What is a root canal?
A root canal (also known as endodontic treatment) is a safe and effective dental procedure during which a dentist removes damaged pulp from the interior of the tooth, preventing the need for a tooth extraction.
Once a tooth has emerged through the gums, the nerve's only function is to provide the sensation of hot or cold temperatures, so removing the nerve will not affect the tooth's function and is preferable.
What happens during a root canal procedure?
A root canal procedure usually involves one to three visits to your dental office, depending on how severe the damage is.
First, the dentist removes the affected tissue and cleans the interior of the tooth. The tooth is then sealed and filled with a composite material. If your tooth had extensive decay, your dentist may place a dental crown to strengthen and protect the tooth.
Why do I need a root canal?
Bacteria can enter the interior of a tooth and cause infection if it has a deep cavity or is cracked. If left untreated, an abscess can form, causing pain and swelling, and eventually causing damage to your jawbones and overall oral health.
In these cases, the solution is often to remove the infected tooth nerve with a root canal.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
Patients typically require a root canal when they have a severe toothache, gum swelling, or tooth sensitivity, particularly to hot and cold. When the damaged tissue is removed, these symptoms can be easily alleviated.
Only your dentist can determine if a root canal will be an appropriate treatment. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist.
Do root canals hurt?
Since patients are given anesthesia, a root canal isn’t more painful than other dental procedures, like getting a filling or having a wisdom tooth removed.
Following the procedure, you may experience some soreness or numbness, as well as mild discomfort for a few days. However, your dentist can assist you with pain management, and most post-procedure pain can be treated quickly and comfortably.
How to prevent a root canal
To prevent the need for a root canal, it’s important to follow the same dental hygiene habits that help prevent cavities and other tooth problems. To keep your teeth healthy, you should follow these guidelines:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss between each tooth at least once a day
- Use fluoride toothpaste or a fluoride rinse
- Visit your dentist for checkups every six months
- Have your teeth professionally cleaned by your dentist at least once per year
- Limit your intake of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. These foods have a habit of sticking to your teeth. If you consume sugary foods, try to rinse your mouth or brush your teeth right away.