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Dentistry/Help! Nerve Exposed while drilling


The very last molar on the bottom left had a lateral filling which came out. The tooth was not bothering me except when cold or heat came in contact with the tooth. My dentist insisted that I needed a root canal. I waited a month before deciding, and came back to her. I asked her to please just do a crown as the tooth was not bothering me. She said she could determine once she began to drill to see how the tissue looked. While drilling she kept saying it all looked good and only the crown would be necessary. Before I knew it, the xray was taken and she was then telling me that a root canal was indeed necessary. She gave me a mirror and actually touched the nerve to show me that the nerve was now exposed! A temporary crown, antibiotic, and pain med was given. She told me to decide whether or not I wanted the root canal or an extraction. I am deciding on an extraction as I do not want a root canal for various reasons. She explained that if the tooth is extracted, all other teeth will shift, move, possible bone loss etc. Does exposing a nerve commonly happen with drilling or did she make a grave error here?

Hi Jean,

I can not comment on the skill of your dentist since I did not observe her working.
However, if she previously told you that a root canal would be necessary, it sounds like her diagnostic skills are quite good.

Often times, if the decay is very deep into the tooth, then the nerve can or will be exposed when cleaning out/preparing the tooth. So no, I do not think anything was done wrong.

As to extract vs root canal;
If it is your wisdom tooth, then these are usually extracted.
However, if it is not the wisdom tooth, then you are better saving the tooth if you can. Otherwise, as mentioned, the other teeth will shift and cause further problems down the road.

Good luck


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Benjamin Schwartz, DDS FAGD


I can answer a range of questions in dentistry, ranging from cosmetic dentistry, fillings, root canals, and comprehensive treatment. Specifically, my fields of interest are in CEREC technology, Invisalign (Invisable braces), and Endodontics (root canals).


Full time practicing dentist in New York City, treating all phases of adult dental needs. Specific focus on Invisalign cases, Endodontic (root canal) treatment, and CEREC single visit restorations.

Schwartz Benjamin, Boczko Fae, McKeon S. Oral Care For The Elderly. Perspectives in Gerontology December 2006

New York University College of Dentistry - D.D.S.
Woodhull Medical Center, 1 year post-graduate residency program - GPR

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