A Thorough Guide to Root Canal Procedure
A root canal procedure is also known as endodontic therapy, and it’s the safest and most effective treatment available for patients
whose tooth pulp becomes infected. These routine procedures don’t just treat a painful problem: they also help save and restore your tooth.
At the same time, the root canal treatment is misunderstood. Some people worry about its safety, but it is an incredibly common procedure, and almost 25 million people have one every year. Many people also worry that a root canal will leave them in excruciating pain. It is also untrue because a root canal therapy relieves your pain – it doesn’t cause it.
Do you suspect that you may need a root canal? We answer some of the most common questions about the procedure in this guide.
What Is a Root Canal?
The root canal is both the name of a procedure and a part of your tooth.
Your tooth’s root canal is inside the tooth, which is filled with pulp and is where the roots of your tooth that attach to the jawbone are located.
Although you can’t see the tooth pulp in the mirror, it is an incredibly important part of your tooth. The live pulp tissues contain your nerves and impact the blood supply to the tooth. When the pulp in the root canal gets infected, it risks the health of your entire tooth by not only weakening the tooth but eventually causing an abscess.
A root canal procedure occurs when a dentist goes in and removes the pulp of your tooth to get rid of the infection to prevent further damage and abscesses.
Why Do Dentists Provide Root Canals?
If a tooth is so diseased that the inside pulp needs removal, why not just pull it?
The last thing you want to do is lose one of your teeth, and dentists use creative measures to protect the natural tooth.
It’s not just about your smile. When you pull a tooth, it impacts your whole mouth. Some of the things that you might experience after losing a tooth include:
- Shifting teeth
- Weaker jawbone
- Further tooth loss
- Difficulty chewing and speaking
Does a Root Canal Hurt?
Perhaps the biggest misconception of root canals today is that they are incredibly painful.
In the past, dentists had neither the training nor the anesthetic to provide this treatment without inflicting excruciating pain on the patient. Today, we have both.
Your tooth will hurt when you walk into the dentist’s office. But a root canal actually works to get rid of the pain. You may experience some discomfort that you can treat with an NSAID, like Tylenol, but it doesnâ€™t require painkillers, and during the treatment, you barely notice a thing.
How Do You Know if You Need a Root Canal?
If you need a root canal, you know because you will have a very sore tooth, and it won’t go away. If the infection progresses, you may even have jaw pain. Often, people also have sensitive and swollen gums around the sore tooth. Many also find they have tooth nerve pain and it is very sensitive to both hot and cold.
If you have a toothache that doesn’t go away, it’s essential to see a dentist quickly.
By the time your tooth hurts, it is already moderately decayed. When you wait too long to remove the infection, it can spread and impact the tissues and nerves in the surrounding area. The inflammation that is so characteristic of an infected tooth is particularly bad for your mouth because it can limit the blood supply.
Leaving an infected root canal too long can also lead to an abscess, which is a pocket that forms at the end of the root and becomes filled with puss. If the infection from an abscess spreads to other parts of your body, it can be severe and even life-threatening.
Root Canal Procedure Explained: The Stages of a Root Canal
Root canals are common procedures, but the nature of the infection means they require more care than a simple filling due to the placement of the infection.
Although the number of steps is relatively straightforward, the whole procedure usually takes place across two appointments to make sure the infection disappears.
To begin, your endodontist applies a local anesthetic to the nerves surrounding the affected tooth. The anesthetic means the procedure itself is mostly pain-free. You will feel a pinch when the dentist injects it, but other than that, you won’t feel more than mild discomfort.
Then, your endodontist’s assistant uses either a dental dam or suction to keep the area around your tooth clean and dry as the endodontist works.
The procedure then starts when your dentist drills a small hole into the top of the tooth. A hole is necessary to help reach the infected pulp and remove it. Don’t worry: dental drills are tiny and ergonomically designed to fit carefully in your mouth.
Removing the pulp can take a while, depending on where the tooth is and the shape of your mouth. Most of the time, the dentist uses a file to remove the pulp and then uses a separate file to reshape the inside of the tooth and get rid of any remaining pulp. It sounds uncomfortable, but remember that the local anesthetic means you won’t feel much of anything.
From here, your endodontist cleans and disinfects the remaining root canal space to prepare it for a filling and prevent any further infection.
Next, the endodontist fills the space with gutta-percha, which is a material that’s biologically similar to the pulp of your tooth and will support it across the rest of your life. Your endodontist heats it to make it pliable and then puts it into your tooth and presses it into place.
When all the work is done, your endodontist covers the hole on your tooth. The cover is only temporary, and you will need some kind of permanent restoration, like a crown, later.
The reason they can’t place a crown immediately is that they need to know how your natural tooth progresses. Sometimes, diseased teeth become weaker, so you might need extra support inside the root chamber to help protect your tooth.
Not all root canals require a crown. You won’t usually get one on your incisors or canines, but you do need them on your molars and premolars because you use them more for chewing.
You can usually expect to go home with a round of antibiotics to clear out any other infection in the area after your first appointment. If your infection was severe or you struggle with regular infections, your endodontist may ask to see you a third time to make sure the infection dissipates completely. They also assess your general oral hygiene to help prevent more root canals in the future.
Root Canal Recovery Time: What Happens After a Root Canal?
After a root canal, you can go back to work, school, or go home. Because the endodontist uses local anesthetic and not a general one, you can drive right after the procedure.
You can also brush and floss as you usually would. The temporary sealant means you have nothing to worry about. You will likely experience some sensitivity, so you need to avoid hard foods and try to chew on the other side of your mouth. Otherwise, you should feel much better in no time.
Some people notice that the tooth changes colour over time. Discolouration doesn’t happen in every patient, but it is relatively normal. It occurs when your tooth bleeds internally, which stains the inside of your tooth. Your tooth may then be yellow or dark or develop spots, but it shouldn’t turn black. You are free to whiten it as you want after the procedure.
Get a Root Canal and End the Pain
Root canal procedures aren’t endlessly painful, nor are they unnecessary dental work. Root canal therapy is incredibly important because it can protect and restore infected teeth and prevent tooth loss.
Despite what you may have heard in the past, a root canal isn’t painful. Moreover, it relieves the pain associated with an infected tooth and stops the infection from spreading to other parts of your body.
Are you struggling with tooth pain? End the suffering and protect your oral health by making an exam appointment with a root canal specialist. Get in touch to learn how an endodontist in Toronto can make a difference in your health.