Why Root Canals Don’t Deserve Their Bad Rap
Sometimes a toothache can become so overwhelming that only two possible solutions exist to make the pain go away: Get a root canal or have the tooth pulled.
If you need a root canal, you’re not alone. More than 15 million root canals are performed annually. At ProDent Care, my goal is to help relieve any anxiety you may have about the procedure, so you can have the tooth treated and return to living without tooth pain.
Are root canals painful?
Much of the anxiety surrounding root canals relates to fears about how much it may hurt, because many people think root canals cause excruciating pain. But today’s root canals don’t deserve that reputation. When performed under local anesthesia, root canals aren’t any more painful than getting a regular filling for a cavity.
The truth is, the pain you’re already experiencing from the diseased tooth pulp will actually be relieved by the root canal. The procedure helps in another key way, too -- it preserves your tooth’s structure.
Anatomy of a tooth
The outer part of the tooth is the white enamel, with a hard layer underneath called dentin.
Inside each tooth is the pulp, which is soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp supplies the blood that brings nutrients to keep the tooth alive. The pulp extends down into the tooth’s roots, and the thin channels housing the pulp are called the root canals.
So the term “root canal” actually has two meanings. It’s both the name of the procedure and the part of your tooth that’s treated by it. During the procedure, the diseased pulp is removed and the root canals are cleaned out, disinfected, and filled.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
Many times a toothache or sensitivity to hot and cold alerts you to a problem with the tooth. Sometimes there’s a small bump on the outside of your gum that indicates there’s an infection. The infection in the pulp can stem from many issues, such as a crack in the tooth, problems with a filling, or trauma to the tooth.
What is a root canal procedure like?
If we haven’t already taken them, obtaining current X-rays is the first step to examine the structure of the tooth and its roots. Next, comes the actual root canal which entails a number of steps:
- The area is numbed with a local anesthetic, and a small rubber sheet called a dental dam may be placed around the tooth to keep it dry.
- A small hole is drilled in the tooth, then small instruments are used to carefully remove the diseased pulp and disinfect the root canals.
- The root canals are filled with a rubbery material, and the hole in the tooth is closed with a filling.
- A crown is placed over the top to protect the tooth, which will become brittle without its pulp.
Can I just have the tooth pulled instead?
Yes, you can. But if you have an extraction, you’ll need to have further treatment to prevent complications. If you simply pull a tooth and leave a gap in your mouth, it eventually causes loss of bone structure in the jawbone underneath. In addition, the neighboring teeth may shift their positions over time, which causes problems with chewing.
If you end up having a tooth extracted instead of doing a root canal, the gap can be filled with more costly solutions, such as a bridge or dental implant.
Our team at ProDent Care understands the concerns you have when you hear you need a root canal. We’re happy to answer all of your questions ahead of time and will take whatever steps necessary to make you comfortable during the procedure.
To discuss your particular situation with Dr. Hambarchian, call the office in Glendale, California, or book online to set up an appointment
medicinenet.com: Root Canal, Medical Author: Steven B. Horne, DDS,
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
docshop.com Dental Crown updated 9/7/2017
webmd.com: An overview of Root Canals
deardoctor.com: A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment
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