The Ins and Outs of Root Canals

Root canal: a two-word procedure that strikes fear in the hearts of many. A lot of that anxiety, however, is not because root canals are particularly painful but because most people don’t really know much about it. There’s also just something about the name “root canal” that makes it sound as if it involves some aggressive digging, which it doesn’t!

That’s why, today, we’d like to take you through what happens during a root canal, how it preserves your tooth structure, and what you can expect after the treatment so you’ll have an easier time deciding if the endodontic procedure is right for you.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a simple endodontic procedure that removes infected or inflamed pulp within a problem tooth. This outpatient treatment also prevents reinfection and preserves your original tooth structure. To remove the infection or inflammation, your dentist will extract the affected tissue from your pulp chamber, carefully clean and disinfect the inside of your root canal, then fill and seal the space to avoid future problems.

Since root canals involve scraping out the inside of a tooth and leaving behind a dry, brittle, and weaker outer shell, you’ll need to return to your dentist after a few weeks to get a dental crown placed on the tooth. This will restore the structural integrity of the tooth and minimize the likelihood of it cracking or chipping over time.

Why do patients need root canals?

Dentists normally recommend root canals when there’s an infection or inflammation in the pulp. Normally, damage to the inside of the tooth can occur because of a deep cavity or injury to the tooth. Practicing good oral hygiene, scheduling regular dental checkups, and seeing your dentist any time you develop a toothache can increase the chances of catching pulpitis (infection and inflammation of dental pulp) before it becomes irreversible.

Some telltale signs of advanced pulpitis include increased sensitivity to hot or cold stimuli; a small, red, pimple-like bump that appears on the gum; and spontaneous tooth or gum pain with no known cause. A dead or dying tooth also normally turns gray as its blood supply slowly diminishes.

Without treatment, a pulp infection may spread to the bone the tooth sits in, causing the tooth to wiggle upon contact, and at that point, the only way to save it would be through extraction. It’s important to know, however, there’s no cut-and-dry list of symptoms that constitute a need for a root canal. You may not experience any symptoms at all yet still need a root canal treatment to prevent additional damage and save your tooth.

That’s why it’s important to make regular visits to the dentist and book appointments as soon as you experience a symptom your dentist may not be aware of because, when it comes to root canals, the treatment is often more effective when performed at the first sign of trouble.

How do root canals preserve a tooth?

Most people think root canal therapy can “save” a tooth. While that’s typically how we phrase it, that’s not exactly what happens. Instead, a root canal procedure preserves the tooth. When a pulp chamber becomes injured or diseased, it cannot repair itself and the tissue will eventually die, so when your dentist recommends a root canal, it’s already too late to save the life of the tooth. Short of extracting the tooth and using a restoration (think implant) to fill the space, a root canal allows you to keep your natural tooth and maintain your bite force.

Because the tooth’s nerve is not a vital element to the health and wellbeing of the tooth once it completely breaks through the gumline, root canals provide a win-win solution. If your dentist were to, for instance, remove the tooth and not fill the space left behind, there’s a big chance your other teeth will move around and cause orthodontic problems down the line.

What can I expect after a root canal?

For the first few days after your root canal, it’s normal to feel some pain, especially if there was an infection around the tooth before the endodontic procedure. In either case, you should be able to manage the discomfort with an over-the-counter painkiller. Most people return to work and resume other normal activities the day following a root canal procedure. However, if the pain persists 48 hours after the treatment or goes away and then returns, reach out to your dentist to schedule an appointment. Otherwise, maintain your usual oral routine (including flossing), and minimize chewing or biting on the treated tooth until you get a dental crown placed.

Undergo the best root canal treatment in Plano, Texas.

Are you dealing with a severely decayed or infected tooth? Do you need a root canal? Book an appointment with us for the best root canal treatment in Plano, Texas. After examining your problem tooth, Dr. Harrison can recommend the most appropriate treatment method for your particular situation so you can maintain your best oral and overall health for life.