Root canal: To merely name the procedure makes some people shiver. “I need to have a root canal done.” Someone complains and you answer: “Oh. I’m sorry.” However, if you were to inquire of most people what a root canal is or why they’re something to dread, you’re likely to get many different answers.  People tend to fear what they don’t understand. However, a little knowledge can help to light up the dark that is the fear of the unknown. So let’s take a few minutes to get to the root of the dreaded root canal.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal treatment, often simply referred to as a “root canal”, is necessary when the tissue inside your tooth, called the pulp, becomes infected. This can happen as a result of deep decay, also known as a cavity, or a chip or a crack in the surface of your tooth. This pulp infection can spread down through the root canals into the tissues of your gums, creating an abscess. This is a very severe and painful infection that can lead to other health complications.   

How Do I Know if I Need a Root Canal?

Signs that you may need a root canal include sensitivity of the tooth to hot and cold, sensitivity to touch or while chewing, and inflamed and sensitive gums around the tooth are all signs. Informing your dentist during your exam about these and any other symptoms you may be having. This will allow your dentist to decide if a root canal is necessary for your condition. Some dentists will perform their own root canals but others will refer you to an endodontist. An endodontist is a kind of dentist who specializes in treating the insides of your teeth.

A root canal treatment consists of your dentist or endodontist drilling into the crown of your infected tooth to remove the infected pulp from inside the tooth and the root canals. Our adult teeth no longer require the pulp as they continue to be nourished by the surrounding tissues. After the pulp has been removed, a biocompatible material temporarily fills the now-empty space inside your tooth until your dentist can begin the restoration. Where tooth decay may have degraded one of the roots and made the tooth unstable, a tiny metal rod may need to be installed in the root to hold the tooth in place in your gums.

The final stage of the process is restoration wherein a crown is created and placed over your compromised tooth. Your dentist or specialist creates the crown, an artificial tooth, matching it to the natural hue of your natural teeth, and uses it to seal up the tooth. The swelling of the inflamed tissues will go down and the “new” tooth can be used just like your natural teeth within several days.

Things to Know

Many people will choose to endure pain or have teeth pulled due to the belief that root canals will be painful or because they may have heard “horror stories” of complications from the procedure. Decades ago the procedure may have been painful, but with our modern technology and anesthetics, the procedure is only about as painful as having a filling installed.

Hopefully, the root canal isn’t so frightening anymore and you can see it for what it really is: a procedure designed to alleviate pain and save your natural teeth, helping you to chew properly and smile confidently. Brushing twice daily, flossing daily and scheduling regular exams with Dr. Albert Caves are all important steps to avoid needing a root canal, especially if your teeth have recently developed any chips or cracks. But if you do need a root canal, now you know there’s nothing to fear.  To schedule with Dr. Caves today, call 706.407.4851 or schedule an appointment online.

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