It is one of the most feared dental procedures. Millions of people avoid going to the dentist simply because they dread hearing the inevitable recommendation: they need a root canal. When tooth decay occurs, most people initially feel little discomfort. But, as the decay spreads and becomes more pronounced, pain in the mouth becomes more prevalent. This pain may manifest when biting or chewing food, drinking hot or cold beverages, or simply walking. If left unchecked, it can become unbearable.
The root of the problem is damaged or infected nerves within the dental pulp. The nerves within the tooth's pulp can sustain damage in a couple of different ways. First, when a cavity forms, bacteria appear. If the bacteria is identified and cleaned early, it doesn't present a problem. However, if it is allowed to grow and expand, it can eventually reach the pulpal nerve. When that happens, the bacteria can cause decay and infection. The second way in which the nerves can become damaged is when the jaw or tooth is forcibly struck. The trauma can be severe enough to damage the tissue. In time, the tissue can become infected and in need of root canal therapy.
Having a root canal done can correct the problem, preventing the infection from spreading further.
Why Is Root Canal Therapy Necessary?
If the pulpal nerve becomes damaged and infection sets in, pain ensues. However, pain is not the main concern. If the infection is allowed to spread, it can penetrate the bone around the affected tooth. Given enough time, the bone will eventually become incapable of properly housing the tooth. When a person avoids going to the dentist to have a root canal performed, they are, in effect, willing to sacrifice their tooth and the structural integrity of the surrounding bone.
How It Works
The root canal procedure begins with the removal of the crown from the affected tooth. An endodontist does this in order to gain access to the tooth's infected or damaged pulpal nerve. Then, the affected tissue is removed and the surrounding area is cleaned. Once the area has been cleaned, the endodontist will enlarge it, shaping it so that the surface can bond to the filling. The filling is then placed to prevent infection from reappearing. Once the area has been filled, a new crown is created and placed on top in order to seal the restored tooth.
Misconception About The Pain
There's a common fallacy about the pain of having root canal therapy. Decades ago, the procedure was accompanied by a significant amount of discomfort. That perception still exists, even though it is untrue. Today, root canal therapy involves practically no pain. Experienced endodontists take steps to ensure their patients experience as little discomfort as possible during the procedure.
After The Procedure
Once a root canal has been performed, the patient is strongly encouraged to make a follow-up appointment with the endodontist. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, the affected tooth from which pulpal tissue has been removed can become dry and brittle. If it is not restored properly, it can easily fracture or chip. Second, your endodontist can check the tooth and the area within to ensure that new infections haven't emerged.
Getting a root canal isn't nearly as daunting a procedure as most people believe. Root canal therapy can be performed with little to no discomfort. Most importantly, it restores your natural teeth and eliminates infections that can spread and cause significant damage. If the thought of having the procedure done is unnerving to you, speak with your dentist to gain a better understanding of what is involved.