If you’ve been told by your dentist that you need to get a root canal, you might have questions. root canal therapyThere is a lot of fear wrapped up in a root canal, but there doesn’t have to be.

Millions of root canals are done per year, and they’re done to save teeth and smiles. While there is a lot of talk about how painful root canals are, much of the time root canals are done on teeth that are already causing a significant amount of pain thanks to infection within the tooth.

Thanks to advancements in pain management and treatment, root canals aren’t that much more intensive than getting a cavity filled at this point, especially on rear teeth. Root canals can usually be handled in 1 to 2 appointments.

Advantages of a Root Canal

Having a root canal saves your tooth, which helps you avoid lots of complications in regards to either tooth replacement (which is painful, time consuming, and requires more maintenance or is uncomfortable depending on the option you choose) or tooth removal, which can cause your jawbone to start to erode, as well as giving opportunity for your other teeth to shift, leading to an improper bite or strain on other teeth.

What Does a Root Canal Entail?

If your root is severely infected, your doctor might have you start a course of antibiotics before the root canal to prevent the spread of infection and alleviate some of the pain before your root canal.

At your appointment, the first step in a root canal involves opening the tooth to get clear access to the pulp. The pulp is the section of your tooth deep within the root that contains veins and nerves. In children, the pulp is important to a tooth’s growth and development. Once a tooth is mature it can survive without the pulp because the tooth can receive nourishment from surrounding tissues.

Once the pulp is accessible, your dentist will remove the damaged pulp and enlarge, shape, and clean the canals inside the tooth where the pulp needed to be removed. They do this with a series of small files. The files come in different shapes and sizes in order to fit precisely into the small canals inside the tooth.

Once your dentist has completely cleared the pulp and infection from inside the tooth and shaped the canals, the tooth is ready to be filled.

Your dentist will fill and seal the root canals with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, and then finish with either a temporary crown (if further work is needed to be done to the chewing surface of the tooth) or a permanent filling. Most fillings are now done with composite that mimics the color of your teeth.

If the parts of the tooth that are left aren’t very strong, your dentist may recommend a dental crown. The crown will likely have to be installed at a separate appointment, as it will have to be made by a specialist.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll feel pain during your root canal. You may find you’re in less pain afterwards, especially if you had an abscess. Your tooth may feel sensitive and ache, which can often be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Your tooth may feel different than your other teeth for a time after your root canal therapy is completed. It shouldn’t hurt for more than a few days though. If you experience severe pain or pressure, contact your dentist or endodontist to see about coming in for a check-up.

Follow all your dentist’s instructions on care for your new filling or crown not just for that tooth, but to prevent having to get more root canals in the future. Regular checkups can help you avoid needing such extensive procedures in the future. Though root canals aren’t nearly as dreaded now as they used to be, they’re far from anyone’s favorite thing.