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What to expect before getting a root canal

September 20, 2021

Even though over 15 million people get root canals performed every year, it still remains one of the most misunderstood and feared dental procedures, mostly due to misconceptions and misinformation. Despite all the hype, root canals are quite common and serve to rid your teeth of damaged tissue and seal your tooth so no new bacteria can enter. 

Root canals are here to help protect and preserve smiles all across the globe. Let’s go over the ins and outs of this misunderstood procedure and discuss how the root canal has evolved to be effectively pain-free with the advances of modern dentistry.

What Is A Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that aims to repair and save badly damaged or infected teeth from having to be extracted. The term “root canal” comes from cleaning of the canals inside a tooth’s root. 

A root canal is so-called for when the soft inner part of a tooth, known as the pulp, is injured or becomes inflamed or infected. The crown (visible part above your gums) of the tooth can remain intact even if the pulp is dead, so removing decaying or infected pulp is the best way to preserve the structure of the tooth.

Is A Root Canal Painful?

Like any involved dental procedure, a root canal can be a bit uncomfortable as it heals, but it’s not as painful as not getting it done, which means living with a cracked tooth or a perpetual tooth infection. People’s pain tolerance can vary widely, so it’s incredibly hard to predict how painful a root canal may be for any specific individual.

Advances in modern dentistry have enabled for quicker, less invasive, and less painful procedures, especially with the advent of sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry allows for the patient to go under general anesthesia, and allows the dentist to provide a variety of dental treatments safely and comfortably for patients who experience anxiety when visiting the dentist.

What Are The Signs That Indicate A Root Canal Is Necessary?

A root canal may be in your future if you start to exhibit some or all of these warning signs:

  • Tooth sensitivity that lingers, especially to heat or cold
  • Sharp pain when chewing or biting
  • Pimples on your gums
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Swollen or painful gums
  • Deep decay or darkened gums

Root Canal Procedure: What to Expect

A dentist or endodontist will perform your root canal. An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in the causes, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and injuries of dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth. If your root canal may be more difficult, your dentist may recommend an endodontist.

Your root canal will follow these steps:

  1. Your dentist will take an X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area near the tooth. Most dentists anesthetize the area to make you feel more relaxed even if the tooth isn’t that bad.
  2. The next step is drilling an access into the tooth. The pulp, bacteria, and decayed nerve tissue are removed from the tooth. Then the area is cleaned out using a series of specialty files. As the work is done, water or sodium hypochlorite will be sprayed in the area to flush away the debris.
  3. After the tooth is filed and cleaned, it’s sealed. Some dentists like to wait a week before sealing the tooth. For instance, if there is an infection, your dentist may put medication inside the tooth first. Others may choose to seal the tooth the same day it is cleaned out. A temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole in the tooth to keep out saliva and food between appointments if it is getting sealed at a later date.
  4. At the next appointment, a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha are placed into the root canal and a filling closes the hole. You may need a crown to protect it, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to full function. Your dentist will discuss the need for any additional dental work with you.

What Happens If You Don’t Get The Root Canal?

Do not ignore the above symptoms. If left untreated, the infection in your tooth can spread to other parts of your body, and in some cases can even become life threatening. The bacteria and other decayed debris can cause an infection or abscessed tooth. An infection in the root canal of a tooth can also cause:

  • Swelling that could possibly spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head
  • Bone loss around the tip of the tooth root
  • Drainage problems that extend outward from the root. A hole can occur through the side of the tooth and drain into the gums or through the cheek with drainage into the skin.

Exceptional Dentistry For A Radiant Smile

Although procedures like root canals and crowns aren’t what anyone wants, sometimes they’re unavoidable. 

Carrie Muzny DDS offers the highest-quality dental services for our patients in The Woodlands and surrounding areas. Our highly acclaimed dentists are not only trained in modern preventative techniques, but also have attained academic honors and continue to refine their craft year after year in preventative dentistry, restorative dentistry, surgical procedures, and cosmetic dentistry. 

Get that perfect smile you’ve been dreaming of and contact us today. You can even request a virtual consultation!

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