Do you need a root canal? You’ve got a lot of company. According to the American Association of Endodontists, more than 15 million root canal procedures are performed every year in the U.S., which is kind of surprising since root canals tend to be viewed with a lot of anxiety and even outright fear. The fact is, root canals can be highly effective in helping you keep your natural tooth despite deep decay or trauma. And as the numbers attest, having a root canal isn’t a scary experience, no matter what old tales you’ve been listening to.
An unjustified bad rap
So if root canals are so effective, safe, and popular, why do they have a bad reputation among so many people? That’s probably due to tales being passed down from one generation to the next — specifically, from the generation when pain management wasn’t as evolved as it is today, and when the root canal procedure itself wasn’t as refined and straightforward. To be sure, decades ago many dentists were just as likely to pull a tooth as to try to save it with a root canal. And those who did perform root canals didn’t have the benefit of today’s technological advances, not to mention the advances in the actual technique that’s used to perform the root canal procedure.
Dentistry has evolved significantly since that time, and today, root canal procedures are faster, safer, and a heck of a lot more comfortable than they were in your parents’ or grandparents’ day. If you’ve got a root canal in your future, understanding what happens during the procedure and how you’ll feel during and after your root canal can help ensure you’re prepared and relaxed every step of the way.
How root canals "work"
Sometimes when you get a cavity, it’s the more superficial layers of your tooth that are affected. And in those cases, once the decayed portion is removed, a “regular” filling is typically a good option. But other times, the decay can extend much farther into the central “pulp” portion of your tooth, where the tooth nerves are found. In the “old” days, that typically meant pulling the tooth and leaving you with an unsightly gap (as well as an increased risk of future tooth loss). But today, root canal therapy can help you keep your tooth by using techniques designed to reach deep into the central pulp portion to remove decay and infected tissue.
After the damaged tissue is removed, the cavity is filled with a special “rubbery” material, then sealed and usually topped off with a crown. Why the crown? For a couple of reasons. First, after a root canal, your tooth can be weaker than normal. The crown provides additional protection and strength, which is especially important to help your tooth withstand the pressures of biting and chewing. And second, once the pulp is gone, your tooth will probably become discolored and dark. A crown can be tinted to match your neighboring teeth so the tooth blends in and looks healthy and sound.
Preparing for your root canal
You don’t need to do much to prepare for a root canal procedure. Depending on the type of sedation you're having, you might need to avoid eating just before your appointment, and you might need someone to drive you home. Let us know about any medications you're taking prior to your exam. Most root canals take an hour or less to complete.
At Modern Age Dentistry, we offer several options to prevent pain and keep you relaxed and comfortable during your procedure. Local anesthetic typically is sufficient to block any pain during the procedure, and we can also offer sedative options to help you relax if you’re really nervous about your treatment. Once your root canal procedure is finished, you might have some discomfort once the local numbing agent wears off. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be very helpful, and you can also apply ice to your cheek to reduce soreness and inflammation. Unless you’ve had a sedative, you’ll be able to return to your regular routine afterward, but you might want to take the day off to relax.
Root canal therapy is a safe, effective treatment that can help you preserve your beautiful smile. To learn more about the procedure or to find out what's causing your tooth pain, book an appointment online today.