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TMJ to Root Canal. Can’t Find a Dentist Who Cares

I am so depressed and really need some help and advice. My mouth is a mess. When I was little, my parents couldn’t afford the dentist. I did have several cavities and one of them turned into a dental emergency. The dentist they took me to did the root canal treatment but never the crown because they couldn’t pay for it up front. That tooth now looks horrible. Then, as I got into college, things got much worse. I had several infections that ended up with me getting a dental bridge across my front teeth. Years later they have these ugly black lines near a couple of them and I started having pain again. Years later, and I finally was able to get some dental insurance. The cost of trying to fix my teeth is astronomical. I’ve had to do it in spurts and dentists have always seemed impatient with my financial situation. Recently, my husband lost his job which also meant a loss of our insurance. Of course, that is when I ended up with another toothache. I went to a dentist and he said I had an infection and needed a root canal. He gave me antibiotics and sent me to an endodontist because I couldn’t pay him up front. When I went to see the endodontist he said I didn’t have an infection and didn’t need a root canal. Now, I’m still in pain a few weeks later, so I sucked it up and went to see ANOTHER dentist. He said I didn’t have an infection but did have TMJ Disorder and it would be $350 for some kind of device to fix it. Now I’m out of money, don’t know what is wrong with me, and am still in massive pain. What do I do?


Dear Manda,

It’s hard enough being uncomfortable with your smile, but when you’re in pain in magnifies the problem exponentially. Because I haven’t examined you or seen any x-rays I would be just guessing if I were to tell you whether you had TMJ disorder or a dental infection. However, I can help with some things.

The first thing I’d do is look at this TMJ Disorder page to get an idea of what some additional symptoms are. If you have one or two more, that might be worth looking into further. However, I would make sure the dentist has good TMJ Training credentials. This isn’t something typically taught in dental school and an unqualified dentist can make things much worse. Peek at Dr. Newkirk’s bio to get an idea of the type of dentist you’re looking for.

You’ve had some bad experiences with dentists for sure. I want you to know that while there are some bad apples, most dentists went into their profession to help people. I have two pieces of advice that will help you find that dentist. First, don’t give up on finding the right dentist. You want one willing to put in the time to really help you get your oral health in order. Second, I’d call the office of a potential dentist and ask for a tour and to meet the staff. This helps you get a feel of the place and learn about their practice philosophy.

Important Factors in Preventing Tooth Decay

In the meantime, your most powerful tool in preventing tooth decay is your saliva. It contains powerful bacteria-fighting minerals. However, it needs the room to work. That means limiting your snacks. I would not have more than three meals and two snacks a day. This will give your saliva a fighting chance.

I’m also going to recommend you brush after each meal instead of the normally recommended twice per day. Then, be certain you are flossing before bedtime.

This blog is brought to you by Naperville Dentist Dr. David Newkirk. .