The mere mention of a root canal makes many people wince, even if they aren’t entirely sure what is involved in the procedure. Despite the misconceptions surrounding them, root canals aren’t torturous treatments designed to trap you in the dentist’s chair for hours on end and cause unspeakable pain. In fact, living with a decayed tooth is far more painful than getting a root canal. Root canals can save teeth that are severely infected or badly damaged, preventing tooth loss. Plus, modern treatments are fast and comfortable thanks to today’s advanced technologies and techniques.
The Anatomy of a Root Canal
To understand what happens during a root canal treatment, you need to know a bit about the anatomy of a tooth. Each tooth has several layers. The enamel is the hard outer shell. The second layer is dentin, a calcified body tissue that is structured like bone but slightly softer than actual bone. The pulp, the third layer, is the soft core of the tooth. Here, you’ll find the live tissue, blood vessels, connective tissues, and nerves. The pulp stretches from the tooth’s crown to the tip of its roots, deep beneath the gum line.
If a tooth is cracked or develops a deep cavity, the pulp can be exposed and bacteria can slip inside and contaminate its tender tissue. This may result in a painful and destructive infection. To protect the tooth and relieve your pain, your dentist will likely recommend a root canal.
Before your dentist recommends a root canal, you will likely notice some warning signs that the pulp of your tooth is in danger. For example, you may discover a hole or crack in your tooth, experience a toothache or tooth pain, encounter issues with temperature sensitivity, or have swelling around the gums, face, or neck. If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with Duff Family Dental as soon as possible.
What Happens During a Root Canal Treatment?
During a root canal, your dentist will remove the infected, dead tissue from the pulp space of the tooth. Then, the damaged tooth will be sealed for protection. The procedure typically involves the following steps:
- X-rays. Your dentist will use X-ray images to pinpoint the location of the decay.
- Anesthesia. Local anesthesia enhances the patient’s comfort during the root canal. Despite its reputation, a root canal is usually no more uncomfortable than having a filling.
- Pulpectomy. During the pulpectomy, your dentist will open the tooth to remove the diseased or dead pulp tissue. The chamber may be rinsed with an antimicrobial solution to eliminate any lingering bacteria and prevent infection.
- Filling. Finally, your dentist will fill the tooth’s roots with a rubber-like material (gutta-percha) and seal the tooth with a filling. Depending on the severity of the infection, you dentist may prescribe antibiotics.
A root canal can often save a tooth, but it may not be able to restore it to full strength. Your dentist will likely place a crown on your tooth to restore its strength and functionality. After restoration, your tooth will operate like any other tooth.
After a Root Canal
In the days immediately following a root canal treatment, the tooth and nearby gum tissue might be tender. Most people find that over-the-counter pain medications provide sufficient relief. If the discomfort or pressure lasts for more than a few days, contact your dentist. Ultimately, a tooth that has undergone a root canal and been topped with a quality crown should look and function normally. With proper care, including a good oral hygiene regimen and regular dental checkups, your restored tooth could potentially last a lifetime.
If you are struggling with tooth pain and wondering if a root canal treatment might be necessary, please contact Duff Family Dental as soon as possible to protect your tooth and alleviate your pain. We’re proud to serve the community of Springfield, Missouri, and our team would be delighted to assist you with your dental health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.