If you or one of your family members are told you need a root canal, you might wonder what it is. It’s actually a relatively standard dental procedure. You probably even know someone that’s already had one and can tell you about their experience.
While it may sound scary, having the procedure done is way better than living with the pain you’re likely experiencing if you need one.
Getting a Root Canal
According to the American Association of Endodontists, a root canal procedure eliminates bacteria from an infected root canal, preventing reinfection of the tooth and saving the natural tooth. If you need the procedure but decline to get it, you could end up needing to have the tooth removed and an implant or denture put in its place.
During a root canal, the inflamed or infected pulp (soft area within your root canal) inside your tooth is removed. The tooth is then cleaned, disinfected, filled where the pulp was and sealed.
In addition, you usually need a crown to strengthen the tooth after a root canal. We take specialized 3D x-rays to know the canal architecture of the tooth before we start the procedure so we don’t miss anything.
While the procedure sounds complicated, it’s actually a speedy procedure. It’s similar to getting a filling. It’s also very safe.
Also, if you’ve heard the roots of your tooth will be removed in the process, that’s not true.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
Only a dentist can determine for sure if you need a root canal. Typically, patients who need a root canal experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain while chewing
- A persistent toothache
- A deep cavity that allowed bacteria to get into the pulp
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold
Without treatment, the infection in your tooth could also cause your face or neck to swell and bone loss around the tooth. So it’s best to schedule the procedure right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mental preparation is half the battle, right? Knowing what to expect before your root canal can go a long way in easing fears and concerns. Here are some common questions patients ask before root canal treatment:
Will the procedure hurt?
Not really. It feels similar to getting a filling. You might feel some slight discomfort during the procedure, but if you’re already experiencing tooth pain, it probably won’t hurt any more than what you’re already experiencing.
How long after the procedure will it take for the pain to go away?
You probably will feel some pain once the numbness from the anesthetic wears off. You can use over-the-counter pain medication to manage pain symptoms, which usually go away after a few days.
What happens during the procedure?
First, anesthesia will numb the tooth and surrounding area. The dentist will then drill a hole into the tooth. This is how they will remove the pulp and bacteria from inside the root canal. Once the tooth is cleaned, it will be sealed. The procedure may take more than one visit to complete. If so, the dentist will place a temporary filling to keep the tooth safe from food and bacteria. Then, complete the seal during the follow-up visit.
How long will it take to fully recover?
Typically, it only takes a few days to fully recover. In the meantime, eating soft foods and chewing your food on the opposite side of your mouth from the root canal is recommended. Avoid eating immediately after the procedure. You’ll want to wait until the numbness goes away, so you don’t accidentally bite your tongue or the inside of your cheek.
Will the procedure weaken my tooth?
Removing the pulp inside the tooth may weaken its structure. If needed, a dental crown can be put over the tooth to strengthen and protect it more.
Is there another option?
The only other option is to have the tooth removed. Saving teeth rather than removing them if possible is recommended. It’s also much cheaper to have a root canal than to have your tooth extracted.
How did this happen?
There are a handful of reasons why teeth can become infected on the inside. Among them are tooth decay, multiple dental procedures on the tooth, or even a crack or chip in the tooth.
Questions or Concerns?
If you have more questions or concerns about the root canal procedure and recovery, don’t hesitate to contact us. To schedule your next visit, complete our contact form or call our office at 815-886-0875.