Root Canals

Debunking Root Canal Procedure

We hope just reading the title did not make you shudder!  If it did, keep reading.  We aim to change your mind.

A root canal has a bad reputation that they do not deserve.  Movies and TV shows portray them as some form of torture.  In reality, root canals relieve the pain of a bad toothache.  They are the treatment to STOP pain, not cause it.

What is a Root Canal?

Technically, the phrase “root canal” is an anatomical term describing the hollow, inner chamber inside each tooth.  Teeth contain a hard outer shell (enamel), a slightly softer core structure (dentin), and the hollow space (root canal) containing nerves and blood vessels (pulp).

Different teeth have different procedure configurations.  Some teeth have only one canal, and others have multiple canals.  This is why the treatment of a root canal varies in complexity.  Some are very simple and straightforward; others are complicated.

What is Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal treatment is the removal of the nerves and blood vessels (pulp) from the inner hollow canal inside a tooth and the filling-in of that space with a biocompatible material.  All infected and inflamed tissue comes out, and a sealed filling goes in.

The treatment requires a sterile operating field, so your dentist will use a device called a rubber dam to keep the tooth isolated and sterile as he or she works.  It keeps your tooth free from any bacteria inside your mouth, and it keeps your mouth free from any tools and materials the dentist must use to clean the tooth.

Some procedures require two visits: one to initially clean out the pulp and apply medication inside the tooth, and the second to complete the filling process.  Two visits are more likely when a tooth is very infected or very complicated.

When is a Root Canal Necessary?

A root canal is necessary when the pulp tissue (nerves and blood vessels) inside a tooth either have become infected with bacteria or irreversibly inflamed (meaning they cannot heal themselves).  The nerve inside a tooth has very limited ability to heal itself or regenerate.  For this reason, teeth that have bad injuries such as trauma or large cavities require root canals to heal them.

Most people think of a root canal treatment as the treatment for a bad toothache.  Surprisingly, some people need root canals for teeth that do not hurt at all!  If the nerve inside a tooth dies, it does not cause a toothache.  The dead tissue does require removal, though.  When left untreated, the dead tissue becomes an abscess and runs the risk of spreading infection throughout your body.  So sometimes, a root canal is necessary even when there is no pain.

Are there Treatment Alternatives?

There is only one alternative to a root canal: extraction of the tooth.  Once the nerve is either infected or irreversibly inflamed, it must be removed.  You can choose to remove only the nerve and blood vessels inside the tooth with a root canal, or you can remove the entire tooth.

Is the Procedure Dangerous?

No!

Root canals are a predictable, safe dental procedure.  Many years of research show that root canals do not cause any long-term damage to the tissues around a tooth.

In fact, not having a root canal when you need one is what is really dangerous!  Infections from teeth can spread to the brain, the bloodstream, or the airway and kill you.  Infected teeth can destroy the jawbone and gum tissue around them.  If you know that you need a root canal, do not delay in getting treatment.  Your health is at stake!

Do I Need to See a Specialist?

Sometimes.

Endodontist are root canal specialists.  These are dentists who received extensive training focused on this speciality procedure after completing dental school.  Endodontists treat complicated root canal cases on a daily basis.  They have unique equipment and materials necessary to perfectly clean a tooth with multiple canals or twists and turns.  Your dentist will determine whether or not you need to see a specialist for your root canal procedure based on the complexity of your case.

Do I Have to Have a Crown Over the Root Canal?

Almost always, yes.

A root canal procedure removes all of the soft tissue inside a tooth, including the nerves and blood vessels.  This removes the fluid supply to the tooth, making it dried out and brittle.  Root canal treated teeth are very likely to crack and break.

This is a dangerous situation because the tooth has no nerve inside to warn you if it begins to crack.  By the time you realize the tooth is cracking, it will be too late to save it.

A crown covers over the tooth, holding it together and preventing any cracking forces from breaking the tooth.  Almost all teeth with root canals require a crown to cover them.  The very rare exceptions include small front teeth with no cavity and no risk for heavy chewing forces.

Does a Root Canal Hurt?

No.

During the procedure, your dentist uses local anesthetic to completely numb the tooth.  An infected tooth can require more anesthetic to achieve the numbness, and antibiotics are often a part of your treatment.  If you feel pain during any dental procedure, you need only to tell your dentist so that more anesthetic can relieve your discomfort.

There is usually some pain or discomfort after the root canal.  Just like any dental procedure, your mouth may be tender or sore.  Take the medication recommended by your dentist or endodontist on a strict schedule to alleviate this post-operative pain.

More Questions about Root Canals?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists.  They will assess your current situation and help you get the treatment you need, avoiding a dangerous infection!