Introduction: Adventures in Endodontics - Hands-free Facial Ice Pack

I had been having pain in the area between tooth #3 and #4 (#4 is a pre-molar and #3 is a molar on the top right side of the mouth) for years, but it only happened in November each year. The various dentists I went to said they could see nothing obvious that needed therapy. This year, the pain came late--in January. I decided to try again, and I had various dentists take a more thorough look. And, sure enough, there was an infection. The reason the pain did not develop in intensity was that it had a fissure (drainage hole), and the pus that gathered had a way out and did not develop the pain one would expect to have.

So, with my last dentist and a graduate student endodontist, we decided on a strategy that involved a root canal in #4 and two root canals in #3. There was a possible crack in the third root, so there was no point in doing a root canal there. Amputation of that root was a necessary option. It is expected that the final result will give me a serviceable tooth for 3-5 years and not require extraction.

For the past three weeks or so, I have been at the endodontist for these various procedure. The root canals were pretty straightforward, and I had no pain at all from them. The dentist did not expect any untoward symptoms, so all went well.

Then came the last step, the endodontist had suspected that I had a cracked root and would have to have that root amputated to prevent infections under the tooth. Sure enough it was cracked, and when he got to it, he could put his dental pick right into it. So, on we went with the amputation. He laid back the gum lying on the tooth, and sawed the root off. He saved as much bone as possible to try to preserve the tooth as long as possible.

After everything was done he instructed me on post-op care for the tooth. He said I would need to put an ice pack on the check at the tooth area every ten minutes for 24 hours. It sounded simple enough, but when I got home and started, I discovered that if I had to hold the ice pack, I would not be able to do anything else. Now, bear in mind, that carries a strap that is used for holding the ice pack on the face. But, I didn't know that, nor did I have several days to wait for it to arrive. I had to start right away. Well, I'm an Instructables guy, and I don't let the little things get in my way.

So I came up with this very simple-minded project.

Step 1: Materials

The materials list is only four items long:
1. Baseball cap to protect my very nearly bald head.

2. Thera-Band to hold the ice pack. I happened to have a couple of them from physical therapy and from a health fair where they gave them away. Anyway, it is just a rubber band that stretches very easily.

3. Ice pack. I got the first two from my doctor, and my wife had one in the freezer from a previous requirement.

4. Timer. Any timer works. If your stove has a separate timer, you can use it. There are a whole host of timers on the web that you can use with your computer. Chances are that your computer also has a clock that can serve as a timer. I like the portable spring-powered one that needs no connection or batteries. But, use what you have.

Step 2: The Trick Is...

The trick is to assemble the baseball cap, Thera-Band and ice pack without everything falling all over the place.
Well, it took me a couple of times, but I decided to put the baseball cap on first and then tie the Thera-Band snugly at the top of my head. Once those were in place, I could slip the ice pack where it had to go fairly easily. I told you it was a simple-minded approach, but it let me use my computer and do other odds and ends at home.

Step 3: Apologies for the Model and Addendump

My apologies for the model in my picture. I happened to be the only one available who could serve as the model.

Addendum: Although my endodontist told me to apply an ice pack every ten minutes, I didn't actually comply all that well. I found a place on the web that said every twenty minutes. That was a lot easier. Also, it said to do it for six to eight hours and not 24 hours. I gave up at about five hours.

After three days, I'm doing fine and expect that nothing bad will happen. The sutures will be removed in two days, if they don't remove themselves--they are absorbable and may disappear on their own.