Just the words "root canal" can strike fear and trepidation in most people, but most of the negativity surrounding this simple dental procedure is unfounded. A root canal can often be no more unforgettable or inconvenient than getting a tooth filled. Knowing what to expect can help allay fears of the unknown, so if you have a root canal in your near future, read on to lean more about the procedure.
Why is a root canal necessary?
If your dentist is advising you that you need this procedure, you may have damage to the inside of your tooth or an infection. The inside of the tooth, known as the pulp, is packed with nerve endings and blood vessels. An infection there could mean permanent damage to the bones in your jaw area, and the infection could even spread to your brain, a truly scary possibility. Your dentist is likely to refer you to a specialist called an endodontist for the root canal.
What happens during the procedure?
1. Just as when you have a cavity filled, you will be numbed in the gum area with an injection. In some cases, general anesthesia is recommended. The endodontist will isolate the affected tooth with a dental dam, a tiny flexible sheet of latex which will help to keep the area being worked on dry (from your saliva).
2. The pulp and decay must be removed, so a small hole will be drilled, and the infected debris will be removed. The location of the hole is normally on the top of the tooth for back teeth and on the back of the tooth for front teeth.
3. The entire interior of the tooth is cleaned and shaped to prepare it for the filling material.
4. Your mouth will be continually rinsed with fresh water to wash away any contaminants.
5. The filling material is somewhat different from the usual filling for simple cavities; it is a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. The entire opening is sealed with dental cement once the packing is complete.
What follow-up work will be done?
The root canal is complete at this point, but you may need a return visit for final touches. Depending on how severely your tooth was affected, you may need a crown or additional filling done to ensure the stability of your tooth for long-term use.
As you can see, a root canal is nothing more than a slightly-more-serious cavity filling, and it should leave you with only some minor soreness and tenderness in your gum area. For information about root-canal surgery, speak to your dentist or endodontist as soon as possible.