[VIDEO BLOG] Root Canals—What You’ll Want to Know

We’ve thoroughly discussed the topic of dental treatment avoidance due to anxiety. It’s estimated that nearly 75% of adults in the United States experience some amount of fear with regards to visiting a dentist. This fear compounds when it comes to the need for more complex procedures like a root canal. Many times, fear originates from not knowing what the procedure will entail, or from misinformation shared by well-meaning friends and family about their own experiences.  


While your friend from work might think she’s helping you out by reliving her own root canal in graphic detail, the truth is that this is more likely to cause stress and anxietyand increase the likelihood of you canceling your appointment.  


People fear root canals because they assume they’re painful. But in reality, most people report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed. The discomfort experienced in the period leading up to seeking dental care is, however, truly painful. Since we know how important it is that you keep the appointment and ensure your tooth gets repaired, we want to give you a straight forward and no-exaggeration explanation of the root canal procedure.  


How do I know I need a root canal? 


Root canal therapy is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected. Telltale signs of an infected tooth include: 


  • A severe toothache or extreme pain while chewing or applying pressure 
  • Sensitivity to varying temperatures, even after the heat or cold has been removed 
  • Swelling or tenderness in the gums 
  • And a discoloration or darkening of the tooth 


The pain you experience is the result of tooth decay that has penetrated the outer layers of the tooth. This could be spurred by cracks in the tooth that compound the problem. A root canal might be needed when the pulp in the tooth is damaged, meaning bacteria has grown in the chamber with the pulp. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the center of the tooth and contains the nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissue.  


How is a root canal procedure performed? 


The actual root canal procedure has a bad reputation. Maybe 30 years ago they were more painful, but most people now admit the most uncomfortable part is simply keeping your mouth open! 


Just like with many complex procedures, the root canal sometimes needs to take place over several office visits. Both dentists and endodontists are trained to perform a root canal, too, so it’s up to the patient to determine who they are most comfortable with. 


The first step in a root canal is to take an x-ray of the tooth to determine the shape of the root and look for signs of infection in the surrounding bone. A local anesthesia is then used to ensure the patient feels no pain throughout the procedure.  


Next, a small hole is drilled into the tooth to allow access to the pulp chamber. Through this hole, the pulp, bad bacteria and any other debris that has infiltrated the tooth will be removed. The interior of the tooth will be frequently flushed with water to ensure nothing is left behind.  


Once it’s determined that the tooth is cleaned out, it’s time for it to be sealed. Depending on the severity in the damage to the tooth, your dentist may choose to temporarily fill the hole and place a permanent filling at a later date. Many times, a tooth that needed a root canal has also suffered significant decay or will be showing weaknesses that could cause a problem in the future. If this is the case, your dentist might recommend a crown to be placed over the tooth to protect it.  


Will it hurt? 


The root canal procedure itself should not hurt, and if you are in pain you need to tell your dentist so they can make adjustments to make you comfortable.  


And not only should it not hurt, it should actually relieve you of significant pain. In the days following the procedure, you might experience soreness or sensitivity at the site of the work done. This pain can be managed by over the counter medications like ibuprofen. 


If your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, there’s no need to panic. As you can see, it’s a straightforward procure that should bring you relief from tooth pain. 

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