Hearing from your dentist that you may need a root canal can be both shocking and slightly terrifying – but it’s important to remember that this procedure is done to alleviate pain, not cause more. There are many instances that will result in this required treatment including tooth decay, damage such as a chip or crack, gum disease and even repeated procedures on the same tooth.
How Do I Know if I need a Root Canal?
You may know it’s time for a root canal treatment if you are experiencing acute tooth pain that continues to spread to the surrounding area. What is happening is that the pulp chamber inside of the tooth that houses the living tissue, nerves, and blood tissue may have become inflamed or infected and a root canal will need to be performed to save the tooth.
What is a Root Canal?
Essentially, a root canal (also known as an endodontic treatment) is the process of taking out damaged or infected pulp within your tooth, and stabilizing the tooth. As we discussed before, when the pulp in the interior of your tooth becomes infected or damaged, bacteria can spread from that infection to your gums and even the bone of your jaw. Without treatment, the tooth will die, and you could end up with cavities, or even more damage to surrounding teeth.
A root canal stops these negative repercussions in their tracks by taking out the bad pulp, and saving your natural tooth. Essentially what happens is the dentist will gently go into the tooth, and take out the nerve and pulp that’s gone bad. Then, they will clean the remaining cavity, and seal the tooth back up temporarily until a permanent crown or filling can be made to finish the job.
The whole process is done to save you from losing a tooth, and actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds! Here’s an in-depth look:
The Root Canal Procedure
Here is a step-by-step guide to a root canal procedure so you will know exactly what needs to happen and why:
Step 1: Local Anesthesia
Local anesthesia is administered to the site to numb the tooth and surrounding area. The doctor will wait to begin treatment until the area is completely numbed.
Step 2: Dental Dam
This is when the doctor and dental assistant will apply a dental dam – a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl that allows the dentist to concentrate on the specific tooth receiving treatment and block all other surrounding teeth. It also provides a sterile environment to reduce the risk of infection by bacteria found in the rest of the mouth.
Step 3: Drilling
In order to access the dead pulp chamber, a small hole is drilled into the affected tooth. Depending on the location of the tooth, this hole may be along the biting surface or into the back of the tooth.
Step 4: Remove Tissue & Nerves
Special root canal tools are used to remove the dead pulp tissue and nerves. At this point, the affected tooth will no longer be able to feel pain.
Step 5: Disinfecting
Perhaps one of the most important steps of the procedure is disinfecting the inside, or canals, of the affected tooth.
Step 6: Insert Flexible Root Canal Tools
Flexible root canal tools are inserted into the canals of the tooth to help shape an area for the filling and sealer. One more thorough cleaning is performed to remove any remaining debris.
Step 7: Apply Filling
A rubber-like, thermoplastic filling material called gutta-percha is applied into the root canals and is set in place by an adhesive cement sealer. The sealer is very important to keep the tooth from becoming reinfected later.
Step 8: If Needed, Post May Be Inserted
Depending on the structure of the affected tooth, a post may be inserted into the root canal during the filling process to help hold the temporary or permanent filling in place. If you receive a temporary filling, it is very important to come back for a permanent filling or crown to reduce the risk of infection down the road.
In most cases, an antibiotic will be prescribed to treat any remaining infection. It is common to feel some minor pain and discomfort after the procedure, but it should only last a couple of days.
At Creason & Weber Family Dentistry, we use state-of-the-art technology with precision accuracy to diagnose root canal problems. If you are experiencing acute tooth pain, you should call your dentist immediately to determine if a root canal procedure is necessary. To schedule an appointment, call us directly at (616) 842-0822 so we can help you right away.