It seems like we all know someone who has had to undergo a root canal. Millions of root canals are performed each year to save teeth and relieve pain. While you may have symptoms that indicate you have a problem in your mouth, some people experience no symptoms at all. If you need to have a root canal, there’s no reason to worry; the procedure is similar to having a cavity filled. A root canal may be the most effective option for restoring your tooth’s health and avoiding more serious dental or general health issues in the future.
How Do I Know if My Tooth is Infected?
Endodontic therapy, also called root canal therapy, is done when the nerve or pulp of the tooth becomes infected.
Common causes of infection are:
- A deep cavity
- Repeated dental procedures
- A cracked or broken tooth
- An unseen injury to the tooth
Symptoms of an infection include:
- Moderate to severe pain
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Spontaneous pain
- Swelling and inflammation
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Bad breath
- Drainage or tenderness in the gum tissues or lymph nodes
However, it’s important to note that sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
How Does a Tooth Get Infected?
To understand a root canal, it is important to know what lies within our teeth. The space inside the tooth cavity, under the enamel and the hard layer of dentin, is called the root canal system. It is made up of soft dental pulp filled with nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. Some teeth have only one root and one canal, while your back teeth may have four or five.
While your teeth are still growing, this pulp helps the roots develop. Once your teeth are fully developed, the teeth no longer rely on that pulp to survive and are nourished by the surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, sometimes bacteria can enter the area through cavities, cracks, or bad fillings. If this happens, an abscess or infection develops, resulting in swollen, painful dental pulp. Without a root canal, the bacteria can spread to the bone around the infected tooth and cause more severe health issues.
What Does a Root Canal Do?
Root canal therapy involves extracting the nerve and pulp, cleaning it out, and then sealing it so that bacteria can no longer enter. To determine if you need a root canal, your dentist will perform a careful examination and use X-rays and other tests to ascertain the cause of your pain and the health of your tooth.
If your dentist concludes that you need a root canal, don’t fret. It’s a common treatment and shouldn’t feel much different than having a routine filling. Root canals can usually be accomplished in just one or two dental appointments.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
A root canal has a few basic steps:
- The dentist will first anesthetize you so that you are completely comfortable and pain-free during the procedure.
- An opening is then made to the infected pulp. The dentist will use tiny instruments to clean out the tooth and remove any infected material.
- Once the nerve of the tooth is extracted, and the roots of the tooth are rinsed and filled with a rubber-like material. Additional material is added to the top part of the tooth, and occasionally a post may be needed to help secure that material in the tooth.
- Finally, the dentist will fit the tooth with a crown to prevent fractures or leakage. A crown also ensures that the tooth looks and feels natural.
While a root canal procedure may sound scary, most patients report the same level of pain as having a filling done and can treat their discomfort with over-the-counter pain medications
What Will I Feel Like After a Root Canal?
A root canal is normally completed in one or two dental appointments. Initially, your tooth may be tender or sore, but you should not feel any severe pain or experience any swelling. Tenderness could last up to a week or two.
After a root canal, your tooth should look, feel, and function as well as a healthy natural tooth.
What Can I Do to Avoid a Root Canal?
Good oral hygiene – including brushing after meals and daily flossing – and regular dental visits can help you avoid a root canal. Furthermore, it is important to see your dentist at the first sign of a cavity or other dental concern. Any infections or other dental issues should be treated promptly so that it does not worsen or lead to a more serious health concern.
It is still possible to get a cavity or gum disease after a root canal, so it is important to maintain (or start!) proper dental care and schedule regular dental visits.
What Should I Do if I Think I Might Need a Root Canal?
If you are experiencing any tooth pain, give us a call at Ideal Dental Solutions. We’ll thoroughly examine your teeth and figure out the source of your discomfort. Our skilled staff will put your needs first and customize a treatment plan that works for you. We’ll get you back on the road to a healthy smile in no time.
Smile! It’s good for you.