Root canal treatment has a bad reputation due to the pain that people tend to associate with them. When a root canal is needed, it is usually because the tooth is infected and painful. The procedure itself tends to be just long and boring, not nearly as painful as the infection prior. I usually tell my patients that if they get bored during the procedure, that usually means everything is going well!
In most cases, teeth only need root canals when a tooth becomes infected. Bacteria that cause cavities can enter the nerve space when the cavity gets too close to the nerve. That is not the only reason for getting a root canal, however. Sometimes teeth can be traumatized due to an accident or injury to the tooth, causing the nerve to die. Over time, teeth that have dead nerves will turn grey and unesthetic. In those cases, the tooth can get a root canal so that the tooth can be bleached back to its natural tooth color.
Signs that a tooth needs a root canal include pain, swelling or a change in color of the tooth. When our teeth become infected, the nerve tends to swell. This is just like any infection in our body, but there is no room for it to swell since the tooth is in hard bone. The swelling creates an intense pressure pain in the tooth. The infection will start eating away at the bone around the tooth and create an abscess. Many times, once an abscess forms the pain will subside, as the infection will be able to drain and the pressure is released. However, the infection is still there and it is important to get it addressed quickly so the infection does not spread further. As the nerve dies, it can also cause spontaneous pain. The tooth may hurt out of nowhere, even when you are not eating, and may wake you from sleep.
When a root canal is performed, the tooth is numbed up first so that you can be comfortable during the procedure. The infection is then removed from the tooth, it is cleaned thoroughly and the area of infection is sealed off so that bacteria cannot reenter the tooth. In most cases a crown will be needed as well to improve the structural integrity of the tooth and prevent it from breaking, especially with teeth further back in the mouth.
Before your root canal appointment, it is important to take any antibiotics that were prescribed. Please call us if you experience any significant swelling prior to your appointment so it can be addressed prior. After your appointment, it is common to have pain that should resolve within 24 hours. Generally, it is easily controlled with over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol and/or Motrin.
We do everything possible to make sure that your treatment is as comfortable as possible at Dyras Dental. If you have questions about root canal procedures or think you may have an infected tooth, please call today so we can help!