If you have been told you need root canal treatment, you may be feeling a bit nervous. Not to worry — treating root canal problems is a routine part of dentistry that can relieve certain kinds of tooth pain and help your teeth last longer. As you learn more about this beneficial procedure, you will understand why it's needed — and how it will leave you in far better shape than you were when you came in to the dental office! Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
What is a root canal?
Dentists use the term “root canal” in referring to the tiny, narrow passageways that branch from a central, hollow space in your tooth (called the pulp chamber) down to the ends of the tooth roots. The term can also be used as a shorthand for “root canal treatment” — that is, the procedure used to save the tooth if the soft tissue deep inside of it (called pulp) becomes acutely inflamed or infected.
Why do I need root canal treatment?
If tooth pulp becomes acutely inflamed or infected — because of decay or injury for example — the tissue will need to be removed in order to save the tooth and stop the infection from spreading. As an adult, you don't actually need the pulp — its primary use is to aid in tooth development during childhood.
Is there an alternative?
We could remove the whole tooth, but it's always better to try to save it — especially since root canal treatment is routine and has a very high success rate (over 90%). Saving the tooth can prevent other troubles from occurring later on; these could include bite problems from teeth shifting position, difficulty eating, and loss of jawbone volume and density.
Is root canal treatment painful?
The procedure normally causes no more discomfort that a filling would. Root canal treatment may have a bad reputation, but it is undeserved; in this case it's the disease that's to blame and not the cure. In other words, the infections that make the treatment necessary in the first place are often painful because they are inflaming tissue that has lots of nerves and therefore is very sensitive. Root canal treatment actually relieves this pain!
What will happen during the procedure?
After numbing the area, a tiny hole is made in your tooth to access the pulp chamber and canals. After we remove the diseased tissue, we will disinfect the chamber and the canal(s) all the way to the root end(s). Teeth in the front of the mouth have one root and generally one canal; back teeth have two or three roots and generally three or four canals. We will fill those canals and the pulp chamber with an inert, biocompatible material, and seal it with adhesive cement. The access hole will receive a temporary filling.
What will happen afterwards?
Your tooth may feel sensitive for a few days, but any discomfort can usually be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication or anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. You will be instructed to avoid chewing on that tooth until it receives its permanent filling, which can be placed a few days later. Depending on how damaged the tooth was to begin with, it may need a full-coverage crown. We will discuss your options with you.
How can I avoid the need for root canal treatment in the future?
Keep your teeth decay-free by brushing and flossing every day. Eat a healthy diet low in sugar and avoid acidic beverages such as soda. Come in to the dental office regularly for professional cleanings and exams. And if you're active in sports, consider ordering a custom-made mouthguard to protect your teeth from injury.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment
If you're about to have root canal treatment, you might be feeling apprehensive. If so, our walk-through of root canal treatment will show you what to expect from this tooth-saving procedure, which becomes necessary when an infection reaches deep inside a tooth. The most important thing to know is that root canal treatment doesn't cause pain — it relieves it.
Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will It Last?
Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment, will save your natural tooth and allow you to keep it functional for decades — if not a lifetime. Exactly how long it lasts will depends on many factors, which our expert explores in this article.