Did your heart sink when your dentist said you need a root canal? It may be the last thing you want to think about, but ignorance is not always bliss; sometimes nervous patients work themselves up over simple dental procedures because they don’t know what to expect. Knowledge is power!
So, What Is a Root Canal?
There’s a tiny space in the middle and under your teeth called the pulp chamber. This is the living tissue that keeps the tooth alive. When it becomes infected due to tooth decay, you risk losing the entire tooth. In order to save the tooth, the dentist must treat the tooth from underneath.
It’s a scary thought, but believe it or not, the procedure is actually less painful than filling a cavity. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Anesthesia
Most dentists administer a numbing agent via an injection of Novocain. Some even have a special numbing gel so you can’t feel the prick of the needle. Be sure to let your dentist know in advance if you have ever had bad or unusual reactions to anesthesia, like the drug wearing off quickly. She’ll be able to either give you a larger dose or resort to an alternate form.
Step 2: Dental Dam
A thin sheet of rubber is placed over the affected and neighboring teeth, allowing the dentist to work on the isolated tooth for the remainder of the procedure. This sterilizes the area, preventing contamination from bacteria in your saliva or the rest of your mouth.
Step 3: Accessing the Pulp
A small hole is drilled through the top of a tooth in the back (or from behind a front tooth) for better access to the pulp chamber.
Step 4: Removal of Dead Tissue
Using specially designed tools, the dentist gets rid of any diseased tissue. This doesn’t hurt because the area is already numb, and it’s also not live nerves.
Step 5: Cleaning & Refilling
After all the dead tissue is cleared away, it can be disinfected with safe antibacterial solution before adding a special canal sealer. After shaping the canal with tiny, flexible instruments in order to allow them to receive the filling, the material is added and sealed.
Step 6. After-Procedure Treatment
Your dentist might give you an antibiotic to treat the infection and prevent its spread. Follow the instructions, and make sure to take all of your pills. The numbness from the Novocain will wear off after a few hours, and it’s normal to feel sore a few days to a week after the procedure. You can take over the counter painkillers to soothe your mouth. You’ll also need a permanent filling or crown to replace lost tooth structure and completely seal the top of the tooth.
Another useful tip: when you go in to get your treatment, bring a pair of headphones and close your eyes. You’ll be less worried about what’s going on if you’re distracted. If your dentist needs you to bite down or open wider, she can still get your attention.
The idea of getting a root canal is worse than the actual procedure. If it turns out that you need one, rest assured that we’ll do everything we can to make you relaxed and comfortable as we bring you back to oral health.