Root canals have long been a feared operation; the thought of a dentist drilling into your teeth to remove decayed matter can be repulsive and disheartening. The real fear stems from the fact that the procedure itself often entails coming into close proximity with the underlying roots of the teeth (and removing the damaged root), which are highly sensitive.
Furthermore, only the surrounding area of the infection can be numbed with anesthetic, meaning accidental probing of the nerve endings may cause a tingling or painful sensation. In most cases, however, dentists can effectively remove the nerve and pulp without causing any pain at all. The vast majority of patients who have had a root canal performed describe it as similar to getting a dental filling. In fact, you are much more likely to be in considerable pain until you seek medical care for the infection; the sooner the tooth is cleaned and sealed, the sooner the discomfort will go away.
How Does a Root Canal Work?
The purpose of a root canal is to extract infected pulp (the soft tissue located at the center of a tooth) and nerve out of the canal. After this is completed, the tooth’s internal cavity is thoroughly cleaned and finally sealed to prevent future bacterial infections from occurring. Contrary to popular belief, the nerve does not have a necessary function; it only provides hot and cold sensations.
Your ability to eat and speak will not be affected in any way after the nerve has been removed. The longer the infection remains inside the tooth cavity, the worse it will get; once the pulp tissue decays, pus-filled abscesses can form, which can lead to facial swelling, jawbone loss and drainage problems.
Do You Need a Root Canal?
The signs that you may need to have a root canal are:
- Intense tooth pain (far worse than a normal toothache)
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures that do not go away automatically
- Tooth discoloration
- Gum swelling and/or tenderness
If you have one or more of these symptoms, contact your dentist immediately to schedule a consultation. Remember, the best way to prevent bacterial infections is to maintain proper oral hygiene at all times.