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Dr. Nicholas Papapetros, D.M.D. Explains Root Canals
I’ve found that thoroughly understanding a dental procedure can ease the concern associated with it, so here are a few questions that you might be asking yourself about root canals – and answers to those questions.
What is a root?
The root of a tooth is the part that contains a space (or canal) that houses the tooth’s nerve and pulp. As you might imagine, if anything has damaged or infected the nerve, you could be experiencing tooth pain.
Why do I need a root canal?
The goal of a root canal is to preserve the exterior of a badly infected tooth. If an infection is severe, abscesses may form in the pulp surrounding the nerve, resulting in nerve pain. In order to save the tooth, it has become necessary to remove both the nerve and pulp, clean the inside of the tooth, and seal it. After the procedure, the exterior of the tooth will remain intact.
What can I expect during my root canal?
Depending on the severity of the infection within your tooth, you may need more than one appointment to complete the root canal process. Your dentist or endodontist will conduct the procedure. Beforehand, you can expect to have X-rays taken of the infected area so that the dentist can determine the location of the problem and its severity. During the procedure, a local anesthetic, which in most cases allows the procedure to be completely painless as it is applied to the area surrounding the tooth. Then a small hole is made in the tooth in order to access bacteria and decayed tissue for removal. To ensure that all of the infection is removed, your dentist will use a series of root canal files in increasing diameter. After removing all signs of infection, your dentist will flush the interior of the tooth with a solution that may contain bacteria-fighting medication. He or she will then fill the empty canal with a compound to take the place of the nerve and pulp.
Once the tooth is cleaned out, your dentist will seal the tooth. This may happen at the same appointment as the cleaning, or your dentist may choose to wait to ensure that the infection has been entirely eradicated. If the structure of the tooth has been compromised, you may also need a crown or other restoration at a later time. Your dentist will explain the details of your personal situation.
What can I expect following my root canal?
Since the tooth’s nerve has been removed during the root canal process, you won’t have the same sensation in the tooth; the tooth will no longer be able to feel heat, cold, or pain. However, the tooth will look intact and you will be able to chew normally, so its function will have been preserved.
Of course, avoiding a root canal in the first place is most desirable. Practice good dental hygiene, including brushing and flossing, and visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and early detection. These important steps go a long way toward maintaining healthy teeth and avoiding infection in the first place.