Photo by Hike Shaw
Worried about getting a root canal? There really isn’t anything to worry about; a root canal is a fairly simple and painless procedure. Here’s everything you need to know to assuage your fears and find out how a root canal can help.
For many, a root canal is something to dread. There is a sort of stigma against going to the dentist for some people based on the assumption that it’ll hurt. However, the truth is that many dental procedures are more simple and less painful than most people think. Many dental clinics like Dr. Pamela Li and her team even offer sedation dentistry to help numb patients from pain and make operations more comfortable. All-in-all, a root canal is meant to help repair your teeth, especially after they’ve suffered severe damage. In case of a serious infection, a root canal might just be the thing that saves your teeth from needing to be removed.
What Is a Root Canal?
Strictly speaking, a “root canal” itself doesn’t refer to a procedure, but to a part of the tooth. The root canal is the inner, hollow section of a tooth that contains the pulp. The pulp consists of the nerve tissue, blood vessels, and other cells that nourish the tooth.
However, when an infection occurs (e.g. in the case of tooth decay), it can spread to the pulp, causing significant pain and inflammation. To relieve the pain, a dentist may give you a root canal to remove the infected pulp. A root canal generally follows three basic steps:
- Cleaning – The dentist first has to remove everything inside the root canal (e.g. the diseased and infected pulp). When the patient is under local anaesthesia, the dentist makes a small hole on the surface of the tooth and uses small files to remove the pulp tissue.
- Filling – Next, the dentist shapes, cleans, and decontaminates the area with tiny files and irrigation solutions. After cleaning, the tooth is filled with a rubber-like material to fill in for the removed pulp and keep the tooth stable. Finally, the hole is sealed with an adhesive to seal off the root canal completely.
- Crowning – Without the pulp, the tooth remains fragile. To help compensate for the pulp, the dentist then adds a crown to give the tooth the support it needs to function properly when you eat and speak.
Treatment generally requires one visit. However, in cases of curved channels, multi-canals, or large infections, it can take longer.
Does It Hurt?
So, back to the common fear most people have about root canals. While some people might assume dental procedures hurt, a root canal is a painless operation. The pain you feel comes from the infection; the operation’s job is to alleviate the pain and help you feel better. In any case, you won’t feel anything; before the operation, the dentist applies local anaesthetic to dull the pain. The anaesthesia numbs the tooth and the surrounding area to ensure you don’t feel any pain during or after the operation.
When Do You Need a Root Canal?
A root canal typically becomes necessary when the tooth becomes seriously infected. This is usually a result of bad oral hygiene tooth decay that’s been left alone for too long. Some common warning signs that might mean you need a root canal include:
- A chipped tooth
- Severe pain when chewing or biting
- Lingering sensitivity to heat or cold
- Swollen gums
In case of these symptoms, contact Dr. Urszula Barrios immediately. Quick action can make a difference toward saving the infected tooth.