When your dentist tells you that you need to get a root canal, even hearing the phrase may make you uncomfortable – because they are known as painful and delicate procedures, root canals often come with a connotation of unpleasantness. However, a root canal is actually a fairly common dental treatment that millions of people go through every year, and it is important not to let fear of getting one prevent you from receiving the help you need. Furthermore, although the term sounds unpleasant, knowing what to expect can ease some anxiety for someone who needs a root canal.
What exactly is a root canal? What is it intended to treat and fix?
A tooth is composed of three layers: the surface layer of white enamel, a hard layer called the dentin, and a soft tissue called the pulp, which consists of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. When a tooth decays through the enamel and dentin and all the way down to the pulp, the sensitive root of the tooth can become infected, leading to pain and discomfort in the person with the diseased tooth. A root canal is a procedure that is intended to treat and fix this condition by replacing the infected pulp and restoring the tooth to its normal function.
Why might someone need a root canal? What symptoms may you be experiencing?
Typically, someone needs a root canal because their dental cavity has expanded to the tooth nerve, and as a result, the pulp has become infected and needs to be drained in order to ease the patient’s suffering. Symptoms that may require a root canal include intense pain in your tooth and the surrounding jaw, as well as an increased likelihood of infection in other parts of your mouth as a result of the decaying tooth.
What does the procedure involve? What can a patient expect?
During a root canal, a dentist will drain the inflamed pulp from inside the tooth, then clean and disinfect the nerve canal and fill in the empty space with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, effectively replacing the infected tooth nerve with an inert substance. A crown or filling will seal off the tooth and protect it from future decay, as well as make it feel like any other tooth, with no more pain or inflammation. During the procedure, you can expect that your dentist will give you a local anaesthetic to numb your teeth and jaw, and you should not experience any pain. It may not be an ideal procedure, but when it’s required to preserve your overall oral health, it can prove to be a relatively simple and pain-free experience.