Sometimes as a dentist I have to deliver unfortunate news to my patients sitting in the dental chair. Often I tell individuals that they are in need of a root canal. It is common for most to be unsure of what a root canal procedure is, the purpose, the recovery, and how to prevent recurrence. That is why as a provider, it is my duty to not only inform of what this frequently performed procedure is all about, but also clear up any misconceptions about root canals. To understand what a root canal is, some basic anatomy of the tooth needs to first be explained. The top part of the tooth that can be seen when looking inside the mouth is the crown and enamel. Below the crown, there is a layer of dense bony tissue known as dentin. Pulp can be found below the level of dentin, which is soft tissue found in the center of the tooth. The pulp is where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are housed, and is the region that if a tooth decays, pain can be felt. There are spaces that are located through the roots of each tooth known as canals.
Now back to the original question, what exactly is a root canal and why is the procedure performed? A root canal is a surgical procedure where infection is removed from the pulp of the tooth. Pulp becomes infected when an individual experiences injury, a deep untreated cavity, or a large fracture in the tooth. Once damaged, it becomes very easy for bacteria to enter through the impaired area causing pain and discomfort. It is imperative for dentists to perform a root canal in this stage. If left untreated, the affected area can dissipate and drain causing a dental abscess. Dental abscesses can be extremely serious because if the area ruptures it can spread serious infection to the jaw, neck, or head, and potentially lead to life threatening sepsis.
During the root canal surgery, patients will be numbed using localized anesthesia. A dentist will remove the inflamed pulp in the tooth using specialized tools. Once the infected pulp has been removed, a sealant material will be inserted directly into the canals of the root to avoid further complications or re-infection. Lastly, restorations or a filling may need to be placed to any weakened or damaged areas of the crown. The recovery after a root canal is minimal, once the numbing from anesthetic wears off, individuals may experience mild pain, sensitivity, or discomfort, but this can usually be managed with over the counter pain relievers like Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Any discomfort should dissipate after a three to five days. Once healed, the tooth should function as a natural tooth does.
The symptoms an individual may have if a root canal is needed are severe discomfort when chewing foods, a pimple has formed on the gum, a tooth has been cracked or damaged, lingering or persistent cold or heat sensitivity, swollen or red gums, or severe decay. There are many steps that can be taken to prevent needing a root canal. Practicing routine oral health care including brushing and flossing twice a day, utilizing baking soda toothpastes and rinses to reduce acidity in the mouth, regular cleanings with a dental hygienist every six months, and receiving annual X-rays and examinations from a dentist to catch any oral health concerns early.
The root canal procedure is not as scary and intimidating as many have made it seem. With today’s dental technology and sedation options, the surgery can be practically painless and regular routines resumed shortly after the surgery. While root canals can pose a risk to a very small portion of the population, it has always been my strong opinion that the risk of infection or abscess that can result from not receiving a root canal can be far more hazardous to one’s health than receiving the root canal. Are you experiencing symptoms of a possible oral health complication or needing a dental office to call home? Call Pro Solutions Dental Group today! We would love to sit down and discuss your options with you. We are always accepting new patients and emergencies. We are even open on Friday! Contact us to make an appointment or schedule a complimentary office tour at: 928-776-1208. Visit us online at: www.prescottdentist.com! We can’t wait to meet you!