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Posted on: May 4, 2022
Uncover The Truth About Root Canal Treatment
For many people, the term “root canal” is surrounded by feelings of anxiety and fear. If you’ve never had a root canal, you’re probably thinking that it’s an uncomfortable treatment that causes pain. However, you might be surprised to learn that root canal therapy is a virtually painless procedure. In fact, the procedure is designed to relieve tooth pain.
A root canal also helps you preserve your natural teeth rather than requiring extraction or replacement with artificial teeth. Keep reading as we outline the truth about root canal therapy and explore questions to ask your dentist to see whether this procedure is right for you.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is performed when the pulp inside of your tooth becomes infected. The pulp is the soft tissue found in the center of your teeth, and it contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Bacteria can enter the pulp if your tooth is cracked, you have advanced tooth decay, or if a current filling is cracked. Removing damaged or infected pulp through a root canal is the most effective way to save the affected tooth. Without treatment, the infection can spread to the jawbone.
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
If you have an infected tooth, the symptoms you experience will vary depending on the severity of the infection. Call your dentist right away if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Severe tooth pain that doesn’t go away
- Swollen or painful gums
- Graying or discolored teeth
- Pain when applying pressure to the teeth or gums
- Long-lasting tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
- Swollen jaw
- A pimple or small bump on the gums of the affected tooth
- Severe tooth decay
Questions to Ask Your Dentist About Root Canal Treatment
If you’re worried about root canal treatment, talking to your dentist can help alleviate your concerns. During your next dental appointment, ask your dentist these questions:
- Am I a good candidate for root canal treatment?
- How much pain is there during and after the procedure?
- Will I receive a local anesthetic?
- Can I achieve the same results with a different dental procedure?
- What happens during root canal treatment?
- How long does it take to receive a root canal?
- Are there any risks involved with the procedure?
- Will my restored tooth be fully functional after a root canal?
- Is the procedure covered by dental insurance?
- How much does a root canal cost?
What Are the Steps Involved in Root Canal Treatment?
Before receiving a root canal, your dentist will first examine your mouth and take x-rays. Your dentist will also ask about your medical history and any medications you take. If you have an infection, you’ll likely take antibiotics for several days before receiving a root canal.
If you’re wondering about what happens during a root canal procedure, here’s an overview of what you can expect during treatment:
Step 1: Receiving Local Anesthesia
To ensure that you feel comfortable during the procedure, you’ll receive local anesthesia. Your dentist won’t begin the procedure until your mouth is completely numb.
Step 2: Placing a Dental Dam
Your dentist will place a dental dam in your mouth. This is a type of protective sheet that isolates the affected tooth and keeps the area free from saliva and bacteria.
Step 3: Removing the Pulp
To gain access to the tooth’s pulp, your dentist drills a tiny hole in the affected tooth. Small instruments are used to remove the pulp, nerves, and blood vessels inside of the tooth. After removing the pulp, the root canals and pulp chamber of the tooth are cleaned and rinsed with an antibacterial rinse.
Step 4: Filling the Root Canals
After removing the infected pulp and disinfecting the root canals, the canals are filled with a material called gutta-percha. This is a rubber-like material that acts as a sealant for the canals, preventing any bacteria from entering and causing an infection.
Step 5: Sealing the Tooth
Your dentist covers the tooth with a temporary dental filling. This closes the hole that was created during the beginning of treatment.
Step 6: Completing the Restoration
A dental crown is placed to cover and protect the tooth. The crown also restores the full function of the affected tooth. Since crowns are custom-made, it can take about two to three weeks to create a custom dental crown. Once your crown is made, your dentist removes the temporary filling and places the permanent crown over the tooth.
Most patients require two appointments for root canal therapy. The first visit to your dentist is for the actual procedure itself and the second appointment involves placing the permanent dental crown.
Will I Experience Pain After a Root Canal?
You can expect some sensitivity and mild discomfort for a few days after receiving a root canal. Your dentist will recommend an over-the-counter pain medicine to help you manage your symptoms. If your discomfort lasts longer than a couple of days or if you experience severe pain after your root canal, contact your dentist right away.
How Can I Heal at Home After a Root Canal?
Your dentist will provide you with specific instructions to help you heal after a root canal. Follow these tips to help you heal at home:
- To prevent you from biting your cheek and tongue, avoid eating until all of the numbness in your mouth wears off.
- Follow a soft diet for the first few days after your root canal.
- Avoid biting or chewing with the treated tooth. If possible, try to chew on the other side of your mouth until you receive your permanent crown.
- Brush and floss normally, although you should be careful around the treated tooth.
- Avoid smoking before and after the procedure to help your body heal.
Be sure to contact your dentist if you have any questions before or after receiving a root canal. The procedure has a very high success rate and treated teeth can last a lifetime.