Root canal treatment is a simple, reliable procedure intended to save a tooth when the root has been badly decayed or damaged. Root canals have a bad reputation as exceedingly painful or even dangerous, but this comes from outdated dental procedures and decades of misunderstanding about the cause of root pain. Let’s look at what happens during a modern root canal procedure.
What Is a Root Canal?
Sometimes bacteria can enter the pulp of a tooth through decay or an injury and cause an infection. Root canal therapy is a necessary procedure to save the tooth by removing the infected pulp and sealing the root to prevent reinfection. Root canal procedures relieve pain from infected or abscessed teeth and allow a tooth with a damaged root to remain safely in place in situations where the only alternative would be extraction.
When Is a Root Canal Needed?
Patients need to undergo a root canal when bacteria have infiltrated past the hard outer layer of a tooth’s enamel and entered the soft, spongy interior which houses the tooth’s root, blood supply, and nerve. Once this happens, the only way to save the tooth is a root canal procedure.
What Are the Steps of a Root Canal Procedure
Patients who are told they need to undergo the root canal process can be hesitant. Again, years of misinformation have led the general public to think of a root canal as both exceptionally painful and dangerous, but root canals are similar to a simple filling in both the level of discomfort one can expect and the general amount of time it takes to complete the procedure. Learning the root canal treatment steps can help alleviate anxiety and better inform patients of what to expect from their treatment.
Preparing the Area
First, the dentist uses injections of local anesthesia to numb the gums and the tooth’s root. Once the area is numbed, the dentist places a dental dam around the affected tooth to isolate it, covering the rest of the teeth in the mouth.
Accessing and Cleaning the Roots
Next, the dentist accesses the root canals and pulp chamber by drilling down through the tooth itself. They’ll use specialized instruments to clean out the pulp chamber and will then apply an antibacterial and antiseptic solution to clean and disinfect the canals. This treats the infection by eliminating any existing bacteria.
Filling the Canals
After they have been cleaned out and sterilized, the dentist will shape the root canals with a specialized tool so they will be ready to receive the filling material. Afterward, they will clean the canals a second time and fill the cavity to prevent reinfection.
Treatment & Healing
Root canal aftercare usually includes a prescription for antibiotics to treat any remaining infection, as well as some more specific aftercare instructions, which are usually case-specific. Some of the directions patients might receive include: avoiding smoking, eating only soft foods for a set amount of time, and avoiding brushing the area for the first day or two after their treatment. It is normal to experience some discomfort for a few days after the procedure, and over-the-counter pain medications are usually enough to provide relief.
Adding the Crown
After your procedure, you may have to book a follow up appointment with your general dentist in order to have a crown placed. For most patients, crowns will need to be placed by the initial general dentist who referred them for a root canal, meaning they will have to book a follow up appointment with that dentist after the root canal has been performed. Permanent crowns are fabricated and color-matched to the existing teeth as teeth that have undergone root canal therapy may begin to darken over time as the blood supply has been removed. They also add strength and durability to the teeth without having to replace the entire tooth with a dental implant.
What Should I Expect After a Root Canal?
After a root canal, patients should expect to have some soreness around the tooth in the hours immediately after their treatment as the numbing agent wears off over the next couple of days. This is normal and by no means debilitating, and with local anesthesia, patients can even expect to drive themselves home afterward. However, be on the lookout for symptoms like extreme sensitivity, pain, fever, or swelling around the operation site that doesn’t go away after a week. These can be symptoms that the root canal failed to treat the infection, and retreatment might be necessary.
If you are looking for treatment or have more questions about the root canal procedure, the experts at Advanced Endodontics of Nevada are ready to help. We have decades of experience providing endodontic dentistry in Reno and specialize in root canal treatment. Call today and schedule your initial consultation!