While prevention is the best medicine, sometimes a tooth that is badly decayed or infected needs a root canal. When most patients learn they’re going to need a root canal, their first question is, “Does it hurt?”
They used to, but modern root canal therapy is relatively painless and treatment is very effective.
Root canals, or endodontic therapy if you want to be fancy, is a procedure to eliminate infection. Left untreated, an infected tooth can kill you—in addition to being pretty painful, of course. Before dentistry, casualties from infection were much more common.
Fortunately, modern medicine is equipped to handily deal with infected teeth before complications can occur, and that’s where the root canal comes in.
Why Do People Need Root Canals?
Your teeth aren’t just solid bone. They’re made from dentin (a bone-like substance) and enamel on the outside, and on the inside there is the pulp. The pulp consists of connective tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. These enter the tooth via a small channel in the root, known as the “root canal.”
If your tooth is hurting, you’re well aware of the presence of nerves. The structures in the pulp of your tooth transmit sensations (such as “hot” or “cold”) through your nervous system.
The hard structures of dentin and enamel protect your teeth. However, tooth decay can result in cavity formation. When the hole in your tooth gets big enough and is left untreated, bacteria from your mouth can find their way into the pulp of your teeth and cause an infection.
Sometimes the infection results in an abscess, which is like a blister that forms around the roots of your tooth. Besides the discomfort and difficulty eating, the big threat from an abscessed tooth is that the infection could spread to your brain or heart, cause sepsis, or result in pneumonia.
Root canal therapy is the procedure to remove the infected pulp and replace it with a filling. After treatment, the tooth will function as it should and the infection will be cleared.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
The patient likely came in because of a bad toothache. During this appointment, we make a good assessment and take X-rays to identify the exact shape of the root and the infected area. If we recommend endodontic treatment, we set that up as soon as possible with a trusted North Las Vegas endodontist.
2. Prepare the tooth for treatment. The first thing we do during treatment is numb the affected area. We then apply a rubber dam around the tooth to keep the working area dry. The dentist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth for clear access into the pulp chamber.
3. Clear the damaged material. The dentist removes the damaged and infected nerves from the crown of the tooth and the root canal. The area is then cleaned up a bit and shaped so that it can be properly filled.
4. Filling the tooth. The canal itself is filled with a special, rubbery material. The affected tooth gets a regular filling or a dental crown to restore it to full function. Sometimes, the initial crown is temporary and the patient returns in a few days to receive the permanent filling.
What Should I Expect After a Root Canal?
Your tooth and the surrounding area are probably going to be sore and sensitive for a couple of days after a root canal. Although your mouth will be sore for a little while, after the final sealing is complete, you can return to a normal oral hygiene routine immediately. Brush your teeth and floss as you normally would.
Do you have a tooth that’s bothering you? Afraid you need a root canal? Give our North Las Vegas dental practice a call and we’ll be more than happy to discuss your options together.
~Dr. Zachary Soard