One of the most feared phrases at the dentist office is, “You need a root canal.” Perhaps you’ve heard a horror story from a friend, or imagine the pain associated. But fear not, a root canal isn’t a bad as you think. In fact, it might be the most helpful procedure in keeping your natural teeth intact. So how do you know you might need a root canal?
Symptoms Indicating Need for a Root Canal
• Pain or Swelling
Pain or swelling of the gums and surrounding tissue are often the first symptoms of a tooth infection. Pain can be acute, throbbing, or dull, or it may be brought on by exposure to hot or cold foods or the pressure of chewing. Tissue may become inflamed or present with boils or areas of pus.
• Acute Flare Up
A sudden onset of pain, extreme tenderness, sensitivity to pressure, or infection, a boil or the presence of pus in the surrounding tissue.
• Darkened Tooth
If a tooth has changed color and become dark yellow, gray or black, it may indicate a problem with or the death of the nutrient-supplying root, or nerve.
• Root Exposure
Through trauma or dental work, the root, or pulp, may become exposed. To avoid complications in the future, a root canal may be recommended.
• No Symptoms
It is possible to have no symptoms, especially if the root has simply died or the symptoms were mild. The problem can be detected through routing dental x-rays that indicate a dark area called “radiolucency” around the tooth’s root where changes in the bone have occurred in response to an infection inside the tooth. Or it can be detected through a routine dental exam.
Once a tooth has become suspect, your dentist will perform testing to assess the status of your condition. Testing can include: percussion, where the dentist taps on the tooth; x-rays to check various angles; thermal testing to determine the effects of hot and cold extremes; or electric pulp testing to check the impulse responses of a tooth’s nerves.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal (sometimes called endodontic therapy) is usually a relatively simple treatment designed to save a tooth that is severely infected. It involves removal of the damaged areas of the tooth (the pulp), cleaning out and disinfecting the area of bacteria and dead or dying tissue, and filling in and sealing the tooth with a crown or restoration. It is called a root canal because it cleans out the canals within the tooth’s root.
The Root Canal Process
Not unlike having a filling done, the dentist or endodontist will administer local anesthesia to numb the tooth and create a pain-free experience. Then a small drill is used to create a small opening in the top of the tooth, and by maneuvering tiny files, the interior of the tooth is cleared away and shaped.
Once the pulp removal is completed (pulpectomy), the dentist will irrigate the chamber to clear away remaining tissue and infection, and apply an antimicrobial solution to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of future infection. When thoroughly dry, the chambers are filled, often with a rubbery material called “gutta-percha” and the opening is sealed off with cement and capped with a temporary filling.
A treatment of antibiotics may also be recommended if infection is severe.
A mold of your teeth is taken early in this process in order to create a permanent crown that will restore and seal the tooth. On a return visit to the dentist the crown is installed and your treatment is complete.
Don’t Dread a Root Canal—Call EverSmile Dentistry
Did you know that our own dentist, Dr. Eddie Choi is also afraid of dentists? That’s why he makes a great effort to remove the fear—and the pain—out of going to the dentist. If you suspect or have confirmed your need for a root canal, contact EverSmile Dentistry in Sterling, Virginia.