Many people shudder at the thought of a getting a root canal. You may have seen it depicted in a movie as a painful procedure and were left terrified at the prospect of one day needing one yourself. However, it is a routine procedure with many lasting benefits. Best of all, it is relatively painless process. Once you understand what it entails and why some fear it, you will be on your way to improved dental health.
When Are Root Canals Needed?
A root canal is needed when the pulp, the part of a tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels, becomes infected or damaged. How does this happen? According to the American Dental Association, the following problems may lead to tooth disease:
A dentist will need to remove and treat the infected area to prevent more severe problems. Besides a root canal, the dentist can also extract the tooth entirely. However, this also requires a dental implant or bridge to maintain proper bite alignment.
The Truth About Root Canals and Illness
There are some who believe that there are dangers to having a root canal versus a tooth extraction. For instance, one common misconception is that root canals lead to serious illnesses such as cancer later in life. The American Association of Endodontists states that this misconception stems from the work of a 1920s doctor who made this connection. Researchers have since debunked this study, and later research indicates root canals and similar procedures actually decrease cancer risk. In contrast, an extraction increases the risk of later infection as it is a significantly more invasive process.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
The goal of a root canal is to remove all of the infected nerves and tissue while leaving the tooth itself behind. After you are given an anesthetic, the dentist must create a small hole in the tooth in order to reach the infected area. He or she will then clean out the inside of the tooth using a series of very thin files along with an irrigation solution. Your dentist may also need to insert medicine to treat a severe infection. Because it is vital that no saliva or bacteria enter the opening, the dentist will then fill the inside of the tooth with a special compound to seal it permanently. As for the outside of the tooth, it will be closed up with a filling or crown, which can be done during the same visit or up to a week later.
Following a root canal, you may experience some tenderness in the affected area, but this should subside within a few days. If you opted to have a filling or crown later, it is important to minimize chewing until you next visit. With proper dental care, the remaining tooth will last a lifetime. Speak with your dentist to talk about a root canal as a safe alternative to costly tooth extractions and implants.Share