There can be a lot of nerves around hearing the phrase “root canal”, which is understandable given that many people feel anxious around dental procedures. The root canal is sometimes a necessary procedure and an important one to have when an infection is underway. Today, we’ll discuss what a root canal is and what to expect during the procedure to help ease any anxiety.
The Root Canal Explained
A root canal is a dental procedure that eliminates bacteria from an infected root canal. The procedure deals with infection in the pulp of the tooth, which is the center part of a tooth that is made up of connective tissues, blood vessels, and cells. This is the part of the tooth that is alive and feeds your tooth vital nutrients to keep it healthy and working correctly. Another duty of the pulp is to act as a kind of alarm, meaning that when you have a toothache it’s the pulp that is sending pain or sensitivity your way. The pulp also gives teeth its color by creating dentin, which acts as a shield for the pulp.
As you can see, the pulp of a tooth is incredibly important to good oral health. This is why a root canal procedure is a great thing – it saves the tooth from being extracted and infection from spreading to the gums.
The Root Canal Procedure
Before we discuss the root canal procedure itself, let’s go over some of the signs of needing the treatment:
- Severe tooth pain when chewing or applying pressure.
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the source of the sensation is gone. For example, a cold drink of water causing tooth pain and that sensitivity lasting even after the water has been drunk.
- Discoloration or darkening of the tooth.
- Swelling and tenderness in the gum nerve.
- Persistent and recurring pimples on the gums.
It’s important to note that your dentist may find infection even without any of these symptoms, and so a root canal will likely be recommended.
For a root canal procedure itself, here is what you can expect:
- A root canal can require one or more office visits and can be performed by either your dentist or an endodontist.
- First, an X-ray is taken to see the shape of the root canals and to see if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
- Anesthesia is administered, though sometimes it isn’t necessary if the nerve is dead.
- To keep the area dry and free of saliva, your dentist will put a rubber dam around the tooth.
- An access hole is then drilled into the tooth to remove the pulp, bacteria, and debris from inside. This is done using root canal files that increase in diameter, and each one is placed into the access hold to scrape and scrub the inside of the root canal.
- To flush away debris, the dentist will use water or sodium hypochlorite periodically.
- Once everything is cleared out and the tooth cleaned the dentist will seal it. Sometimes dentists will wait a week before doing this if medication is needed to help fight infection. If this is the case, or a follow-up root canal procedure is needed, the dentist will place a temporary filling to keep contaminants out in the meantime.
- The last step in a root canal isn’t always necessary but involves the restoration of the tooth via a crown or crown and post. Your dentist will discuss these options with you.
Now that you know more about what is involved in a root canal, you can see that it isn’t the terrifying procedure so many think it is. In fact, we perform root canals at our office and you can find information on that service here.
We have numerous payment options available and if you have dental benefits, we will submit your claims on your behalf. We also welcome cash, Visa, MasterCard, and e-Transfer payment methods to help make the dentist visit as pain-free as possible.