Worse Than a…

Root canal?

This came up yesterday on Facebook — my friend, the cool girl from way back, Kathryn Greenwood Andrews (who is also the author of the very cool blogs Prickly Girl and Punk Rock Garden) mentioned that she is being asked to choose volunteering for Field Day over preschool parent-teacher conferences and a root canal. “Amazingly, I’m sticking with the latter,” she remarks.

This reminded me of a conversation we’d had at work. I’m an auditor of sorts — I review drinking water programs. One of the programs we reviewed for the first time in their history told us later (after telling everyone else what they were in for) that it was like getting a root canal: intensely painful, but overall a healthy exercise.

My ever-wise boss (yes, she reads this blog) raised the question of whether a root canal still represented a truly horrible experience. This, of course, led to one of those conversations where everyone tried to one-up each other with pain and horror. The gal with the anal polyp/duct tape episode came close to winning, but we won’t go there.

I posed the question to Kathy and she came back with alternatives such as childbirth and amniocentesis. Her root canal is next week, so she can report back with her comparison next week.

Root canals are a good example because:

1) they’re more universal than childbirth and the more unusual afflictions like anal polyps
2) nearly everyone has to have one, at some point in their lives. Unless you live in the UK.
3) not only is it physically painful, there’s a certain terror in being trapped in that chair. For a really long time.
4) stuff around your face hurts more because the innervation is so fine
5) two words: oral dam

So, I don’t usually solicit comments here, but: are root canals the worst? if yes, why? if not, what is? (please be gentle with details…)

8 Replies to “Worse Than a…”

  1. I have to say that the root canal (or any dental work) can have the added humilitation of “I am somehow responsible for causing this problem” (even if it’s not the case). Dentists tend to like to shame you for things like cavities, etc. Plus, unless you have the greatest insurance ever, you then have to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of being drilled and shamed. Whereas the anal polyp was presumably just an act of God, the removal of which might only require a $20 copay.

  2. Ummmmm. Childbirth/root canal? There are nice painkillers for both. Not so sure about the anal polyp thing.

  3. I shouldn’t even be commenting. I’ve never had a root canal. It’s just that many, many people have told me that with today’s spiffy dental technology, a root canal isn’t all that bad.

    I realise that just voicing this, particularly in my uneducated state, guarantees the most painful and complete of root canals in the very near future.

    I’m off to knock on wood.

  4. Jeffe, I had a root canal thirty years ago–torture. Two weeks ago I had a double root canal; can you spell bankrupt? I couldn’t believe they were the same procedure. There was very little pain. I woke up the next morning basically good as new. The hardest part was keeping my mouth open for two hours. Usually, of course, the hard part for me is keeping my mouth shut!

  5. Having impacted wisdom teeth removed was pretty painful, and the pain meds they gave me didn’t do a darned thing. Adding insult to injury, I looked like chipmunk for over a week because the swelling wouldn’t go down right away! Can’t speak for childbirth or a root canal since I’ve never been through either.

  6. see? Miriam’s point bears out my boss’s point, that the root canal just isn’t what it used to be pain/terror-wise. though the fact that you have to pay so damn much for it really doesn’t help! Impacted wisdom teeth sounds awful, too, but right now I’m voting for the two words: “uterine biopsy” as the new standard. the men can just lump it. unless they have offerings?

  7. I recently had two below-the-gum cavities filled, one upper, one lower, same side, so I agree that keeping your mouth open for two hours is hard, especially when you have a small mouth and the teeth are w-a-a-y far back. My husband just had a root canal and said it wasn’t too bad, except for the length of the procedure. The comment book in the dentist’s lobby made you want to rush out and have one!

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