You might think of a root canal as being especially painful, but the truth is that most people who have one reported much less pain than they expected. In fact, many compare it to getting a crown or filling. Most importantly, the benefits to your oral health from a root canal can be huge.
So what is a root canal? It is a procedure designed to save a tooth that is infected or badly damaged. The actual term “root canal” refers to the canals inside the tooth’s root.
If your dentist suspects that you may need a root canal, they will initially take an X-ray or review X-rays previously taken to see where the decay is located. After administering a local anesthesia, the dentist removes the area of the tooth that is damaged, called the pulp, and then cleans and disinfects the area before filling it and sealing the opening. Most often, the root canal is needed because the pulp has been impacted by a cracked tooth, an especially deep cavity, or trauma. If you have severe anxiety about getting a root canal, your dentist can provide you with a sedative prior to the dental procedure.
What Are the Advantages of a Root Canal?
Relief: When the nerve inside of the tooth become inflamed, it can often ache when you consume cold or hot liquids or when you bite. Usually, the only way to stop the inflammation (and the pain) is to remove the pulp through a root canal.
Infection Control: The pulp in your teeth usually can’t recover from an infection because of its limited blood flow. Bacteria are able to get into the tooth and fester, causing infection, inflammation and pain. Even if you are able to successfully treat the bacteria with antibiotics, the pulp is often partially destroyed. This means you may still feel pain in that area.
Decay Deterrent: Tissue in your mouth will gradually decay if the damage to the pulp is not dealt with by your dentist. This can spread to the gum and bone tissue and eventually impact other teeth. In addition, the dead tissue can become a bacterial breeding ground. A root canal will prevent additional damage to your mouth.
Prevention: If you have teeth that are at severe risk for additional pulp complications, your dentist may recommend a root canal to prevent serious problems from occurring in the future. This preventative approach can prevent what are called asymptomatic abscesses from forming. These lack pain, so you don’t notice them, but they can lead to additional problems with your other teeth and impact your overall oral health. The reason these don’t create pain is because the infection site is draining through a fistula, which is a tissue tunnel that prevents pressure from increasing in the tissue in the affected tooth – which would then cause you pain, which you would notice.
By deciding on a root canal, you can usually save the affected tooth from having to be completely removed. Remember, the dentist doesn’t remove your tooth or its roots. Rather, the canals around the root are cleaned of any infection, and pulp and nerve tissue are removed. This rids the area of all the bacteria, which is where the infection came from in the first place.
Root canals are 95% successful and almost always are able to save the affected teeth. Because a crown or filling is added once the root canal is completed, it is impossible to tell that you had a root canal.
Sources: Worldental.org, Colgate, WebMD