One of the teeth in the back of your mouth has been throbbing for a day or two. You know you need to have your dentist look at it, but you’re worried that he’s going to tell you that you need a root canal procedure.
You’ve heard the horror stories. Can they really be true? Are root canal treatments as painful as the stories say they are?
To help you overcome your anxiety, here is all the information you need to know about the root canal process.
What is a Root Canal?
According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), the stories about painful root canals are just not true. The procedure will relieve the pain in your tooth, not cause more.
The pain level and ease of the process is similar to getting a routine filling. A root canal is simply the removal of the infected part of the tooth. This is done to save the tooth by preventing the infection from getting worse and possibly causing more damage.
Your tooth is made up of a top layer of white enamel. Underneath the enamel is a hard layer called the dentin. Inside the dentin is soft tissue called pulp. This is made up of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues.
In the beginning, as your tooth developed, the pulp helped its roots to grow. Once your tooth was fully formed, it no longer needed the pulp. A root canal, also called an Endodontic treatment, is simply the removal of the infected pulp.
Advantages of Keeping Your Tooth
Being able to keep your natural tooth will not only help with your oral health, but also your self-esteem. Your natural tooth will, of course, look better with your other teeth.
It will also help keep the natural alignment of your jaw. This will give you a normal feel to your bite when you are chewing. With your natural tooth, you will be able to chew and talk in the way you have always been accustomed to.
Causes of Infection
There are several ways a tooth can become infected. One of the main reasons is simply poor oral health. Not brushing, flossing, or rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash can create bacteria in your mouth that can cause cavities. If the cavities are left untreated, they can become infected and cause tooth decay.
Other causes include repeated dental procedures to the same tooth, a faulty crown, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the tooth. There doesn’t have to be visible evidence of trauma for the tooth to become infected.
Root Canal Treatments
A root canal treatment will generally take one to two visits depending on your individual needs. Your dentist will take x-rays to establish the need for a root canal and to determine the extent of the infection.
When the final diagnosis is made, and you are over your fear of having the treatment, your dentist or Endodontist will give you a local anesthesia to numb the tooth and the surrounding gum tissue. The shot will make it so you feel little to no pain during the root canal process. Don’t worry, your dentist doesn’t begin his work until the whole area is completely numb.
Before your dentist begins working on the tooth, they may place a dental dam in your mouth. This is a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl that the infected tooth is pushed through to isolate it from the rest of your mouth. The material keeps bacteria found in your mouth and saliva from getting into the open tooth.
A small hole is then drilled into the tooth to gain access to the pulp chamber and root canals. If the tooth is toward the back of your mouth, the hole will be drilled on the biting surface of the tooth. For a front tooth, the dentist will drill into its back. The infected pulp is removed through the access hole with a special tool
After the pulp is removed, the empty canals are filled with a thermoplastic material called gutta-percha. This material is heated and compressed into the empty root canals and sealed with an adhesive cement.
This secures the tooth from becoming re-infected. A temporary or permanent filling is placed in the access hole to create a seal. If a dental dam was used, it will then be removed. You are almost done.
After a couple of weeks, you will be scheduled for a follow-up visit to ensure your tooth is healed. At this time a permanent restoration, such as a crown or a filling, will be put on your tooth.
Prevention and Diagnosis
The best way to prevent the need for a root canal treatment is to have a good at-home oral hygiene routine, and go for regular dental checkups.
A professional dental office, such as Aesthetic Family Dentistry in Arizona, can evaluate your oral health and determine if there are any issues that need to be taken care of such as an infected tooth.
If you are in the Phoenix, Arizona area, contact Aesthetic Family Dentistry today. Our trained professional dental staff can assist you and your entire family with information, diagnosis, and treatment of many oral health issues including the root canal process.