Most people fear the prospect of a root canal because they hear the pain is intense and unbearable. While that may have been true for past patients, things have changed thanks to advancements in our dental techniques and technology.
Root canals are ultra-common and necessary to preserve teeth ridden with infection and decay. But, what is a root canal and why might you need one?
Inside all of your teeth, underneath the enamel and dentin, there is soft tissue called pulp. This tissue has nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels that aid in your tooth’s root growth. When this pulp succumbs to infection, we recommend root canals to prevent losing the tooth.
The easiest way to find out if you need a root canal is to determine whether or not you have an increased sensitivity to hot or cold sensations. If you are experiencing this symptom, it is a sign that there are bacteria present. A dental professional can decipher whether your symptoms may signal a need for a root canal.
So, while root canals are involved procedures, dental professionals handle them every day. Here is everything you need to know about the process of getting a root canal:
1. Using local anaesthesia, the endodontist will numb your tooth to minimize the amount of discomfort you feel during the procedure. The only pain associated with this part of the root canal is a minor pinch. After this, the endodontist will position something called a dental dam. A dental damn is a small piece of rubber that ensures your tooth stays clean while the root canal is taking place.
a. Isolating the tooth is important because the endodontist does not want saliva to enter the tooth due its tendency to carry bacteria.
b. You may feel some pressure from the clamp that is used to hold the dam in place, but the dam itself will not cause you any pain.
2. Using a small drill, your endodontist will make a tiny opening in the top part of your tooth. For teeth near the back of your mouth, the access cavity will be made on top of the tooth. If it’s one of your front-facing teeth, the access cavity will be made on the back of the tooth. Then, the root canals will be identified using a surgical microscope.
a. During this step, you will feel slight pressure from the drill’s vibrations. There should not be any pain during this step of the procedure.
3. Your endodontist will then eradicate the infected pulp using small files. The small files will also be used to shape the tooth’s inner chamber and root for when it comes time to fill and seal the tooth. Next comes tooth irrigation. Your endodontist will use water to flush away lingering pulp and debris. Another thing your endodontist might do is put an antimicrobial solution inside of the filed chamber to reduce the risk of future infection.
a. This step is usually boring for the patients since it is the most involved. Your endodontist will repeatedly file and flush out the tooth several times before continuing the procedure.
4. Now, it’s time for your tooth to be filled. The most commonly used material is a compound called gutta percha. This material is similar to rubber in its texture and flexibility. Then, the opening of your tooth will be closed with a temporary filling until the permanent crown is made.
a. At this point, you’ll be nearing the end of the procedure. There isn’t any pain or sensation associated with the step.
5. After waiting a few weeks, your endodontist will then place a permanent crown on the top of the tooth. If the original tooth is not sturdy enough to support the crown, your endodontist may insert a small post in the root chamber.
It’s difficult to say exactly how long a root canal treatment will take because every situation is different, but a root canal takes approximately ninety minutes to complete per tooth. Anterior teeth typically take one hour whereas premolars and molars require up to 2 hours.
In order to prevent a future infection, a strong dental hygiene routine is vital to your post-procedure care. Immediately after the procedure, you should not eat until the numbness fades. If you do not wait, you could potentially bite your cheek and tongue.
Don’t apply full chewing pressure on the tooth the root canal was conducted on to avoid damaging it. The tooth is not fully restored until the permanent crown has been placed. You will be able to eat as normal soon after your procedure, but it is still important to exercise caution.
You will be safe to return to work or school right after your procedure is finished. While you may experience numbness for several hours following the procedure, that shouldn’t affect your ability to resume your daily routine.
As always, brush and floss regularly to maintain the health of your teeth and gums. Schedule regular check-ups to ensure there are no problems with your teeth. If you experience any of the following symptoms immediately after your root canal, consult your endodontist:
● Intense pain that persists a few days after your procedure.
● Significant swelling inside or outside of your mouth.
● An allergic reaction from your prescribed medications.
● Uneven bite.
● A loose temporary crown or filling.
It’s Not as Awful as It Seems
Having a root canal may seem daunting, but in reality, it’s a less invasive procedure than most people assume. We hope you find this information comforting, whether you are preparing for your procedure of think you may need one.
Make sure you see a specialist who can help you decide on the proper course of treatment. Without the proper treatment, symptoms may worsen and pain may intensify. Don’t wait to reclaim your dental health because you’re afraid of pain – a root canal can prevent even more pain coming your way!