Nobody looks forward to root canals. Not only are they known to be incredibly painful, but they also take quite a toll on your wallet. However, part of the fear comes from not really knowing what a root canal is. If the extent of your knowledge on root canals is that it is expensive and painful, you’ve got a lot to learn. Let’s get started, shall we?
What you know as a root canal procedure is also known as endodontic therapy, which means “inside the tooth.” However, the majority of people simply refer to it as a “root canal.” Root canal therapy is a dental procedure that removes an infection from the pulp of your tooth. Although a lot of people know it to be very painful, the truth is that it actually relieves you from pain. The root canal of your tooth is the part in the middle that includes nerve tissue and blood vessels. Also known as the “pulp,” this nerve-filled area is located inside the crown and the root. When your teeth feel painful, it’s the nerves in the pulp that are making you feel that way.
Although root canals are often known as being expensive, they’re actually a lot cheaper than the alternative. Root canal infections that are left untreated eventually require the removal of the tooth. Removing your tooth and having a crown or bridge put in is actually significantly more expensive than a root canal. That, combined with the pain-relieving features of a root canal procedure means that you shouldn’t hesitate to have your tooth treated if you have an infection.
There are three steps to a root canal. Although the entire procedure can generally be completed within one session, there are cases when up to three sessions are required.
1 – Cleaning
The pulp inside your tooth is infected, so the first thing that the dentist has to do is clean out all the infection. There will be an access hole made in your tooth so that your dentist can clean out all the diseased and dead pulp tissue. Don’t worry about the pain – local anesthesia will be applied.
2 – Filling
After the infection has been cleaned out, the area is sterilized and shaped properly with small files and irrigation solutions. Your dentist will then fill the crevice with a material and seal it with an adhesive cement. The nerves of your tooth will have been removed after a root canal treatment, meaning you won’t feel pain.
3 – Protecting
Since your tooth no longer has a pulp, it is very fragile. It has to now depend on the ligament attaching it to your jawbone for nutrients. To protect your tooth, a crown or filling has to be put in place. Until the extra layer of protection is put in, your tooth will be extremely delicate and you will have to exercise extra care. Patients should not chew or bite using that tooth. After the crown or filling is put in, normal use can resume.
Does it hurt?
A lot of people worry about root canals being painful. Although they certainly aren’t comfortable, they actually don’t hurt that much. Most of the time, the pain comes from the infection and not necessarily the treatment. After the treatment, pain is significantly reduced. Furthermore, patients are put under local anesthesia for the duration of the procedure. You may feel some prodding and tenderness, but not serious pain. If you are worried about the pain, consult your dentist – they may be willing to prescribe a painkiller.
How do I know if I need it?
Root canals are used to treat infected pulp before the tooth needs to be removed. A tooth with an injured pulp isn’t able to cure itself, which means you won’t just “get better” from a root canal infection. A cavity, a crack, or a loose filling can leave your pulp vulnerable to bacteria. Bacteria can then enter and cause an infection, weakening the pulp and causing you pain. People with pulp injuries or infections will notice that they have sensitive teeth. Cold or not temperatures may cause pain, as may chewing. Some people even experience consistent, throbbing pain. There is a certain window of time when root canal treatment can save the tooth. If such an infection is left untreated, however, extraction may be necessary. This is particularly true if the bone has been worn down. It’s almost always preferable to have root canal therapy as it will preserve the use of the tooth and reduce the pain.
How much does it cost?
The cost of a root canal will vary wildly. However, as mentioned above, it is always more cost-efficient than the alternative. Having your tooth extracted and an implant installed with cost a lot more and may even result in teeth misalignment.
Is there a risk of complications?
There is a possibility of complications with any dental procedure. Dentists have been known to only find three canals in a tooth with four, meaning the infected pulp was not fully removed from the tooth. The infection could then go on to damage the bone. There have also been cases of dentists failing to properly fill or seal the tooth. It’s always best to look for a reputable dentist who has extensive experience doing root canals. It’s also important that you follow the dentist’s instructions so that the risk of complications is minimized.
How do I keep from getting a root canal at all?
The only way to completely avoid getting a root canal is to prevent infections, tooth decay, and gum disease in the first place. This means that you need to practice good dental hygiene. Brush twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride, visit your dentist regularly, floss, and try to eat a healthy diet. This will minimize the risk of infection so you can proudly say that you have never had a root canal.
Tee Family Dental is a local dental office in Perth that covers root canal treatment – get in touch today to see how we can help.