Easing Anxiety about Root Canals

Being told you need a root canal may cause you to feel anxious or worried and full of questions. While the procedure has had a bad reputation in the past, it really is not so scary and can help you save a tooth.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a treatment for a tooth that becomes badly damaged or infected. Inside the tooth, under the enamel and a hard layer called dentin, is the soft tissue called the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. This pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development, but once the tooth becomes fully mature, it can survive without the pulp.

During a root canal, the dentist or endodontist removes the pulp of the tooth that has become damaged, cleans it, disinfects it, and then fills and seals it. Essentially, the middle of the tooth is hollowed out, filled and sealed to prevent bacteria from entering. The purpose is to save the tooth instead of removing it altogether.

Why Does a Tooth Need a Root Canal?

A root canal is necessary if the pulp of a tooth becomes inflamed or infected. This inflammation or infection can be caused by several things, including:

  • Deep decay
  • Recurrent decay and repeated dental procedures on the tooth
  • A chip or crack in the tooth
  • An injury to the tooth even if there is no visible chips or cracks

How Can You Tell if You Need a Root Canal?

Tooth pain — ranging from mild to severe — is the most common symptom that indicates a patient may need a root canal. Sensitivity to hot and cold foods, as well as tender or swollen gums near the problem area are other symptoms. However, a dental x-ray is the only way to truly diagnose whether there is a need for the procedure.

It is important to note that even if the patient has no pain, a dental x-ray could indicate the need for a root canal. A dentist can see if the pulp of the tooth is damaged before the infection gets so bad that it causes pain. Or, a nerve could die quietly and never cause any pain.

Is a Root Canal Painful?

A root canal is a procedure that treats the pain you are feeling due to the damaged pulp. Most patients feel little to no pain while the procedure is being performed.

Before the procedure, the dentist or endodontist will numb the tooth and surrounding areas to prevent the sensation of pain. If a patient is particularly anxious, sedation may also be an option.

After the procedure, a patient may experience some pain and sensitivity for a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers or a prescription medication can help ease the discomfort during healing.

Who Should Do the Root Canal?

Both dentists and endodontists perform root canals. If a tooth has a more complicated nerve system, such as the molars do, or there are other complicating factors, a referral to an endodontist may be necessary.

The most important thing is to have regular dental check-ups in order to obtain a diagnosis and treatment. Call Enlighten Dental Care today at (336) 765-0904 to schedule your appointment.

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