Performed by skilled dentists, root canals are routine procedures that can relieve immense dental pain and protect one’s smile from further damage. But despite these benefits, many may avoid this treatment due to outdated fears and misconceptions about the process. In honor of Root Canal Awareness Week this May 5th to 11th, here are four questions and answers to help shed light on the procedure.
Root canals are primarily performed to treat and preserve infected teeth, as well as those that have been broken due to injury. The only way to know if you need root canal treatment is to consult a dentist for a thorough diagnosis.
You should talk to a dentist about root canal therapy if you develop a persistent and localized toothache. Caused by infection or injury, this symptom occurs when sensitive nerves within the tooth become inflamed. This pain tends to get worse whenever you chew, eat sugar, or consume hot or cold beverages.
If you don’t get a root canal in time, you may not be able to save the tooth as the infection will spread to the point of full decay. Instead, the tooth will have to be fully extracted andreplaced with a dental implant.
To start treatment, your dentist will apply a local anesthetic to the affected tooth so that you will feel no pain during the procedure. Your dentist will then drill a small hole in the crown or back of the tooth to access the infected chamber.
The infected material is removed and the interior of the tooth is fully sterilized. Once the infection is clear, your dentist will use a pliable substance — known as gutta-percha — to strengthen the tooth. A permanent ceramic crown is then provided to restore the integrity of the tooth.
Using ice and over-the-counter pain meds to relieve temporary discomfort, most people can return to work and eat normal foods within a few hours of the treatment. If you were given a temporary crown, avoid hard and sticky foods, as these may damage the prosthetic. Also, keep up with standard oral hygiene practices, such as twice daily brushing and flossing, to keep the mouth clean. Finally, have a follow-up appointment with your dentist to make sure the treatment was effective. This is when your permanent crown will be seated.