Root canal treatment has developed a widely negative reputation causing it to be one of the more intimidating procedures commonly performed. While hearing the phrase “root canal” is enough to make many people shudder, in reality, patients often compare it to be as mild as getting a filling. Knowing the facts about a root canal procedure and knowing the signs of when you might need one should help ease any tension you might feel toward it!
What is a Root Canal?
While many people refer to a “root canal” as a procedure, this is not the case. The root canal is a part of your tooth that is made up of nerves and vessels that run from the very bottom of the tooth’s root (deep inside your gums) to the pulp of your tooth. The pulp is the area underneath the protective enamel covering of your tooth that houses all of the soft tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. Root canal treatment is the process that is needed when an infection starts to develop within that pulp chamber, in the canal, or when an abscess forms underneath the root of the tooth. The root canal procedure is thought to be an uncomfortable one, but in reality, root canal treatment will actually relieve the patient of ongoing discomfort.
How do I Know if I Need a Root Canal Procedure?
There are a lot of different things that can cause infection on the pulp chamber or root canal of the tooth, and it can be difficult to know the original source of the problem. More importantly, knowing the signs of the problem can help you avoid increased discomfort and ongoing complications by getting yourself to the dentist when you start to notice them. A few symptoms and signs that you have an infection and might need root canal treatment include:
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Swelling in your gums
- Gum tenderness
- Ongoing toothache when chewing
- Discoloration of your tooth or gums
- Pimples on your gums
- A chipped tooth
What Happens During the Procedure?
During root canal treatment, the patient will typically be under local anesthesia. Then, in order to remove the infected tissue, an access hole is opened into the pulp chamber down to the root of the tooth (through the canal of the root). Next, the dentist will use a file to scrub the access hole free of any remaining tissues, removing any infection or diseased pulp, flushing away any debris with sterile liquids. After everything is removed, the dentist will then fill the canal completely and then seal the access hole like a typical filling. Then a crown may be needed to protect the remaining tooth structure and return function of the tooth.
What is the Alternative to a Root Canal?
If an infection has gone too far, it is possible that your only option will be to get the tooth extracted (remove the tooth entirely). While this might sound easier, the biggest benefit of getting root canal treatment instead of a tooth extracted is that you get to keep your real tooth. If you get a tooth removed, then you will need to have a fake tooth implanted in order to keep your teeth in place and retain your chewing abilities, but this option should only be a last resort. Getting root canal treatment is the best option if possible and will get rid of discomfort while keeping your natural teeth in place!