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Some patients feel fear or anxiety when they hear their dentist mention the words “root canal.” However, if you suffer from certain kinds of dental pain, the root canal treatment process may be your best solution.
People have misconceptions about root canals. For example, many believe that root canals are extremely painful. However, most patients find that when a skilled professional performs the root canal it is no more painful than a common filling.
You may feel more relaxed once you understand what a root canal is and when it is an effective treatment option. However, you want to find the right professional for your needs. This guide offers insight to help you decide whether to trust your mouth to a general dentist or a specialist who focuses on procedures like root canals.
But first things first, in order to make an informed decision you need to know the basics about root canals.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a procedure used to save or repair a decaying tooth. Basically, a dental professional removes the tooth’s nerve and decayed tissue then cleans and seals the tooth.
During a root canal, the dentist removes decayed or infected soft tissue. Sometimes people don’t realize their teeth contain soft tissue. When you look at your teeth, you notice the hard, pearly white enamel. However, deeper inside there is a softer pulpy layer called dentin. Dentin contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When you were a child, this dentin nourished your growing teeth. However, as an adult, your teeth can remain healthy and functional without dentin.
Sometimes the dentin gets inflamed or infected. This sometimes causes unbearable pain and inflammation. Your dental professional offers relief through the root canal treatment process.
When is a Root Canal Necessary?
When your tooth’s nerve or dentin tissue breaks down, bacteria multiply within the tooth. This can lead to more serious infection or an abscessed tooth. When a patient has a tooth abscess, tiny “sacs” of pus form on the root. If left untreated, the abscess or other infection results in:
- Bone loss around the tooth’s root
- Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, head, or neck
- Drainage problems around the root which sometimes causes a hole through the side of the affected tooth.
These complications happen when the tooth’s nerve or dentin become infected from deep tooth decay, a crack in the tooth, or facial trauma.
Here are some signs of infection that may require a root canal:
- Discolored tooth or teeth
- Sensitivity to heat or cold temperatures
- Infection or swelling in the surrounding gum tissue
- Recurring pimples on the gum near the tooth
- Your dental imaging shows visible signs of infection and break down
A successful root canal treatment allows patients to keep their natural teeth and live free of the pain and infection associated with the infection. For many patients, a root canal is the best solution. However, the first step is a thorough examination and diagnosis from a dentist. Since there are so many treatment options available, choose a dentist that stays current on best practices in dental care.
Do You Need a Specialist to Perform Your Root Canal?
Once you learn that you need a root canal treatment process, your next step is finding the best professional to perform the procedure. Some patients feel comfortable using their general dentist. Others prefer to see a specialist. But which option is best for you?
An endodontist is a dentist specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of injuries or diseases involving dental pulp.
Sometimes a patient’s tooth anatomy is more challenging than average. It may be hard for a less experienced dentist to find or reach the root. Since an Endodontist specializes in procedures like root canals, this may be a better choice in those situations.
A specialist may use cutting-edge techniques or tools like an ultrasonic needle or a water laser. A general dentist must stay current on the entire field of dentistry and often focuses on preventative care. It is impossible to develop skills in every aspect of modern dentistry. A general dentist may perform a routine root canal well, but a specialist may be required in more complicated situations.
Have a frank conversation with your dentist to discuss whether an Endodontist offers the best chance for success in your situation.
What to Expect Before and After the Root Canal Treatment Process
The root canal treatment process requires at least one, often multiple visits to your dentist or Endodontist.
First, your dentist or endodontist uses imaging, like x-rays, to see the structure of the tooth and location of the decay. The professional may administer an anesthesthetic depending on your situation. In some cases since the root is dead, it isn’t necessary.
Next, your dental professional drill a hole. The next step is to remove the decayed material and clean the area. Afterwards, your dentist or endodontist seals the tooth. The timing varies. Sometimes sealing happens right away and other times the patient needs additional treatment to get rid of infection first. The dentist may apply a temporary filling. The exact detail depends on a number of factors including whether the patient needs complete restoration. Since every situation is different, talk with your dentist. At the end, the patient has a sealed tooth or crown and a tooth free of infection.
Most procedures involve a period of healing and recovery. Most root canal patients report that their usual over-the-counter pain medicine controls the pain during their healing. Be sure to follow any oral hygiene guidelines offered by your dentist or endodontist. Usually, the patient resumes a normal dental hygiene routine. However, gum health is especially important after a root canal since the soft tissue surrounding the tooth now provides the nourishment previously provided by the pulp within the tooth.
With any dental procedure, your first step is a thorough examination and diagnosis. Talk with your dentist about any discomfort or oral health concerns. If your dentist suggests a root canal treatment process, be sure to ask about whether you would benefit from seeing a specialist.
Southview Dentistry currently offers appointments for thorough dental examinations and cleaning.