Root canals are a common dental procedure that are often used to relieve pain caused by an infected tooth. While the thought of a root canal may be scary, it is actually a very safe and effective procedure that can help save a tooth!
In this blog post, we will discuss what a root canal is, how it is performed, and what to expect after the procedure. We will also dispel some common myths about root canals.
What is a root canal?
A root canal is a procedure that removes the infected or damaged pulp inside a tooth. The pulp is the inner, soft tissue part of the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves. When the pulp becomes infected, it can cause pain, swelling, and infection. A root canal can save a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted.
What are the symptoms of a tooth that needs a root canal?
The symptoms that indicate a tooth may need a root canal can vary depending on the person and the history of the tooth. Here are some common signs that your tooth might need a root canal:
- Pain, especially when chewing or biting
- Significant sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- A dull ache in the tooth or jaw
- Swelling around the tooth
- A bad taste or odor in the mouth
It is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist to determine if a root canal is the appropriate treatment for you.
How is a root canal performed?
A root canal is performed under local anesthetic, so there is no pain during the procedure. The root canal is often performed in two appointments. The dentist will first numb the tooth and then make an opening in the crown portion of the tooth. This opening will allow the dentist to access the pulp chamber and root canals.
The dentist will then use a series of small files to remove the infected pulp from the canals. The pulp is removed in small pieces to prevent damage to the tooth. Once the pulp is removed, the dentist will clean the pulp chamber and root canals. This is done with a series of small brushes and files, as well as irrigating with a disinfectant. The cleaning process removes any infected or diseased tissue from the canals.
The final step is to fill the root canals. This is done with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Once the root canals are filled, the dentist will place a temporary filling in the tooth. The temporary filling will protect the tooth until the permanent filling is placed.
The permanent filling is usually placed a few days to weeks after the root canal is completed. The permanent filling is made of a material that is similar in strength to the tooth itself. Depending on the amount of tooth structure missing due to the cavity or breakage, your dentist may recommend a crown as the final procedure. The crown will help to structurally reinforce the tooth and protect it from breaking in the future.
What to expect after a root canal?
After a root canal, you may experience some discomfort or sensitivity in the tooth. This is usually normal and will go away within a few days. If you have any questions or concerns about your root canal, be sure to talk to your dentist.
What are the potential complications of a root canal?
The potential complications of a root canal are rare, but they can include:
- Tooth fracture
- Allergic reaction to the local anesthetic
- Damage to the surrounding teeth or gums
- File breakage inside the root of the tooth
What are the alternatives to a root canal?
If a tooth is severely damaged, a root canal may not be possible. In these cases, the tooth may need to be extracted, with the option of being replaced with a dental implant.
Sometimes, if a tooth is badly broken, it may still be possible to restore it with the addition of a crown lengthening procedure. Crown lengthening is a surgical procedure that exposes more of the tooth so that a root canal and crown procedure can be performed.
Similar to a root canal, sometimes a pulpotomy is the recommended treatment. Pulpotomies are typically performed on baby teeth of young children. The dentist will remove the infected pulp but leave the healthy pulp in place. This allows the tooth to remain in place while the permanent, adult teeth are still developing and erupting.
Dispelling common myths about root canals
There are many myths about root canals that can cause people to be afraid of the procedure. However, most of these myths are not true. Here are a few common myths about root canals:
Myth: Root canals are painful.
Fact: Root canals are performed under local anesthetic, so there is no pain during the procedure.
Myth: Root canals are expensive.
Fact: The cost of a root canal will vary depending on the type of tooth. If you have dental insurance, the majority of the cost is typically covered. You can call your specific insurance provider to find out what your portion would be ahead of time.
Myth: Root canals can cause cancer.
Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that root canals can cause cancer.
How can I avoid getting a root canal?
The best way to prevent the need for root canals is to take good care of your teeth. This includes brushing and flossing twice a day, visiting your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, and avoiding sugary foods and drinks. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a tooth that needs a root canal, it is important to see your dentist right away. Root canals are a safe and effective way to save a tooth from infection and decay.