Nothing inspires fear and anxiety at the dentist like a root canal. Long feared as a painful and expensive procedure, the root canal has gotten a bad reputation. Yet millions of teeth are treated - and saved - with this procedure every year. If you or a loved one has been told they need the procedure, or worse, are afraid to go to the dentist for fear of being told, you can stop worrying. The experts at Artistic Smiles are here to help guide you through the not-so-painful process. Let’s start by talking about the anatomy of a tooth.
Parts Of A Tooth
Each of your teeth is made up of several layers. The shiny, protective outer layer is called the enamel, and beneath that is a hard layer called dentin. Beneath that is the soft tissue called the pulp. Extending from the top of the tooth (the crown) to the tip of the root, the pulp contains connective tissue, numerous nerves, and a large number of blood vessels. The pulp was critical during the tooth’s development. However, the tooth is capable of surviving without the pulp once it is mature because it continues to be nourished by the surrounding tissue.
What Is A Root Canal?
A root canal is a surgical procedure used to repair or save a tooth that is badly damaged. When the pulp is damaged and begins to die, bacteria multiply within the pulp chamber, causing infection or even an abscess. During a root canal, the pulp is removed, and the remaining part of the tooth is cleaned as well as sealed.
How Did The Pulp Get Damaged?
There are many ways a tooth’s pulp could be damaged. Large fillings, a cracked or damaged tooth, multiple dental procedures or even blunt trauma to the face can all damage the tooth’s inner pulp.
How Do I Know If I Need A Root Canal?
While there are sometimes no symptoms, common signs that you may need a root canal include prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, discoloration of the tooth, gum swelling or tenderness, or a recurring pimple at the site. The most common sign is a severe toothache, especially one that is worse with chewing or application of pressure.
What Is The Procedure Like?
A root canal can be done as an outpatient procedure, and usually takes only one or two visits. First, we get an x-ray to evaluate the root of your tooth. Then we numb the area using a local anesthetic and place a rubber dam around the tooth to keep it dry. We then drill an access hole into the tooth and clean out the pulp using root canal files and water or sodium hypochlorite to flush out debris. Once clean, the tooth can either be sealed with a temporary crown, or we can proceed to the next step: the filling.
At the next appointment, or the day depending on the extent of the damage, we fill the interior of the tooth using a rubber known as gutta-percha and a sealer paste. We seal the exterior access hole with a filling, then perform any necessary restoration of the tooth, such as a crown.
Afterwards, you may feel some tooth sensitivity, which can be controlled with over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.
Are There Any Risks?
Although root canals are safe and effective, with a greater than 95% success rate, they are a surgical procedure and can have complications. Excessive bleeding, surgical site pain are potential complications. Infection is another possible complication, especially if the tooth cracks or is not properly filled.
If you or a loved one believe you might need a root canal, the experts at Artistic Smiles are here to help. We pride ourselves on creating unique treatment plans that are personalized to your needs. Call 424 781-1400 to book your appointment today!