Root canal treatment is something no one looks forward to, but its reputation is actually worse than the reality of treatment in most cases. Let’s get the facts straight and dispel some of the myths surrounding root canals.
What is a root canal?
The inside of your tooth contains pulp, which basically keeps the tooth alive and healthy. When the pulp becomes infected as a result of severe tooth decay, the pulp must be removed and replaced with a material that prevents future infections. A root canal is often the best way to save your tooth from extraction, or other health issues from the infection. Sometimes a crown is recommended after a root canal to restore a weakened tooth.
Will I know I need a root canal based on pain?
It is a myth that your tooth must hurt a lot in order to need a root canal. Sometimes a tooth can be severely damaged without causing you much pain. That’s one reason regular dental visits are important so that problems can be caught that you might not realize are there. If your dentist sees signs of a problem, there are tests that may be performed to determine the extent of the damage.
Is the pain of treatment as bad as I’ve heard?
Root canals have the reputation of intense pain. With advancements in technology, this is no longer true. Anesthesia is used to deaden the area, and if you follow your dentist’s instructions after the procedure, a root canal is often no different than getting a filling.
Are multiple appointments required?
A root canal may be completed in one or two appointments, depending on the extent of your infection or need for more extensive procedures.
Does a root canal cause other illnesses?
It is a myth that root canals can cause illnesses like heart or kidney disease and arthritis. There is no medical evidence supporting these claims.
Will it fix my problem for good?
Some people suggest that root canal treatment doesn’t last because the tooth can later break. This is associated with failure of the tooth restoration, not the root canal itself. Many dentists recommend getting a crown on a weakened tooth to prevent breakage.
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Sometimes the best chance you have in saving a diseased or injured tooth is with a root canal. You shouldn’t let your fear of an unknown procedure stop you from saving your tooth. Answers to some frequently asked questions may resolve your fears.
What’s a root canal?
Inside every tooth is its pulp, which is soft tissue that supplies nerves and nutrients to the tooth. It connects with the tooth’s root. If the pulp is damaged, your tooth can get infected and often the best action is a root canal in which the pulp is removed. The canal is reshaped, sealed, and covered with a crown.
Why do I need one?
Your tooth likely cannot heal once it has become infected. Pus may develop at the root tip and cause a painful abscess, which can damage your bone as well as your tooth. Your tooth can become loose and fall out. If your tooth has reached the point where losing it is possible, it is almost always better to save your tooth with a root canal instead of opting for tooth extraction.
Why did this happen to me?
The most common causes of pulp damage are trauma and irritation from tooth decay that has spread to the nerve. The result of these things can be infection and advanced decay from bacteria attacking the nerve.
What are the symptoms?
Some indications you might need a root canal include facial swelling, tooth sensitivity, and pain. These can occur at varying levels and are not unique problems, so see your dentist if any of these symptoms develop to diagnose the problem.
Do I need a special dentist?
Most general dentists refer patients to endodontists, who are trained in more complex procedures associated with pulp. Endodontists have lots of experience in performing root canals and related procedures.
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If you have severe tooth pain that your dentist has determined is resistant to healing, it may be necessary to seek the help of a specialist called an endodontist. Sometimes endodontic surgery is needed to fully restore your tooth and relieve your pain. If you are referred to an endodontist, here is some information to help you understand what that means.
An endodontist specializes in the roots of your teeth. The heart of your tooth can be damaged from deep decay, large fillings, repeated dental procedures, tooth cracks or chips, or trauma. These types of damage can cause severe oral pain, and you’re going to want to get it repaired in order to feel good again. An endodontist receives lengthy training in performing all parts of root canal treatment, including both routine and complicated root canals, retreatments, and endodontic surgery.
Endodontic surgery, called an apicoectomy, is especially useful for patients who have a tooth that isn’t healing and needs more extensive examination to identify the problem. Surgery may be the only way to diagnose the issue and get treatment that will fully heal the tooth and the pain associated with it. Your endodontist can find fractures or canals in your tooth that are harming your teeth and gums, leading to oral pain. Endodontic surgery is also a solution for patients with damaged root surfaces, because the surface and surrounding bone are also treated during surgery.
During the surgery, the gums near your affected tooth will be opened to allow examination of the underlying bone. Infected or swollen tissues will be removed, as well as the tip of the tooth’s root. These samples will be sent to a lab for analysis to aid your endodontist in identifying the reason for your pain. Once the sample has been collected, your gums will be sutured for proper healing.
Sometimes the reasons for oral pain aren’t obvious or easily diagnosed. If this happens to you, don’t hesitate to visit an endodontist for possible surgery to help with diagnosis and treatment to get rid of your tooth pain.
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