Dental procedures have become much easier and less painful in recent years thanks to rapid advancements in technology. The one procedure that most people still get worked up about is the root canal. The reason being that when a root canal is recommended by your dentist it is likely because the effected tooth is so inflamed and sensitive that the only option is to remove the nerve and seal the tooth so it does not become infected again in the future.
Inside of the tooth, there is an area known as the pulp that consists of nerves, blood vessels, and soft tissue. The chamber inside the tooth that contains the pulp is aptly named the pulp chamber and this hollow cavity extends down bone structures called canals that connect to the roots of the surrounding teeth and jawbone. A root canal procedure is usually done by a specialist who has gone through years of specific training, but a general practice dentist can also perform the procedure without any issues.
The procedure consists of putting the patient under local anesthetic and then drilling into the infected tooth to remove all of the inflamed pulp contained inside. Once the pulp chamber is empty it is disinfected and filled with a substance similar to what is used to fill cavities. The top of the tooth is then sealed to prevent future infection. The numbness from the local anesthetic used will usually wear off in a few hours and you should be feeling well enough to return to work or school on the same day as the procedure.
Root canals are not just necessary in the case of deep cavities that cause inflammation. They may be needed after a traumatic incident has cracked one or several teeth or the infection may be due to genetics. One of the most common symptoms reported by patients is an intense and painful reaction to hot and cold sensations. Other symptoms you should be on the lookout for are pain while chewing, a cracked or missing tooth, swollen and tender gums, and any darkening of the gums. If you are getting your teeth cleaned 1 - 2 times per year, your dentist should recognize these signs and recommend an alternative treatment long before a root canal is needed.
As mentioned above, the likelihood of needing a root canal is drastically reduced if you are regularly seeing a dentist for cleanings. Beyond that, prevention is similar to what you would do to prevent cavities.
-Brush and Floss Regularly: The reason this is your dentist’s favorite piece of advice to pass on is that it works. Brushing and flossing twice a day breaks up bacteria on the surface of the teeth and prevents the buildup of plaque which reduces the risk of decay.
-Visit Your Dentist Often: It is recommended that you visit a dentist 1 - 2 times per year, but for the vast majority of people in the US it’s either once per year or not at all. Getting your teeth cleaned may seem inconvenient, but it is much more manageable and cost-effective than a root canal in the future.
If you think you may be in need of a root canal or are experiencing discomfort or pain, give our experienced team at Ponderosa Smiles a call!