Root Canals: What You Need to Know

When you hear the term root canal during a dentist visit, you may have a preconceived notion that immediately causes fear. Root canals are frequently performed endodontic therapy procedures that remove an infection from the patient’s tooth and relieve the associated pain. If your dentist has recommended this procedure, it is important to follow through to reduce the risk of losing the tooth permanently. Learning what to expect during the root canal process can help calm your concerns.

Diagnosis for Possible Root Canal Treatment

The first step in the root canal process involves the diagnosis itself. Dentists use symptoms and an examination to determine if a root canal is needed. Some indicators of damage that would call for this procedure are a pain when eating or putting pressure on the area of concern, tooth sensitivity to heat and cold, discoloration of the tooth, and tender or swollen gums near the tooth in question. Some patients also develop a bump that resembles a pimple near the affected tooth that reveals evidence of infection. Once the affected area is examined, a diagnosis can be made, and a root canal may be recommended.

Preparation for a Root Canal

The root canal process takes place in a few steps. Before the procedure begins, the dentist usually takes x-rays to gain more understanding about the extent of the damage and infection. The dentist can use the x-rays to decide on the best way to attack the problem. The x-rays may be completed on the same day as the procedure or in advance during the diagnosis.

Numbing Your Gums

As the procedure begins, the first step is numbing the area with a local anesthetic. The anesthetic is used to keep you comfortable during the procedure and to prevent pain. Some patients who have fears of dental procedures may request sedation dentistry if it is available. If you choose to add sedation dentistry to your root canal procedure, it will either be given orally or intravenously. An anesthesiologist oversees the IV sedation process, but if you choose oral sedation, it will be handled by the dentist. Once you have either received sedation or have been numbed with a local anesthetic, the actual endodontic therapy process begins.

Tooth Damage Removal

The dentist removes the damaged pulp tissue inside the tooth during endodontic therapy. To access the diseased tissue, the dentist drills a small hole in the center of the tooth. The damaged pulp is removed in small bits until the area becomes hollow, and the area can be decontaminated, irrigated, and reshaped using small tools. Removal of the pulp means that the tooth is now dead, so additional protective measures need to be taken before the procedure is complete.

Sealing the Tooth

After the tooth pulp has been removed, the root canal is hollow and needs to be filled to prevent further issues. The canal is filled with a rubber-like compound and topped off with dental cement as a filling to close off the canal entirely. In some cases, such as when a standard crown will not fit, the sealing process is not completed on the same day. A temporary filling may be put in place, and you will need to come in for a follow up to get a permanent filling and crown placed. Some dentists allow extra time for any remaining material to drain before sealing.

Placing the Crown

The final step in the root canal process is having a crown fitted. After the damaged pulp is removed, the tooth needs a new nourishment source, which it finds in the ligament that keeps the tooth attached to the jaw bone. Unfortunately, this ligament source does not provide the same amount of nourishment and support as the pulp, so the tooth will continue to become more brittle over time and must be protected with a larger filling or crown. Customized crowns provide the most protection and reduce the chance of a broken tooth in the future.

Healing and Getting Back to Normal

Aftercare for a root canal is not a difficult process. Depending on the procedure your dentist uses, the entire process can be done in one appointment or spread out over more. After the crown or permanent structure has been placed, you will probably experience some tooth sensitivity for a period of time. During the healing process and thereafter, you should continue to perform proper dental hygiene care. Your dentist will check on your dental work any time you come in for a regularly scheduled cleaning.

More Root Canal Information

Although the root canal process has a bad reputation, most patients find it no more painful or stressful than getting a cavity filled. The process can take several appointments, but when it is complete, you should be in much less pain and have functionality back in your teeth. If you are concerned that you may need a root canal or want to learn more about the root canal procedure, contact Ingenious Dentistry for further information about their dental processes. Call (713) 234-6696 to schedule an appointment today!

Featured Image: Getty Images / Damir Khabirov