Have you ever experienced sharp dental pain when eating something hot, or struggled to sleep because of a throbbing toothache? Do you have pimples on your gums or recurring problems with your fillings? A visit to your dentist will probably confirm that you have a dental infection and need a root canal.
If the word “root canal” causes you to break out in a cold sweat, you are not alone. To put your mind at ease, we are going to break down the term “root canal treatment”, to remove the negative stigma, and help you understand why it is the treatment of choice for certain dental infections.
Basic Anatomy of a Tooth
We don’t think about the anatomy of our teeth unless we have a problem with them. Besides being the main thing people see when we smile, our teeth also play a vital role in chewing and a very important role in our speech.
Teeth are comprised of:
The enamel is the hard, outer layer of the tooth
The top part of the tooth. The shape of the crown determines the tooth’s function. Molars’ crowns are flat, for grinding, while incisors have sharp crowns for cutting into food.
Dentin is the layer under the tooth’s enamel, making up the majority of the tooth’s structure.
The pulp, the soft tissue in the center of the tooth, consists of nerve tissue and blood vessels. It helps the tooth to grow in its developing stages but is not needed in a fully developed tooth. Its function in fully developed teeth is mainly to nourish the surrounding tissue.
The pulp can get damaged, inflamed, or infected by:
- Deep dental decay
- Repeated dental procedures on the tooth
- Large fillings
- A cracked or chipped tooth
- Facial trauma
The root is the tooth’s anchor, keeping it in place. Embedded in the jawbone, the root enables the tooth to withstand the force of biting and chewing.
Why Would a Root Canal Be Necessary?
A dentist would only recommend a root canal if they felt it was the appropriate treatment.
Some reasons that a root canal would be recommended include:
- To eliminate bacteria from an already infected tooth.
- To prevent an infected tooth from needing to be extracted. An extracted tooth results in abnormal wear and tear on the remaining teeth
- To prevent reinfection of the tooth.
Signs You May Need Root Canal
A dentist will examine your teeth and provide you with various treatment options.
They will probably recommend root canal treatment if you present with the following:
- Severe pain when you chew or bite; pain sometimes persists throughout the day and often interrupts your sleep pattern
- Pimples on gums
- Lingering, painful sensation to hot and cold food or drinks
- Swollen and tender gums
- Deep decay or darkening of the gums
- A dark or black tooth
- Deep cavities or recurring issues with fillings
- A badly chipped or cracked tooth
The Eight Stages of a Root Canal Procedure
Root canal treatment, otherwise known as endodontic treatment, normally occurs in eight stages:
- An x-ray is taken to confirm the shape of the root and to check for infection in the surrounding bone.
- A local anesthetic is given. This ensures that the patient is comfortable during the procedure.
- A rubber dam is placed around the tooth. This assists in keeping the area dry.
- A small access hole is drilled into the tooth. This hole enables the dentist to remove the pulp, debris, and bacteria from the cavity.
- The root canal is then scrubbed and cleaned via the access hole. This is done by using access files and rinsing with water and sodium chloride.
- If infected, medication is injected via the access hole and the hole is sealed with a temporary filling. The patient will usually be asked to return in one week. Most dentists will place a temporary filling and request that the patient return after about one week, even if the tooth was not infected.
- After approximately one week, the tooth will be filled with a sealer paste and rubber compound. A permanent filling is placed to seal the hole.
- The tooth is restored with a crown and post, or other methods if necessary. This must be done to strengthen the tooth and prevent it from breaking.
How To Care for a Tooth After a Root Canal
Even though you will be able to resume normal activities almost immediately after a root canal treatment, it is advisable to take these precautions:
- To avoid contamination and/or tooth breakages, minimize chewing when you only have the temporary filling.
- Natural tissue inflammation may cause mild discomfort or pain (especially if the tooth was infected before the procedure). Take pain medication as prescribed if necessary. Contact your dentist if the pain worsens or does not subside within a few days.
- Dental hygiene is vital. Brush, floss and use an antiseptic mouthwash at least twice a day.
- Schedule regular dentist appointments. You should have a dental check-up at least once a year.
Think You May Need a Root Canal? Eriks Dental Group Is Just a Call Away
Gone are the days where residents of Boynton Beach are afraid of their dentist visits. Ericks Dental Group is known for providing caring, capable and comprehensive dental services for all ages. For any dental or root canal procedure questions contact us at 561-733-4004, today.
Want access to more dental care tips and advice? Check out the Eriks Dental Group Dental Tips blog.