If you have been notified by your dentist that you need a root canal, you may have some pressing questions about the process. Root canals are a fairly common procedure and can even be almost pain-free with the benefits of modern, medical technology. In an attempt to preempt any confusion or panic, here are some answers to common questions about root canals.
What is a root canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure in which the dentist removes the infected areas of a tooth. These usually include the diseased tissue and the infected pulp. The root canals – hollow fissures that run from the tip of the tooth to the root – are also involved in the process.
The dentist concentrates mostly on the tooth’s pulp – the pulpy center comprised of blood vessels and nerve endings. Pulp flows through the roots of your tooth in a narrow channel or canal, and when this pulp becomes infected or damaged, it hurts.
In most cases, a dentist will perform the root canal surgery but in more complicated cases, a root canal specialist will be necessary to perform the procedure.
Common causes include cracks, deep cavities, trauma to the tooth, or repeated treatments that have proved ineffective. In the simplest sense, root canal therapy is when the dentist locates an infection or damage to the pulp, cleans it, disinfects it, fills it, and then seals the tooth to prevent further infection.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
There are some symptoms or warning signs that will tell you that you need to schedule a visit to your dentist. These include:
Tooth pain: Pain is the body’s way of letting your brain know something isn’t right, and it is the best indicator of a damaged or infected tooth. Maybe it comes and goes throughout the day, and it may heighten when you bite down on something. It also may emanate from your gums. These are all signs that you should visit your dentist, and quickly.
Hot and cold: You may notice that the affected tooth and the surrounding area in the gums are extra sensitive to hot and cold, and even when the source has been removed, these areas can ache for a while.
Discoloration: Your gums may be red and angry-looking, or perhaps purple and bruised.
Swelling: If your gums are palpably bigger and tender to the touch, you will know it. Run your tongue over your gums. Do they feel weird? Maybe they are hotter than normal, almost feverish. Maybe they are just bigger. Whatever it is, one thing is clear – they are not happy gums.
Ill feeling: With a severe toothache, you’ll tend to feel ill all over. This overall feeling of illness may also be due to your inability to eat, drink, sleep or live comfortably. The result is the same – you will be in pain until you head to your dentist.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms in recent months, you should head to your dentist for a full checkup. Your dentist will be the one to tell you whether or not you need a root canal.
What happens during a root canal?
During a root canal, your dentist will numb your tooth and the affected area, create an access hole in your tooth, and then clean out all the infected material. To finish, your dentist will fill the canals and the cleaned areas of the tooth with a material, fill the access hole, and cap the tooth to avoid any infection.
Are there painless root canals?
These are not your parents’ root canals. These days, medical technology and state-of-the-art equipment offer a lot of options that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Through these advancements, dentists can make their patients feel little to nothing during a root canal. And if you think about it, if your face hurts enough, the root canal (while it may be unpleasant) should largely be a relief.
If you have experienced some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with a tooth infection, consult your dentist. Professionals like those at Star White Dental will guide you to a happy and healthy mouth.