Archives for March 2014

Root Canals Get No Lovin’

Root Canal awareness week banner

Root Canal Awareness Week 2014. Logo courtesy AAE.

As we get ready to kick off the 8th annual Root Canal Awareness Week on Sunday March 30, it is remarkable to see that root canals are still perceived to be horribly painful and worse than torture. I outlined this myth in one of my Dental MythBuster posts called Dental MythBuster #3 – Root Canals Hurt!

Needless to say, despite that post getting over 12,000 views, the myth lives on in the popular media. Let’s see where:

  • The New York Times, February 7, 2014. “…taxes you pay on your investments has as much appeal as a root canal.”
  • The Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2009. “For the average American, modern air travel has all the appeal of a root canal.”
  • Northwest Indiana News, February 20, 2014. “… the topic of life insurance has about as much appeal as a root canal.”
  • The Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2011. “I had a root canal, and that was fun” (this was done in a sarcastic manner).
  • Washington’s Blog, August 26, 2013. “the American people would much rather get a root canal or a colonoscopy than bomb Syria.”

At least in the last example, the procedure is considered more desirable than a regional war and on on the same level as a colonoscopy!

And lastly, we have the President of the United States publicly maligning the procedure in his State of the Union Speech seen here:

So clearly, the procedure is believed to be unpleasant. But shouldn’t we all just stop worrying and appreciate root canals for what they do?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Root Canals

Dr. Strangelove who would not have worried about a root canal

Dr. Strangelove would have loved what a root canal could do (image courtesy

While there are different view on this borrowed line from Dr. Strangelove, there is no ambiguity when applied to the root canal procedure. This procedure helps to save teeth and prevents premature tooth loss.

Once you are adequately numb, you feel no pain during the procedure.

So let’s get this straight. You have a broken down tooth, one that you are at risk of losing. A procedure is available, one that does not hurt, that will allow you to save the tooth and not go around toothless!

And despite all the inherent benefits, the procedure is maligned by nearly everyone, including President Obama.

For this Root Canal Awareness week, let’s try to appreciate them. Or, to take inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s film, let’s stop worrying and love root canals!


Pulling Your Own Tooth?

Basketball star Reggie Evans photo loose tooth that he pulls

Basketball Star Reggie Evans after he pulled his own tooth.

As a dentist, I’ve heard lots of stories from patients. And I’ve seen lots of YouTube videos where people perform dentistry on themselves. And I have, on occasion, had to treat a patient in pain in my practice in Orange, CT after they attempted dentistry on themselves. So this incident piqued my interest when one of my patients told me about it.

On April 6, 2013, Brooklyn Nets player Reggie Evans was setting up for a rebound and was headbutted by an opponent. The headbutt significantly loosened one of his front teeth. Then several seconds later, he pulled his own tooth, and placed it on the coaches table. The photo above shows Reggie shortly after he pulled the tooth when he began to bleed from the extraction site.

Within one minute of the incident, he fists bumps another player, and then jumps back in the game. Below is the YouTube video from the incident:


Athletes Behaving Badly?

No one can dispute that Reggie was demonstrating a 100% commitment to his team and to his sport (at least in this instance). But does he set a precedent that pulling a tooth or doing dentistry on yourself is “cool” given the way many look up to and emulate professional athletes?

vice grips used to pull teeth if you do it yourself

Unsterilized vice grips from my basement.

As I mentioned before, on multiple occasions, I have treated patients who thought it would be either “funny” or “cool” to pull their own teeth or do other dental procedures. They’ve told me about the vice grips or pliers they used.

In all of those instances, the patients ended up in severe pain and suffered significant complications. One patient even pushed a piece of his tooth into his sinus and required invasive sinus surgery to have it removed!

Reggie most likely sought professional dental care after this incident. We’ll never know what complications he suffered. So, in spite of the fact that Reggie looked cool pulling his own tooth, it is not recommended!

What will Reggie do next? He will most likely need a dental implant at some point to replace his missing tooth. But we also recommend that he not “behave badly” and set a dangerous example for NBA fans.