You may have heard horror stories about root canals being terribly complicated and painful procedures, so you’ll be relieved to know that in most cases this is simply not true. In fact, many patients experience no more discomfort from a root canal than from a regular filling.
What is a Root Canal?
Inside your tooth, there is a central chamber that’s filled with nerves and blood vessels. This is called the pulp. When this area gets infected, either from an injury or untreated cavity that has worked its way through the enamel, it becomes necessary to remove the pulp. This is called a root canal because it involves drilling a ‘canal’ in the center of the tooth to completely remove the nerves and blood vessels. An adult tooth will survive without the pulp.
This canal is then filled, and the tooth will need to be capped. The root canal procedure will save the tooth. If left untreated, the tooth will decay and need to be removed.
Just as with a filling, your mouth will be frozen for this procedure, so while there can be some minor discomfort from holding your mouth open or the sensations caused by the procedure itself, there will be no pain.
How is a Root Canal Performed?
After your mouth is frozen, the dentist may insert a rubber sheet that is clamped to your teeth. This is called a dental dam, and it will prevent debris from falling to the back of your throat and isolate the tooth being worked on.
The root will then be removed with a drill and other dental tools, ensuring that the canal is entirely clean of bacteria and all traces of the pulp, which would rot and cause a new infection if any were left in place. An antimicrobial solution may be used to kill any remaining bacteria. This solution will be harmless to you.
Now that the canal is clean, the dentist will fill it with a rubber-like material called gutta percha. We’ll then take a mold of the tooth to have a cap (
In some cases, especially for molars, a post or posts (small metal rods) may be placed inside the tooth to create greater stability.
How Long Will It Last?
With proper care, both at home and by regular checkups and cleanings at our office, a tooth treated with a root canal can last the rest of your life.
While many patients experience little discomfort from a root canal, some experience pain and swelling after the procedure. In this case, we can prescribe strong painkillers to get you through the first couple of days while your mouth is healing.