I’ve been putting off going to the dentist for many years, and just recently got dental coverage as part of my new job. Wow, am I going to pay a price for not keeping up on my dental care! I need six root canals, at least. I have three cavities that need to be drilled and filled, one tooth that needs to be ground down because it is messing up my bite, and all of my teeth need to be whitened, badly.
One of the reasons I put all this off for so long is that I hate going to the dentist. Is there any way all of this could be done in one appointment? I’d like to just get it over with! What is the limit for the number of hours treatment can take?
Stephanie in Baltimore, MD
You’ll really have to talk to your dentist about how much of the work they feel they can accomplish in one visit. The limiting factor will really be your tolerance for being in the chair that long, especially if you are an anxious dental patient. Most people who do not have dental anxiety can endure about four hours of treatment. If you are anxious at all, and I strongly advise you to be honest and up-front about that with your dentist right from the beginning, then your ability to tolerate treatment will be much less.
Something to consider is going to a sedation dentist, or asking your current dentist if he does sedation dentistry. You may have heard it referred to as “sleep dentistry“, which is a bit of a misleading term used by lay people. With sedation dentistry, you are not technically asleep, though you are in such a relaxed state that most patients report no memory of the treatment at all. If you are an anxious patient, this might be one way for you to get all that work done in a minimal number of visits.
Beyond your tolerance, the amount of time/number of appointments the treatments will take also depends on the locations of the teeth that need root canal treatment. If they are in the front of your mouth, they can likely be done in one appointment. If they are molars, you may want to consider going to an endodontist, which is a dentist who specializes in root canal treatments. For molars, it is important for you to get the treatments done in as few visits as possible, and with so many to do, you’ll need the speed and expertise of a specialist to get them all accomplished in a reasonable amount of time.
Best of luck to you. We’re glad you’re regaining your dental health!