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Uncover the Truth About Root Canal Treatment

If you’re never had a root canal procedure before, you’re probably feeling apprehensive. Learning the benefits the procedure offers and what will happen during the procedure can take away some of the nervousness. Saving your tooth with the treatment will not hurt; it will end the pain you’re feeling now. Years ago, root canals were painful, but today, dentists have better options for anesthesia that make the procedure virtually painless. If you think you need a root canal, it’s best to visit a qualified dentist right away.

Why Do I Need a Root Canal?

Inside our teeth, we have pulp. It contains blood vessels, tissues and nerves. If the pulp becomes infected, your dentist will suggest removing it with root canal therapy. Your dentist will remove the infected pulp to stop the infection from spreading and to stop the pain. Pulp does not serve any real purpose in adult teeth. A root canal preserves the tooth, eliminating the need for an extraction. It’s always better to keep a natural tooth if possible. Missing teeth can cause problems with eating and speaking, plus a missing tooth can make your smile less attractive.

What Are the Warning Signs I May Need a Root Canal?

While some people don’t have any symptoms, this is rare. Pain is what drives most people to call a dentist. You may experience:

  • Persistent, often intense pain that can keep you awake at night
  • Prolonged tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks that persists after the stimulus is gone
  • A swollen cheek
  • A small bump on the gum above the tooth
  • An abscess
  • Swollen gums that appear bright red
  • A fever
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, consult a dentist immediately. While you may think you need a root canal, the reality is that most of the symptoms listed above can also be related to other conditions. However, that just means that they are serious and should be checked out by a dentist as soon as possible. Most of the reasons behind the symptoms listed above will not heal themselves if left alone. You will most likely always need medical intervention. So, it’s important that you seek out that medical intervention before the problem becomes serious and requires a more invasive and expensive procedure to fix.

What Should I Ask My Dentist About a Root Canal?

If your dentist suggests root canal therapy, it’s only natural to have a few questions:

  1. Is root canal therapy right for me?
  2. Does it hurt afterwards when I’m healing?
  3. Is there any other procedure that could give me the same results?
  4. How do root canals work? Are there many steps in the process?
  5. How long will a root canal procedure take from start to finish?
  6. Is having a local anesthetic enough to make the treatment painless?
  7. Are there any risks associated with having root canal therapy?
  8. Will my treated tooth be as strong as it was before it became infected?
  9. What amount of the total cost will my dental insurance cover?
  10. How much do root canals cost? What do crowns cost?

A Step-by-Step Guide to a Root Canal Procedure

Before your root canal, your dentist will examine your tooth and take an x-ray to make sure the tooth can be preserved with the procedure. He or she will also explain the treatment which goes like this:

Step 1 – Preparation

Before treatment starts, your dentist will numb the tooth and surrounding gum tissue. Besides the local anesthetic, you can ask about an oral sedative before your appointment if you are feeling particularly apprehensive. Once you’re numb, the dentist will place a dental dam in your mouth that will keep saliva away from the tooth that he or she is working on, creating a sterile environment.

Step 2 – Extracting the Pulp

Your dentist will have to drill a hole in your tooth to reach the pulp. This is done from the chewing surface of back teeth or the back of front teeth. Dentists use small files to remove the pulp, periodically flushing the canals. Finally, the canals are shaped to receive the filling.

Step 3 – Filling the Canals

Your dentist will fill the freshly cleaned and dried canals with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material that is biocompatible. The material is then heated and pressed against the canal walls. Sealing the canals will prevent them from becoming infected again. Finally, your dentist will place a temporary filling over the access hole.

Step 4 – Your Next Appointment

You’ll make a subsequent appointment to have a crown placed over the tooth to protect it.

Root canals can take between 30 minutes and one and a half hours, depending on how many root canals the tooth has. Front teeth normally have one canal while molars can have up to four canals.

Will I Feel Pain After My Root Canal?

Many people wonder if their tooth will hurt after having root canal therapy. The nerves in the tooth are removed during the procedure, so any pain the individual experienced before having the procedure is gone. The tooth can feel sensitive for a day or two afterward, but an OTC pain reliever can manage this. If there is throbbing pain afterward, contact your dentist immediately.

How Can I Help My Tooth Heal?

Your tooth can fracture easily after root canal treatment, so it is important not to chew on the affected side until you have your crown. It’s also important not to eat until the numbness wears off. People have bitten their tongue or cheek by not waiting long enough and that can be unpleasant. Stopping smoking before the procedure and afterward will help your body heal faster.

Final Restorations

Once you receive your crown, you will have a fully functional tooth once again. With a crown, the tooth can last a lifetime. An affordable dentist can help you choose the best crown material for you.

Now that you know all about root canal therapy, if you think you may need the procedure, contact our office right away.

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