Waiting for root canal, pain control and risks


Nov 30, 2016
A quick overview: During 2015, I was pregnant. My teeth were fine before with only few cavities here and there which I always had fixed. Due to severe acid reflux, vomiting, and out of control pregnancy hormones, I suffered significant tooth decay during the pregnancy. I now have multiple cavities in every tooth except my front teeth. In the beginning of 2016 after giving birth, I went to a new dentist (due to insurance reasons) and had the cavities on the upper left side of my mouth filled and one crown put in. This exhausted all of my dental insurance benefits for the year. I was told I needed a root canal on my upper left back molar. I opted to have this tooth extracted instead to save money, since I was already burdened with the enormous out-of-pocket cost of my recent childbirth.

Immediately after the extraction of the upper left back molar and the extensive fillings that were done in the remaining tooth next to it, I began to experience sensitivity and pain in this particular tooth, which is now my only remaining back left molar. This tooth had cracked and the filling broke while the dentist was working on it, so he had to redo the filling. I also ended up with a very large bone spur protruding out of my gum and into my cheek at the extraction site. The extraction hole had to be reopened and the large fragment of bone was cut out through it. The extraction healed, but over the next several months, the pain in the remaining upper left back molar increased until it became unbearable. I went to a different dentist, who confirmed my suspicion that the first dentist did not do a very good job and the fillings he did do will eventually need to be replaced. I have actually had one of these fillings fall right out of a different tooth since then, and quite a bit of pain in these teeth, so Dentist #2 is right.

I am left with a mouthful of unfilled cavities, a few poorly filled cavities that need to be redone, unbearable agony in my remaining upper left back molar, and no more dental insurance benefits left for 2016. Dentist #2 was very understanding and has been trying to help me hold over until 2017, when I will have insurance benefits again. He did a procedure (a partial pulpectomy, I think) where he drilled into the tooth, cut out some of the dying pulp to give the dying nerve and pulp more room to swell to help with the pain, flushed it, pumped in antibiotics, and closed it back up. This only cost me $50. After he did this, the pain went from a 10 to a 2. After a few more months, though, the pain crept back up and a horrible smell began to emit from this tooth. I went back to the dentist and he repeated the procedure, which diminished the pain and eliminated the smell. He said if it continues, he won't be able to keep repeating the procedure and I will need to do the root canal. The point of all this is to save the tooth, since it's my only remaining molar on the upper left side, so I can hopefully be able to chew on that side again someday.

Now, it is almost December. I have one month left before my dental benefits renew at the start of 2017. Overnight, the pain in my tooth went from a 2 back to a 10 and beyond. It is worse than it was the first and second time, and almost unlivable. I do have credit cards and I know about Care Credit, but my credit cards are already run up and it's Christmastime on top of that. I have waited and suffered all year trying to make it to 2017, and it would be a shame to have made it this far only to give in and pay the full cost of the root canal myself, when if I can just hold on one more month, I will be able to pay only $1,000 with insurance.

Lacking dental and medical knowledge, I am trying to decide what I can do to mitigate the pain and risk of waiting another month for the root canal. I have been taking 400mg of Tylenol about 3-4 times per day. Ibuprofen doesn't seem to help. I had an unrelated blood test (for hypothyroidism) and my liver markers came back very elevated, probably due to the Tylenol. I am also still breastfeeding the baby who refuses to wean, so I have to take that into consideration as well. Is it safe for me to take this much Tylenol for a full month plus, and by doing so, am I putting my liver/kidneys/stomach/thyroid at risk? Breastfeeding is probably a bad idea, too, I assume. Are there any ideas I can try other than pain medicine to deal with the pain? I just need to survive one month and then I can finally get the root canal. Thank you.


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