If your dentist gives you the news that you need a root canal, it’s likely that you might cringe. However, sometimes a root canal is the absolute best way to save your tooth. Finding out more details about the procedure, its purpose, and what you can expect may make you feel better about following your dentist’s advice.
The goal of a root canal is to repair a tooth that is acutely decayed or infected. The nerve and pulp of your tooth are taken out so the inside of your tooth can be cleaned. Often, a root canal is your only choice for a tooth that is in such poor condition. Without treatment, infection is likely and an abscess can develop. This painful complication occurs when the infection spreads deep into your tooth beyond the ends of the roots.
The process of getting a root canal takes several dental office visits. It is sometimes performed at your regular dentist, or you may see a specialist called an endodontist. First, an X-ray will help the doctor determine the exact requirements of your case. Anesthesia or topical numbing may be used, depending on your procedure. Often patients choose anesthesia to be more at ease during the root canal. The doctor will then drill an access hole into your tooth, and begin the thorough process of cleaning out the tooth. The pulp, bacteria, nerve tissue, and any other debris will be removed. After cleaning is complete, the tooth will be sealed and a temporary filling placed to keep the area clean until the next appointment. At that time, the interior of your tooth will be filled and sealed, and a final filling will be placed on top. The last step may include a restoration like a crown to restore complete function and protect the tooth from further damage.
Although you’ve probably heard root canals are very painful, many patients say it’s no worse than having a cavity filled. Your tooth may be sensitive for a few days, which ibuprofen should control. You should be able to return to your regular activities the day after your procedure.