Clinical Advice and Oral Health TipsProcedures and Treatments

We’re not living in the fearful days of Steve Martin’s ominous dentist from “Little Shop of Horrors” anymore — so when your dentist tells you,” You need a root canal!”, there’s no need to panic. Decades ago, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, chances were extremely good that you would have to endure a lot of pain and discomfort only to end up losing the tooth anyway! Thankfully, as time has passed, dentistry has evolved to make sure you not only save the affected tooth but are made comfortable throughout the entire process.

These days root canals are relatively simple procedures, which involve one to three office visits… and MAY include a sweet treat afterwards — just to soothe that scared inner child.

Why do I need a Root Canal?

Your teeth’s nerves aren’t really a vital part of your overall dental health past childhood. Their sole function is to provide a sensory element. That is, to make sure you know when something is either hot or cold. However, when a tooth becomes cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside the tooth itself. If this infection is left untreated, an abscess can form (a collection of pus build up within the tissue). If this infected tissue isn’t removed you can wind up with lots of swelling — not to mention PAIN. This doesn’t just affect your teeth, but your jawbones, and overall health as well. If not dealt with sooner than later, an abscessed tooth can cause numerous problems and may end up having to be removed entirely.

Sometimes teeth the require root canal therapy aren’t painful. However, signs you may need one include severe toothaches, pain when chewing or when pressured, a prolonged sensitivity or pain when consuming hot or cold foods or drinks, and swelling and tenderness in nearby gums. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s probably best if you contact your dentist.

What happens during a Root Canal?

A root canal treatment typically involves one to three visits to the dentist. During the treatment, your dentist or endodontist (a specialized dentist who focused on problems with the dental nerves) will remove the affected tissue surrounding the tooth. Then the interior of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and sealed. Finally, the tooth is filled with a dental composite. If your tooth had extensive decay before the root canal, your dentist may suggest getting a crown to further strengthen and protect your tooth from breakage. Then, as long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing and checkups, your newly restored tooth can last a lifetime!