December 6, 2018
The phrase “root canal therapy” is one of the most dreaded and most understood terms in the English language. Many of us associate the idea of a root canal with extreme, and sometimes unnecessary, discomfort. This is unfortunate, because, in reality, a root canal is a gentle, comfortable procedure that can do much good for the patient’s oral health.
What Is the Purpose of a Root Canal?
At the base of each tooth are a series of roots that contain a bundle of nerves and blood vessels. These are essential for maintaining your teeth’s health and viability. Sometimes, however, root canals can become infected or inflamed due to bacterial infection or mouth trauma.
When this happens, dental surgery is required to save the tooth from extraction. This is the procedure that’s commonly referred to as a “root canal.”
What Are the Symptoms That a Root Canal Is Needed?
You may need a root canal if you experience any of the following problems:
- Pain in your teeth or gums, especially when they’re touched.
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or beverages. This is a sign that the nerves in your teeth are under distress.
- A pimple-like bulge forming in your gums.
- A tooth that is loose, discolored or fractured.
See your dentist right away if you experience any of these symptoms. Prompt treatment may save you from the need for a tooth extraction.
What Is the Procedure for a Root Canal?
The typical root canal is fairly straightforward. Here’s what you can expect as you go into treatment:
- Your dentist will take an x-ray to judge how much the infection or injury has impacted the infected tooth.
- The dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area and ensure your comfort throughout the procedure. You may also receive a sedative to help you relax.
- The dentist will place a sheet of rubber with a hole in the center over the tooth. This is called a “rubber dam” and helps to keep the tooth dry.
- The dentist will use special surgical instruments to create an access point into the tooth. He or she will then remove the damaged or infected tissues.
- Once the above step is complete, your dentist will either seal the tooth with a permanent filling material or apply a temporary filler until a permanent crown can be created.
- After the procedure, you’ll go home with a prescription for pain relievers to manage any discomfort you may experience afterwards. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to guard against the possibility of renewed infection.
- Sometime later, you will have a follow-up visit. At this time, the dentist will either apply the crown or check the filling to ensure it has taken hold. You may experience some drainage from the treated area in between visits. This is normal; it’s simply your body purging itself of infection.
Most patients who have experienced a root canal say that the level of discomfort is no greater than that for a typical extraction or filling. The benefits, however, are substantial. Root canals save teeth that might otherwise be lost, preventing further problems down the road.
Don’t let fears based on misinformation stop you from enjoying a better life. Talk to your dentist about root canal therapy and other treatment options during your next visit.
About the Author
Dr. Bob Koenitzer earned his DDS degree from the University of California at San Francisco School of Dentistry. He’s a lifelong resident of the Petaluma area and was voted our community’s top dentist five years in a row. You can reach his office online or by calling (707) 766-6666.
No comments yet.
RSS feed for comments on this post.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.