Times have changed. Years ago, root canals were painful and the puns were true. But with today’s dental advances, there is little, if any, pain involved with a root canal. Millions of teeth are saved each year with root canal therapy which is similar to having a routine filling and can usually be completed in one or two appointments.
Why a root canal?
An injury or a deep cavity may cause one of your teeth to crack, leaving it open for infection. This can damage the pulp, the network of nerves and blood vessels surrounding the root, and may even damage the bone surrounding the tooth, resulting in pain and swelling. If left untreated, additional bacteria and decaying food particles can cause a serious infection or abscess, leading to pulp death, bone loss and loss of the tooth. Symptoms to watch for are swelling of your face and neck, severe toothache, swollen gums, and temperature sensitivity.
Root canal therapy (endodontic treatment) is designed to save a damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it. It involves opening the tooth, removing the infected pulp, cleaning the canals inside the root, and filling and sealing the tooth. Alternatives include extracting the damaged tooth and replacing it with a dental implant, bridge or removable partial denture.
A root canal usually takes two visits. Dental X-rays are taken to determine the extent of the damage; you will receive a local anesthetic prior to the procedure. There are mild sedatives available which you can take just prior to your dental visit which can make the experience more pleasant if you are fearful. If the infection is severe, your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic before your appointment. If you follow good oral hygiene, your restored tooth could last a lifetime.