ana I’m sorry you had to experience your first root canal. I had one a couple of years ago. I didn’t hesitate on the pain meds because I hate mouth pain! I hate the dentist. I have a hard time with routine cleanings. Oral surgery is beyond awful. Sorry, not very supportive. All I can muster is empathy 😦

    Hope you’re feeling better,


  10. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    I’m also sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations. I was going to ask you about Saturday Spankings, but figured something must be keeping you from posting. I’ve never had a root canal, but I have had a tooth pulled. I don’t like mouth pain either, and though my dentist and I get along, he is a bit of a bully at times. I keep wondering if he isn’t a Dom in his private life from the way he talks to me occasionally. No spankings, other than verbal ones, but he makes me feel like I’m about five years old. Not a mean feat.

    I’m sure your pain will lessen now. It’s amazing that a root canal is painful, since the procedure removes all the nerves in your damaged tooth. Seems with the nerves gone that pain would be a non-issue. However, I suspect the remaining nerves in your mouth feel highly affronted when someone chooses to remove one of their companions. It’s like they gang together to wage war against an injury done to their pride, or something.

    Take care of yourself, and give in to a little pampering. You deserve it.


  11. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…ya know that doctors and dentists LIE! Yes they do…and so do their assistants and nurses! Not that painful, slight pinch, little tug…HA! Take all the pain meds on time or a bit sooner…DO NOT let that pain get ahead of ya. Also, I rinsed my mouth with peroxide instead of warm salt water as the dentist suggested…it doesn’t sting the way the salt water does and heals faster. If you have any soreness in your jaw (I did), use a heating pad.

    Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!

    Sending lots of prayers and healing energy.

    Hugs and Blessings…


    • robskatie says:

      Hey Ana, 🙂

      I hope that you are feeling much better. Sounds like you had quite an ordeal. Glad that it is now behind you.

      I’ve had three root canals over the years. They are mostly unpleasant. The last one, a couple of years ago, for some reason had me on a short prednisone taper because holding my jaw open so wide did something to my jaw… Nothing is ever simple! In general, I’m not a fan of going to the dentist. But I want to keep my teeth by the time I hit 90! 🙂

      Thought I’d chime in here after Cat because something she said is pretty important with any pain- always stay on top of it when you have meds that you need to take for any pain. The reason is because it is always much easier to control the pain, than when it has gotten to the point where it is unbearable. In general I think that people are afraid of becoming addicted. The fact of the matter is that if you need it, you take it. When the pain goes, so should the meds. But no one should have to suffer from pain. And by the way, if they discharged you with pain meds you likely have Vicodin (hydrocodone) or it’s cousin Percocet. Feel better! Did you make your lasagna? Many hugs,

      ❤ Katie


  12. Barbara McCormick says:

    Goodness, Ana! Yes, I’ve had a root canal. The best thing I can say about it was that once the pain passed, I discovered just how sick the infection had been making all the rest of me. It’s been several years ago, but I do remember several very uncomfortable days. Like everyone has said, stay ahead of the pain as much as possible! Sending all kinds of healing, loving thoughts your way!


  13. Roz says:

    Oh Ana, sending huge hugs!

    I had 3 done at once! I think my dentist nearly fainted when I said I’d rather she just do them all at the same time. I had to do it that way otherwise would have never gone back!

    I am the worlds worst at the dentist with a highly active gag reflex to boot (a hem, no comment please! lol). My dentist knows this and is so good and patient with me. Rather than freak me out she also managed it without the rubber sheet.

    As the others have said, use the painkillers, don’t let the pain get ahead of you. I hope it calms down and that you are feeling much more comfortable soon!



  14. Wilma Rubble says:

    ACK! I HATE the dentist. I’d rather go to my OBGYN. Don’t even get me started on the ‘dental dam’ it is like a gross balloon stretched over your mouth, blech, and suction, and cracked corners of your mouth…PURE H*ll I tell ya….

    Mouth pain is horrid and quite frankly so annoying! Hope you are feeling better soon.

    Off to cringe and then floss….


  15. Sue Lyndon says:

    I hope you’re feeling better soon, Ana! I cringe when I have even a cleaning coming up. I don’t have any advice for the pain other than take it easy on yourself for a few days – it’s okay to take time to recuperate. Hugs. ❤


  16. Susie says:

    Oh dear Ana! This is days old now. I’m so sorry about all the pain. I poke and prod MM to go to the dentist for these very things and I can’t really understand it b/c I was blessed with an easy mouth. I hope you are feeling a lot better!


    • nancygoldberglevine says:

      Hope you are feeling better, Ana. I had a root canal years ago and lost the tooth anyway. For me, the worst part was paying the bill. And it still is today. Funny you should metion pain because Ive fallen on the ice the last two Thursdays, My leg really hurts. I took some Aleve for it and it’s a little better. And it helped to be rescued by the real-life Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny, a great friend and fake brother…most of the time…lol


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