More than 15 million root canal procedures are performed every year in the U.S., according to the American Association of Endodontists. If you’ve been told you need a root canal or if you just think you might need one, you might be a little concerned about some of the common myths surrounding the procedure — specifically, the all-too-common misconception that root canals are complicated and really painful. If that sounds familiar, there’s good news: Today’s root canal procedures aren’t much more involved than a regular filling. And as for discomfort, significant advances in pain management techniques mean you can feel comfortable throughout your entire treatment.
The benefits of root canals
Root canals play a really important role in helping you prevent tooth loss due to deep decay and infection. The canals themselves are located deep in the central portion of your tooth called the pulp. The pulp contains the blood vessels and nerves your tooth needs to stay healthy. Sometimes, decay or infection can seep into this central pulp portion of a tooth. If the infected material isn’t removed, those germs can move down the tooth root and into your jaw bone, where they can cause abscesses and more serious complications.
Before root canals, the only treatment option for this sort of deep damage was to pull the tooth. And that meant patients were left with a new set of concerns associated with tooth loss (concerns like increased risks for temporomandibular joint disorder and future tooth loss). Root canals avoid the need for tooth extraction by using special instruments and techniques to remove the damaged pulp part of the tooth while leaving the rest of the tooth intact. By preserving your natural tooth, you avoid the issues associated with missing teeth, and you can also feel more confident about your healthier smile.
What happens during a root canal?
Before your root canal begins, your tooth will be numbed really well. You might also receive some sedation to help you relax. At Moberi Dental Specialists, we offer several types of sedation to help you get the level of relaxation you’re looking for. That includes “breathable” nitrous oxide gas (sometimes called laughing gas), oral sedatives and IV sedation that delivers stronger relaxing agents through a needle placed in your arm. (Worth remembering: Just because you might get sedation, that doesn’t mean the procedure is exceptionally painful or difficult. It just means dentists’ understanding of dental anxiety has advanced to the point that more options are available to help patients relax through all sorts of treatments.)
Once you’re numbed and relaxed, your endodontist will use special tools to access and extract the damaged pulp. Then, the cavity will be thoroughly cleaned and filled with a special material to strengthen the tooth. The cavity will also be sealed to help prevent future infection. In most cases, you’ll need to have a crown placed over the tooth to provide extra strength and protection. Afterward, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers to help manage any temporary discomfort you might feel. If you have sedation, you should also plan on having someone drive you home.
Do you need a root canal?
Not every type of toothache needs a root canal. Tooth pain can be caused by lots of issues, including superficial cavities, gum disease, trauma, abscesses and even lodged food or objects. Typically, root canals are associated with symptoms like:
- Severe pain when biting or chewing.
- Swollen gums.
- Prolonged sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures.
- Tooth discoloration.
If you do need a root canal, having the procedure performed by a skilled endodontist like the team at Moberi Dental Specialists means you can feel confident you'll get the best treatment and the best results. Endodontists specialize in root canal procedures and other treatments that focus on the interior and root portion of your teeth, and that means they can help you stay comfortable during your procedure and afterward. Plus, they can make sure your procedure takes full advantage of the latest techniques and technology.
If you need a root canal, don't let misinformation hold you back. To learn more about root canal procedures or to schedule an evaluation with one of our root canal specialists, book an appointment online today.