Root canals remain one of the most dreaded procedures by dental patients. They are often associated with pain and discomfort. However, the damage, decay and infection are the actual cause of the pain, the procedure itself typically addresses the problem. The fact is that getting a root canal is essentially painless and not so different from having a cavity filled.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is the process by which a dentist relieves pain related to an infected or abscessed tooth. Root canal therapy removes the infected tooth pulp, cleans and disinfects the inner-tooth, then replaces the problematic area with a filling.
Root canals become necessary when bacteria is allowed to infect the pulp inside your teeth. More often than not, this happens because a cavity is left untreated, or there is a significate crack in the tooth. Many people may not know the signs and symptoms of when they need a root canal, let alone recognize when a cavity needs to be addressed. The two best strategies for avoiding a root canal, and cavities more generally, are to get twice-yearly dental check-ups and brush and floss at least twice daily.
A few signs that you may need root canal therapy include:
- Persistent tooth pain
- Oral sensitivity to heat or cold
- Swollen gums
- A loose tooth
- Chipped or cracked tooth
How Should I Prepare for a Root Canal?
Many people may stress about the root canal as they prepare for the procedure. Their tooth hurts and they believe there will be additional pain associated with treating the tooth. But as mentioned earlier, the process of getting a root canal rarely involves pain. It is really the lead-up to the root canal that is painful because the infection continues to affect the tooth’s nerves.
All that said, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your root canal. The first is to make sure to take any medications your dentist prescribes. Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be used a few days prior to a root canal to reduce swelling and tamp down on the infection. This makes it easier to conduct a root canal with the added benefit of cutting down on root canal pain.
You should also avoid smoking leading up to a root canal. Tobacco use interferes with the body’s ability to heal. Lastly, eat a healthy meal in advance of the procedure. The local anesthesia necessary to reduce root canal pain means your mouth will be numb for a few hours after the procedure.
What Happens During Root Canal Therapy?
Dentists begin root canal therapy by x-raying the affected tooth. This gives them a clear picture of the damage. Then they apply local anesthesia to numb the infected area. People who struggle with anxiety during dental procedures may also be given a sedative like nitrous oxide. Once the anesthesia has taken hold, the dentist will place a dental dam to isolate the area they are working on to keep it dry. Next, they drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the infected pulp. Intricate instruments then remove the infected pulp and the area is cleaned and disinfected.
The empty space left behind gets filled with a composite substance and a temporary dental crown is applied to protect the tooth. A permanent crown must be custom-made and will replace the temporary one. Throughout the whole process, root canal pain should be absent. The anesthesia ensures patients feel nothing more than a bit of pressure in the area being worked on.
Pain should remain absent after root canal therapy is complete as well. Some sensitivity is to be expected. However, if you experience intense pain following a root canal, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider as that is not normal.
Contact Columbia Smiles
Columbia Smiles is here to help you and your family with tooth pain. Should you need root canal therapy, Columbia Smiles will point you in the right direction. Moreover, we do our best to equip patients with the knowledge to successfully care for their teeth such that root canals become less common.
Contact 410.690.4855 to access exceptional dental services.