Root canal therapy, often referred to as “getting a root canal,” is a routine dental procedure that can save a badly damaged tooth and prevent unnecessary tooth loss. Listed below are some common questions many people have about root canals. Some of the answers may just surprise you!
When Is a Root Canal Needed?
Inside each of your teeth is a soft center known as the “pulp” or “nerve” of the tooth. Sometimes, the pulp of the tooth becomes inflamed or infected. When the pulp gets sick, you might experience pain, swelling, bone loss, and abscess. If you are lucky, you may not experience any uncomfortable symptoms at all – but the infection can be destroying your bone or silently contributing to other health problems. Either way, once the pulp is sick, root canal therapy must be performed to prevent the loss of the tooth and stop damage to your bone and gums.
How Does a Root Canal Save Your Tooth?
Root canal therapy removes the infection from inside your tooth, leaving the hard outside of your tooth intact. Once the inside of the tooth is clean, it is sealed from top to bottom to help prevent future infection. Then the tooth is usually covered with a crown to protect it and allow it to continue to function properly.
What Are the Benefits of Root Canal Treatment?
The biggest benefit of root canal treatment is that it lets you keep your tooth! This means a more attractive smile, more efficient chewing, and protecting your other teeth from excessive strain. You also don’t have to be sore for weeks afterwards like you would if you had the tooth removed. Most root canal patients experience immediate relief from many of their symptoms and minor-to-no discomfort following their root canal procedure.
Root canals are usually very effective and have a high success rate. As long as you have the tooth fully restored with a crown afterwards, continue practicing good dental hygiene, and have regular dental checkups with Dr. Bailey, you can expect to continue to use a root canaled tooth for years to come!
Should I Just Get My Tooth Pulled Instead?
Sometimes a tooth is so damaged that removing it is the only option. But, according to Dr. Bailey, removing a tooth should always be a last resort. Your teeth all work together, and each individual tooth is important. When one or more teeth are missing, the remaining teeth chew less effectively. They are also subjected to increased stress and can become loose, move, tip over, or even break. Replacing a missing tooth with a bridge, implant, or denture is usually possible, but is often more expensive than just saving the original tooth in the first place utilizing a treatment like root canal therapy.
Can’t I Just Take Antibiotics to Heal My Sick Tooth?
Although antibiotics can sometimes be helpful for a few weeks, they cannot completely cure a tooth infection. Tooth infections hide inside your teeth, and as soon as the antibiotics are gone, the pain and abscesses usually return. What’s more, taking antibiotics long term can cause side effects or other health problems. The best course of treatment is simply to remove the source of the infection from inside the tooth and solve the problem.
I’m Scared to Have a Root Canal! Aren’t Root Canals Painful?
Many patients are fearful of root canals based on a story they’ve heard. Others might even have experienced a painful root canal themselves. Everyone’s experience is unique, but the good news is that modern root canal therapy is much more comfortable than it was in the past, and there is no longer any need to be afraid. Some of our patients are so comfortable they even fall asleep during the procedure! If you are very nervous, we have also some additional ways to help you relax that we can discuss during your initial visit.
How can I avoid needing a root canal?
Since root canal therapy is used to treat tooth infections, the best way to avoid needing a root canal is by avoiding a tooth infection, which is usually caused by harmful bacteria making its way inside a tooth. Bacteria can access a tooth through untreated tooth decay and dental trauma, so if your dentist advises you to receive a filling or a crown to protect and restore a tooth, it's in your best interest to schedule your restorative treatment sooner rather than later. Scheduling routine dental visits and practicing good oral hygiene at home are also great ways to protect your teeth.
Do I have to have a crown placed after my root canal?
Most patients who have root canals performed need to have a crown placed afterward. Dental crowns are used to protect teeth that have become weak due to damage. They are also customized to blend in with the surrounding teeth, which prevents the tooth from standing out from the others. Our team would be happy to work with you to ensure that your crown looks and feels as natural as possible.
What happens after a root canal?
Once you leave our office, you will want to wait until the numbness wears off before you attempt to eat anything to avoid biting your tongue or the inside of your mouth. Then, you will want to start with soft foods and chew using the side of the mouth that is opposite from the tooth that was treated. You shouldn't feel too much pain or discomfort once your teeth are no longer numb, but it's never a bad idea to have over-the-counter pain medications on hand just in case. Our team can also provide you with aftercare instructions for a comfortable recovery.
Do you think you may need a root canal? Call Dr. Bailey at North River Dental Care today at (540) 369-4939!