Most of us already do not enjoy going to the dentist. But there are few phrases that make the hair on the back of our necks stand up quite like “root canal.”
The simple fact is that over 15 million root canals are done each and every year – and it doesn’t have to be nearly as scary as it sounds. They may have been painful once upon a time, but procedures have changed and technology has come a long way. Root canals are now a procedure that doesn’t hurt and they hardly feel different from the average filling.
So, now that you know that it isn’t some big, scary event, what do you really know about root canals? Here is all you need to know about a root canal treatment and what it might look like for you.
Root Canals: What Are They?
Honestly speaking, most people don’t even really know what a root canal is to begin with. They just know that they heard it was scary from their friends, their neighbour’s mother, or some acquaintance or another. That is how the perception comes to be.
Also known as an endodontic treatment, a root canal is the process of removing pulp from the inner chambers of the tooth root as well as the tooth itself. An inner soft connective tissue within the tooth, the dental pulp contains the blood vessels, blood supply, and nerves of the tooth.
For the most part, patients who require a root canal will also have to have a crown placed over that tooth. The crown is meant to strengthen the tooth considering that it will be used on a regular basis shortly after the root canal.
Why Someone Might Need a Root Canal
When someone starts to feel significant, almost excruciating pain, in a specific tooth, that is most often when a root canal is required. The aforementioned pulp gets infected, typically due to deep decay. The result is a painful toothache.
There may be an abscess that forms and, if left untreated, the bacteria from that infected tooth can actually spread throughout the body. That infection can cause serious issues and can even result in death if left untreated. That is why a root canal may be required for the toothache.
The root canal can also save the natural tooth from requiring extraction. When a tooth is missing, surrounding teeth will shift out of place. From there, a dental bridge or implant may be required to remedy the issue.
A tooth that has received root canal treatment may continue to function properly and stay in place. When it comes to broken or cracked teeth, it can lead to exposure to the nerve. Teeth can “die” when they are injured, which typically happens as the result of a traumatic event.
Teeth that have repeated dental work or fillings done may need a root canal eventually if the filling gets to be too close to the pump. Having the root canal can remove infection and inflammation while also treating the toothache before the damage spreads.
What to Expect
So, what does the process of getting a root canal look like? Either an endodontist or dentist can perform the procedure. Most of the time, a general dentist will refer you and it will usually involve having an x-ray done of the affected tooth to make sure that a root canal is even possible.
The beginning of the procedure involves a local anaesthetic to make sure that there is no discomfort or pain involved. What makes people fearful of the procedure is that they are already in pain when they finally come to the realisation that they need one. They believe that the process will only exacerbate that pain level.
The good news is that the dentist will take the necessary steps to ensure that it is a comfortable procedure. That means sedation or nitrous oxide to help you relax before the procedure begins, if necessary.
After that, a dental dam is generally placed over the mouth. It is meant to help isolate the tooth or teeth that requires the root canal treatment. The dental dam also helps to prevent any debris from getting into your mouth throughout the procedure.
When the prep has been done, the dentist drills away at the decay. They remove the inside of your tooth, the part that contains the pulp, and then use a special file to scrub anything from the inside root of your tooth.
When they are satisfied with the job, they look through the infected areas to ensure that everything is gone. From there, they disinfect your tooth and then begin to fill it in again. A natural latex is used and then a harder composite gets used to fill in the crown of the tooth.
After the Procedure
When the anaesthetic finally wears off, there may be pain or soreness initially, although it will fade. For more comprehensive procedures, there may be a prescribed anaesthetic from the dentist to help with swelling and to clear up any bacteria that may remain.
Depending on the level of pain, you may have a prescription painkiller from your dentist. For the most part, though, an over-the-counter pain medication should work fine for remaining discomfort.
Over the first few days following the procedure, there may be discomfort when chewing. That can be combatted by either chewing on the other side of the mouth or by sticking to soft foods over time. The pain should dissipate over the next few days, returning things back to normal.
Root Canal Treatment: Not a Scary Procedure
The thing to remember is that, while it may not be ideal to undergo root canal treatment, it isn’t a massively frightening procedure either. It is meant to clean up the bacteria that can cause serious damage to your tooth or illness to yourself.
Rest assured, your dentist will work to ensure that the entire process is as smooth, painless, and quick as possible – all while improving your dental health!