There remains a lot of mystery and fear out there about the common dental procedure known as "root canal". What is a root canal and why are they necessary?
Root canal’ is a term for a dental operation where the infected pulp of a tooth is cleaned out, the space disinfected and then filled and sealed. A diseased or infected tooth nerve can be very painful for some people or if it is in its early stages it may not be causing pain just yet.
Root canal symptoms – what are they and why might I need a root canal treatment?
The reason we do root canal treatments here in Newport News and Hampton Virginia is to save a tooth that has a diseased or infected nerve. Root canals are an alternative to tooth extraction. We can tell that the nerve in the tooth is dying because of the symptoms of:
- Sensitive teeth – particularly sensitivity between hot and cold temperatures
- Sore or painful tooth to bite on
- Darkening of the tooth
- Swelling or tenderness of the surrounding gum
- X-Rays: after time the disease in the tooth will spread to the jawbone and the X-Ray will reveal where the jawbone has been eaten away.
Are root canal procedures painful? In the past root canal treatments have had the reputation for being terribly painful and troublesome. That is not so much the case these days – the methods that we have to treat the infected nerves in the tooth are far more predictable. The treatment should really be no more uncomfortable than when you have a filling – which we are able to do with a minimum of pain.
The most pain is felt during a root canal treatment when the nerve is in the process of dying, as sometimes the anaesthetic won’t work properly. We encourage people to call us before this stage, when they first have symptoms of tooth or gum pain.
What is the process for a root canal? Step one: get rid of the infection. Anytime there is an infection anywhere in the body, there is need for immediate treatment. Dental infection is no different as infections that go untreated can cause the body to go septic and can become life threatening situations. The first half of the treatment focuses primarily on addressing the infection. So we will numb the tooth, remove the infected tissue, then we clean the tooth out and dress the tooth with an antiseptic material. We will then review the state of the tooth in a couple of weeks to check the healing process. If it all looks good then we seal the root up.
Step two: strengthen the tooth. The second half of a root canal treatment is all about strengthening the tooth. The major reason people loose teeth once they have had root canal treatments are that the teeth fracture. Research advises that teeth that have undergone root canal treatment is that we then need to strengthen that tooth by putting a crown in the tooth rather than a filling – a tooth which has been root treated then restored with a filling may not be strong enough to resist fracture.
This two-step process means that a long lasting root canal treatment can be expensive but it really is the only option to save a tooth. If there is sufficient tooth left and the root canal is done well then it is a very reliable procedure.
So if you are suffering dental pain and even remotely suspect you might have a dental infection, please contact your Hampton or Newport News dentist immediately. The situation could be more serious than you think.