What You Need to Know About Root Canals

When you hear your dentist say the phrase, “root canal,” it may be difficult to keep calm. But once you understand this procedure better, you’ll see that it’s truly much more routine that it seems and much less painful than your imagination is telling you.

Why Do I Need a Root Canal?

For starters, your dentist will determine that you need a root canal when the pulp inside the roots of a tooth is infected. This usually occurs when a cavity has progressed to a more severe stage, but it can also occur due to a chipped or cracked tooth. The purpose of the root canal is twofold: the procedure relieves pain associated with the infection and saves a tooth from needing to be pulled by removing bacteria or dead tissue from inside the tooth. Leaving the problem untreated is risky, as an abscess (a swollen, pus-filled lump) can develop.

What Can I Expect During My Root Canal?

The oft-dreaded procedure is actually quite simple, and the pain will be minimal. Firstly, your dentist will use a needle to inject a local anesthetic, like novocaine, to numb the tooth and root. Like any shot, this will pinch, but it will be quick. Once your tooth is sufficiently numb, the dentist will proceed. Using a drill, the dentist will make an opening in the side of your tooth in order to access the roots. The dentist will then need to file out the infected pulp inside the root, and may also use water or an antibacterial solution (or both) to make sure that all pulp is washed away. Then, when the area is dry, the root will be filled with a rubbery material. The tooth will also receive a temporary filling. You can expect to be comfortable during all of these portions of the procedure, as the local aesthetic will protect you from feeling pain.

What to Expect After My Root Canal

Immediately following the procedure, you can expect to experience some sensitivity in the tooth. Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, or perhaps a prescription if you were experiencing a great deal of inflammation and discomfort before having your root canal.

After a couple of week, your dentist will remove the temporary filling and put a crown in place to better protect the tooth. It’s also possible that your dentist will want to take X-rays of the tooth to ensure that any infection has resolved completely. After these steps are complete, you can feel confident your tooth is healed and protected!