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A root canal doesn’t have to be unpleasant, or even stressful. And if you learn a little more about treatment specifics, we bet you’ll be surprised by just how comfortable the process can be. Truth is, we’re much more afraid of the unknown, and endodontic therapy tends to fall into that category. How can you combat this? By getting answers to every single one of your questions – before your procedure.
We’ve compiled some of the most popular root canal-related queries to make this as simple as possible. If your question isn’t answered below, talk to a member of our staff for personalized advice. You always deserve fulfilling dental care, and we’re going to do everything we can to deliver.
What does the root canal procedure entail?
This may seem like a lot of steps, but a root canal is actually incredibly similar to a standard filling. Instead of a decayed portion of the tooth being removed, its inner pulp is removed to stop an infection. Each root canal is slightly different depending on the case, but yours will likely involve the following steps:
- Anesthesia – The area treatment area is numbed so that there is no pain during the root canal. Dr. Baudean will check with you to be sure that your tooth is no longer sensitive before getting started. If you have dental anxiety, sedation may also be helpful. Be sure to ask about sedation prior to your appointment so that we can prescribe a medication or plan to have nitrous oxide available.
- Dental dam – The tooth is covered by a thin plastic sheet, with a hole created for the crown. This way, the area being accessed is kept completely clean and sterile.
- Entry hole – A tiny hole is drilled in the side of the tooth facing your tongue, or the bite surface. Through this hole, Dr. Baudean will remove the tooth’s pulp.
- Pulp removed – Your tooth’s pulp is removed through the access point with special instruments. These are extremely narrow to fit into the root canal.
- Disinfection – Solutions disinfect the root canals and prevent the return of infection. Either antibacterial or antiseptic solutions are used to treat the tooth.
- Canal shaped – Root canals in the treated tooth are properly shaped so that fillings and sealers can be placed. They are also cleansed to remove any debris.
- Filling – A filling material like gutta-percha is placed in the empty canal, with a sealer to attach it. The point of entry is also sealed with a filling.
- Potential ongoing treatment – It may be safest for you to take a course of antibiotics to prevent recurring infection.
- Aftercare – Make sure to follow Dr. Baudean’s instructions to keep your tooth safe and allow it to heal properly. You will experience soreness as the numbing wears off, and this can be managed with painkillers and a soft diet.
What are the signs I may need a root canal?
An infected tooth doesn’t always present clear symptoms. But there are some signs that you should see your dentist – whether the issue is an abscess or something else, you deserve to get healthy and comfortable again:
- Significant tooth pain during chewing or biting
- Ongoing sensitivity to hot/cold that lasts after the trigger is gone
- Generalized sensitivity without a clear cause
- Tooth turning dark or becoming discolored
- Swollen, tender gums
- A pimple on the gums below a tooth
Since symptoms aren’t always obvious, make sure you visit your dentist twice yearly to spot an infection before it worsens. Keep up with your brushing and flossing, and pay attention to what your teeth may be telling you.
Why do I need a root canal?
The cause of your tooth damage or infection may include any of the following:
- Advanced tooth decay
- Cracked or chipped tooth
- Broken tooth
- Many dental procedures performed on the same tooth
- Physical trauma/injury to a tooth
Do I need a crown after a root canal?
Some patients will benefit from protection of the treated tooth. After pulp has been removed, the tooth is slightly more delicate. If the tooth is involved in chewing and biting, a crown is the best next step. This will both seal off the tooth and keep it strong in the future. If the root canal was performed on a front tooth, composite bonding may be enough.
Your crown or bonding will be placed after you have fully healed to minimize discomfort.
Is there a risk of infection during a root canal?
There’s a myth that a tooth’s infection can spread during a root canal, leading to infection elsewhere in the body. Today’s dental techniques and modern tools make it possible to achieve clean treatment without cross-contamination. If you brush and floss normally afterwards, and follow aftercare instructions, the treated tooth will heal properly and you should not be at risk of further infection.
How long will the root canal take?
The entire root canal procedure is fairly quick – similar to the time spent on a filling. A single root canal is completed in one appointment. If you need multiple root canals, Dr. Baudean may recommend multiple appointments so that you have time to heal in between and experience less discomfort. But he will discuss this with you at your consultation and incorporate your own preferences as well.
Will my root canal be painful?
You will receive local anesthesia so that the tooth is completely numb before a root canal. In some rare cases, becoming totally numb is not possible, but that is unlikely for your tooth. If you still feel discomfort after numbing, let us know so that we can boost the numbness. Those with a fear of needles or dental anxiety may also benefit from dental sedation.
There will be some tenderness as you heal, but afterwards your tooth will be free of the infection that was previously causing you pain. That’s something to look forward to!
Is it simpler to just get an extraction?
It’s always best to preserve a natural tooth. Consider the difference between treating an existing tooth and starting over completely – there’s a lot more work involved in the latter, for both patient and dentist. Modern dentistry is inherently conservative, and Dr. Baudean will do everything possible to save your tooth – that typically means a root canal over an extraction. With your natural teeth in place, you have the highest chance of preserving your smile and oral health in the long term.
While today’s replacement teeth can work incredibly well, especially when paired with a dental implant, they will never be quite the same as natural teeth.
My dentist says I need a root canal, but the tooth doesn’t hurt. Do I still need treatment?
Like we mentioned above, an infected or damaged tooth may be asymptomatic. Significant tooth decay can take hold without triggering pain. In these cases, it’s always a bit of a surprise when a dentist recommends a root canal. If you’re feeling concerned, get a second opinion to be thorough. Remember, even if your tooth seems fine today, ongoing infection can lead to bone loss and tooth loss.