If we were to conduct a survey of people in our area (Edgewood, KY and Northern KY) to determine what dental procedure they’d most like to avoid, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the most frequent response was the root canal.
Root canals get a bad rap. Despite the fact that root canals are no more uncomfortable than filling a cavity, the idea that a root canal is the worst thing you can go through in the dentist’s chair persists.
Some patients do suffer from dental anxiety, a condition that makes any dental procedure difficult to tolerate (dental anxiety can be controlled with sedation dentistry techniques that we use in our practice). However, even if you don’t have a problem with dental anxiety, it’s likely you are still made uneasy by the idea of root canals. This is a result of rumors and myths about the procedure that are spread either by those who simply don’t understand what a root canal is and why it is a necessary procedure, or by those who profit from that misunderstanding.
A root canal is nothing to be afraid of, but the consequences of avoiding a root canal when you need it is something to fear.
What is the Purpose of a Root Canal?
The root canal procedure (also known as endodontic therapy) is a common and well-understood treatment for a tooth that has become infected. Specifically, the infection that a root canal addresses takes place in the dental pulp. The dental pulp is an organ that is found at the center of each of your teeth. The dental pulp is responsible for providing your tooth with the nutrients it needs, producing dentin, the hard material below the enamel, and it has nerves to detect changes in temperature and pressure, as well as injury (the signal is pain). The dental pulp is found inside the tooth’s root canal, a hollow space inside your tooth. Depending upon the shape of the tooth, a tooth may have either one or two root canals.
When a tooth becomes seriously damaged through decay or trauma (such as a crack or fracture), the oral bacteria that naturally live in your mouth can enter the tooth. This can be very dangerous, because those bacteria can cause serious illness in other parts of the body once it has made its way completely through the tooth. The primary symptom of a tooth infection is a toothache that won’t go away.
Why Don’t We Just Extract the Infected Tooth?
Dentistry has made incredible leaps in how we treat oral health issues as well as the technologies that we employ to replace damaged or missing teeth (such as dental implants). Even as our understanding of how teeth work, how to treat problems, and how to devise even better and better replacements for teeth that have been lost, there is not yet a total replacement for your natural teeth. The replacements that are available are certainly up to the task of doing your teeth’s job when they’re missing or no longer viable, but they simply pale in comparison to the performance of a natural tooth. Therefore, if we (your dental care team at Edgewood Dentistry) can save the natural tooth, we will, even if it is somewhat compromised as a result because your natural teeth are that much better than anything modern dental technology has to offer.
Also, a tooth extraction when compared to a root canal treatment (and many other dental procedures for that matter) is much more traumatic, requires a much longer recovery time, and the chance of infection post-extraction is very high (damaged teeth today aren’t “pulled” as you might imagine: teeth are removed surgically). After all, a tooth that has been extracted leaves quite a large hole in your gums!
A root canal on the other hand leaves your natural tooth in place, and even though it will need a crown to make up for the structural strength it has lost due to the procedure, your tooth will still perform better than an artificial alternative.
What Happens During A Root Canal?
Well, first we summon Igor from his dungeon (just kidding; we haven’t had an Igor at our office for a few years now).
A root canal is the removal of the dental pulp, which is found in the root canal inside the tooth. Once the infected tooth has been identified and you have been given an anesthetic to eliminate any pain, your dentist will:
- Use a drill to gain access to the root canal,
- Remove the dental pulp and the nerve inside the root canal,
- Use files to prepare the tooth for filling, to remove damaged tissues, and to make it easier for the tooth to be disinfected (using a disinfectant solution),
- Fill the tooth with a natural latex called gutta-percha, and closes the tooth.
This is followed by the placement of a crown to give the tooth the strength it needs to perform its normal functions, such as chewing and grinding food.
With the use of anesthetics (as well as other pain management medications as needed) and modern techniques, a root canal can even be completely painless for most patients.
Have a Toothache That Just Won’t Quit?
Don’t ignore it! In the rest of the body, its possible to “walk off” a nagging pain, but that’s not possible with your teeth! Dental and oral health problems only get worse, and can do so very rapidly if you don’t seek treatment as soon as possible.
Let Edgewood Dental help you! Dial 859-474-7830 to reach our team and book an appointment! New patients are often seen the same week they call us.