Root canals—you’ve heard the good, the bad, and the ugly. The truth is, the facts (and procedures!) are better left to the professionals. Not to brag, but our dentists at Trillium Dental have saved quite a few teeth by performing these endodontic procedures. We’re here to clear things up and tell you what you need to know. Trust us, root canals aren’t as scary as you think!
Our dentists perform root canals, which are sometimes more generally referred to as endodontic procedures, to save badly decayed teeth by removing the pulp and nerves and sealing the cleaned area.
A tooth’s nerve function provides sensory responses to hot and cold temperatures, but don’t worry—removing the tooth’s nerve does not affect its primary functions. It simply relieves tooth pain and damage.
A few different things can cause nerve and pulp damage…
- Large fillings
- Cracks or chips in a tooth
- Trauma to the face
When a tooth’s nerve or pulp is damaged, bacteria can form in the root canal, causing an infection. There are various symptoms that signal an infection, including bone loss around the root, swelling of your face, or drainage into your gums.
Without treatment, infection and abscesses can form on the tissues surrounding your teeth. We’ll tell you this much—an infected tooth can be very painful, and if you have one, seek immediate medical attention from one of our experienced dentists.
You probably need a root canal if…
- You experience severe tooth pain when chewing
- Gum tissue near a tooth is swollen, sensitive, or pimpled
- You have heightened and prolonged hot or cold sensitivity
- There is nerve damage and/or other side effects
Behind the Scenes of a Root Canal Procedure
Root canal procedures have earned a bad rap for being painful, but we’ll let you in on the popular opinion—most people find that the process is no more painful than receiving a filling. Although a root canal is a simple procedure, it may require more than one visit to your dentist.
Sounds fancy, right? To put it simply, an endodontic is a dentist who specializes in the causes, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and injuries of the human dental pulp or nerve of the tooth.
As the first step of the procedure, your dentist will take an X-ray to examine the shape of your root canal and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
Next, your dentist anesthetizes the area around the tooth—this helps alleviate any minor pain or discomfort you may experience during the procedure. Similar to when you receive a filling, a hole is drilled into the affected tooth so your dentist can remove the infected pulp and nerve tissue. After removing the pulp and nerve tissue, your dentist uses a series of small tools to clean out any remaining debris along the root canal of the tooth.
Once the root canal is thoroughly cleaned, the tooth is sealed. Depending on the health of the remaining tooth structure, it may be necessary to wait for any remaining infected tissue to heal before it can be sealed. If that’s the case, don’t worry—your tooth doesn’t sit empty. A temporary filling is placed in your mouth to keep things nice and clean, protecting the tooth from food, saliva, and bacteria until it can be sealed.
Your dentist carefully examines the extent of damage or decay to your tooth. Sometimes it’s necessary to place a crown over the tooth if it can’t be saved. Crowns can be made of metal, porcelain, or gold and they’re meant to prevent future damage to an already delicate tooth. Your Trillium dentist will sit down with you and discuss the need for any additional dental work, if necessary.
What to Expect After the Procedure
Don’t be concerned if your tooth feels sensitive for the first several days after your root canal, that’s pretty standard—especially if was infected. Typically, any pain resulting from the root canal can be controlled with ordinary over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB). While uncomfortable, any pain and sensitivity following a root canal should only last a few days.
Complications can arise following your procedure—they’re generally due to re-infection or contamination of the tooth caused by additional cracking or a breakdown of the inner sealant. Of course, it is important to maintain regular brushing and flossing.
Questions or apprehensions? Let’s talk teeth! Get in touch with us by email or by calling 517.485.3444.