Root canals have a bad reputation as being one of the most feared dental procedures by patients, but they are fairly simple to perform and will relieve pain being felt by a severely damaged /infected tooth. During the procedure, you will receive anesthesia that will typically fully numb the area being worked on in order to make the procedure comfortable and painless.
A root canal is a procedure that is used to remove inflamed or infected tissue from the inside of a tooth. This infected tissue often occurs when teeth are badly decayed, and the procedure seeks to restore and repair the tooth. The nerve (root) attached to your tooth can become damaged from lack of oral care and spreading decay, leading to a painful sensation under the affected tooth. Many people fear getting a root canal treatment because they feel it will be a painful procedure, but it really isn’t any worse than getting a filling.
Inside of your teeth is a material called dental pulp. This pulp is a soft, spongy material that contains nerves and blood vessels to nourish and give your tooth “feeling.” The blood vessels provide nourishment while the nerve allows your tooth to detect changes in temperature and pressure. When a tooth becomes decayed or traumatized, the dental pulp can become infected. The chamber in which the pulp sits can become a haven for bacteria, allowing them to propagate quickly. This infection can lead to an abscessed tooth, or a tooth filled with pus. The pus can “burrow” through the dental pulp, eventually seeping into the gums and skin if left untreated. The results of this include swelling of the face, particularly around the affected tooth, painful pressure, bone loss, and drainage issues.
Causes and Symptoms
The most common causes of this include tooth decay, repeated dental surgery, and trauma to the face or teeth.
While it is possible that no symptoms may be present, the most common symptoms suggesting a need for a root canal procedure include:
- severe toothache that occurs with even a slight bit of pressure
- excessive sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures especially after the temperature change has been normalized or removed
- darkening of the tooth
- swelling of the gums
The procedure itself may require a few visits and is performed by an endodontist in Houston. An x-ray of your affected tooth will be used to determine the extent of infection before the procedure is done.
During the procedure, a hole is opened in the top of the tooth and the dental pulp is removed with a file. Because the nerves are dead, you likely wouldn’t feel any pain, but dentists will still use anesthesia to keep you more relaxed. Once the pulp is removed, the tooth is filled with two materials: gutta-percha (a rubber compound) and a standard filling (which can be made from one of several compounds). The gutta-percha fills in the root canals of the tooth while the filling fills the pulp chamber. Sometimes a crown may be placed over the tooth as well.
After the procedure, the pain you had experienced will be gone, but it is best to avoid chewing or biting with that tooth until it has healed fully and is completely covered.