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Uncover the Truth About Root Canal Treatment

Root canals are notorious for their pain and discomfort, and they’re probably the most dreaded of all dental procedures. But is their notoriety deserved, or is it simply the stuff of legend? A root canal was first performed in 1766, and at the time, the reputation was probably deserved considering the lack of anesthesia, dental tools, and expertise that existed at the time.

Since then, however, advances in dentistry have made root canal procedures almost painless, and they heal quickly. If your dentist has indicated that you need a root canal, the following information about them may alleviate much of your angst and provide insights on the benefits and the necessity of a root canal.

What Causes a Patient to Need a Root Canal?

A root canal is usually performed when the interior of a tooth, called the root or pulp, is damaged or decayed beyond repair. Often, a root canal is the only way to save the tooth, and if it’s not performed, the infection will spread, and the tooth will have to be extracted and replaced with an implant or bridge. Scheduling a dental visit at the first sign of a problem can save your natural tooth and make the root canal easier.

What Are the Top Ten Questions Patients Ask About Root Canals?

If your dentist has recommended a root canal, you probably have questions about it but may forget them when you’re seated in the dental chair. The following list may help jog your memory, so take them with you to your appointment:

  1. How do you know that I’m a good candidate for a root canal?
  2. How much pain will I have during and after the procedure?
  3. Is there a better method for treating this problem?
  4. What specifically is involved in a root canal?
  5. What’s the duration of the procedure from start to finish?
  6. What type of anesthesia is best for this procedure and why?
  7. Does this procedure have any risks?
  8. How much will the total procedure cost?
  9. How much of the cost will my insurance cover?
  10. Will my tooth return back to normal after the procedure?

We recommend that you contact your insurance provider before you come in for your appointment. They’ll be able to provide your coverage amounts, exclusions, and limitations, so they’re the best source of information. If you need financial assistance, let us know, and we can explain our financing options.

Will My Tooth Be Painful to the Touch If I Need a Root Canal?

Tooth infections don’t just appear suddenly, whether they’re inside the tooth or outside of it. There will be warning signs if you’re developing a problem. You just need to know what the signs are. The following are signs that you need to make a dental appointment:

  • Dark, discolored areas on a specific tooth
  • Gums that are red, swollen, inflamed, or painful
  • Constant and severe tooth pain
  • Painful tooth with a small bump nearby
  • Constant sensitivity to temperature
  • Gums and teeth that are sore and painful
  • Severe dental decay

If you notice any of the above, call your dentist immediately and make an appointment. The sooner you address the problem, the easier the solution will be.

How Is the Root Canal Procedure Performed Most of the Time?

Your root canal procedure begins when you realize you have a problem, and it proceeds as follows:

  1. During your appointment, your dentist will examine your teeth and gums to determine if you need a root canal.
  2. If you need the procedure, they’ll numb the area and then drill a small hole in the tooth so that the interior is accessible.
  3. Once your dentist has access to the interior of your tooth, they’ll remove the damaged or decayed pulp, then clean and disinfect the canals so that an infection doesn’t develop in the future.
  4. When the canals have been rinsed, your dentist will fill them with a substance, probably gutta-percha, that will protect the structure of the tooth.
  5. After the canals are packed, a temporary filling will be placed on top to protect the interior of the tooth, and your dentist will order your permanent crown.
  6. When your permanent crown arrives, you’ll return to the office to have it installed. Your crown will be affixed to your tooth with a very strong, permanent cement, and your root canal will be complete!

After your root canal and crown placement, your tooth should be fully functional and feel like your other teeth. If you have any problems, be sure to notify your dentist.

Are There Dos and Don’ts for Root Canal Aftercare?

Any procedure, dental or otherwise, will have dos and don’ts, and adhering to them will usually provide the optimal outcome in the least amount of time. Your dental office will provide you with aftercare instructions that will help expedite your healing and alleviate any discomfort.

For a few days after your procedure, you may experience some soreness or tenderness and a tingling feeling in the root canal area. This is normal. Any minor pain or discomfort should be manageable with over-the-counter pain medication. Your treated tooth may feel slightly different for a few weeks, but that should dissipate. If you experience excessive pain, swelling, or bleeding, be sure to contact your dentist without delay.

Aftercare Instructions for Properly Taking Care of Your Root Canal

Your dentist will provide you with aftercare instructions for healing at home. For the best results, follow them carefully to ensure that you heal as quickly as possible and don’t develop any problems. Your aftercare instructions are:

  • Don’t chew anything until the numbness in your mouth has completely worn off. If you do, you risk biting your cheek or tongue but being unaware of it because the nerves are still deadened.
  • Avoid biting or chewing near the treated tooth until it has completely healed and your dentist has installed your permanent crown. Ask your dentist at that time if you can resume biting and chewing on that side of your mouth.
  • Faithfully follow your dentist’s guidelines, especially regarding your medication.
  • Continue practicing your good oral hygiene habits for your other teeth, but don’t include the treated tooth until it has completely healed and your permanent crown has been installed.
  • If you experience any adverse reactions, call your dentist immediately, even if you think the reaction is minor. Adverse reactions can include allergic reactions, excessive pressure or pain, swelling, nausea, or any other symptoms.

By following your aftercare instruction to the letter, you decrease your healing time and reduce the likelihood of developing a problem.

Go and See Your Dentist Again!

Getting a root canal is the first step in restoring full functionality to your tooth, and getting the permanent crown installed is the last step. Immediately after your root canal procedure, make an appointment for the crown installation, so you ensure the maximum protection for your tooth.

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