Few things strike fear into the hearts of patients more than when they hear “root canal”. It’s a dental procedure with a long history and unfortunate association with pain and discomfort.
The reality is, root canals are an effective an often necessary treatment that is much, much less painful than most people are led to believe.
What Is A Root Canal?
A root canal is both the name of the procedure, and the anatomical structure it treats.
Inside every tooth is a chamber called the “pulp chamber”. This is full of soft tissue known as dental pulp, and is home to blood vessels and the tooth nerve and other vital components of the tooth. This chamber also connects to the root canal of the tooth. Every tooth has at least one root canal, but some have several.
A root canal procedure involves removing infected and inflamed pulp tissue from these chambers and canals. It’s also known as an endodontic treatment.
When Does Someone Need A Root Canal?
A root canal is intended to save a severely infected tooth from needing extraction. It’s typically the last possible chance to prevent the removal of the tooth.
Root canals aren’t prescribed lightly. If the tooth is too infected, extraction will be recommended instead. If there’s no infection inside the tooth, other treatments will be used to fix the issue.
The surest symptom to look out for is severe toothache. Inflamed and infected tooth pulp causes severe pain, particularly since it’s so close to the tooth nerve itself.
How Is A Root Canal Performed?
Root canals are performed in several steps.
Step one involves making a hole in the top of the tooth and inserting delicate instruments. These are used to cut and scrape all of the infected pulp away to completely clear out the tooth.
Step two involves filling the now-empty pulp chamber with a rubber-like substance. This preserves the integrity of the tooth and prevents the infection re-entering.
Lastly a crown or inlay is placed over the hole to seal it and keep the tooth healthy.
Does A Root Canal Hurt?
One of the biggest fears surrounding root canals is the thought of severe pain.
The truth is, most of the pain associated with root canals actually comes from before the procedure is performed. Root canals are intended to stop pain associated with inflammation and infection. You’re already in pain before the treatment happens.
The actual endodontic procedure is generally no more uncomfortable than getting a filling. The area is numbed with anaesthetic and you don’t really feel anything.
Post-operative pain and discomfort can be severe in the day or two immediately following. The tooth will be raw and tender, but this is easily managed with prescription medication and fades quickly.
Will I Still Need to Remove The Tooth Later?
That largely depends on you. Once a root canal is performed, the tooth should be healthy. Poor oral hygiene will increase the risk of a new infection occurring and necessitating the tooth being removed.
Keep up your proper oral hygiene post-operation and you’ll be using your treated tooth for many years to come.