If you suspect that you need a root canal procedure or that possibility has been confirmed by your dentist, you may be wondering what to expect next. The anticipation of this type of procedure is widely feared by many people, although the reality is that the pain most people talk about actually occurs because you need the procedure, not due to the procedure itself. The procedure should be a relatively pain-free experience as long as your dentist appropriately uses a local anesthetic.
For starters, if you don’t have a clear confirmation that you need root canal therapy, your dentist will first assess your symptoms, look in your mouth and take x-rays to be better able to see what’s going on beneath the surface. The procedure is generally warranted if there is decay within the root of the tooth, since it results in a subsequent infection. This can be very painful and can even result in the loss of the tooth if left untreated, as well as serious abscess.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you will likely receive a local anesthetic so you do not feel any pain during the procedure. Some dentists first apply a topical gel on the gums before even giving you the injection of anesthetic so that even that part of the procedure is not uncomfortable. You will be left to sit in the chair for a few minutes while the anesthetic takes effect, at which time the dentist may explain to you what the procedure will entail or may otherwise just engage in idle chit-chat to pass the time.
When the dentist feels that you are sufficiently numb, a rubber dam will be placed in your mouth around the tooth receiving the root canal treatment. This keeps moisture and bacteria away from the site while the dentist works on it. This is only a small sheet of rubber or latex that will be held in place with a couple of clamps and is nothing to worry about.
Now it is time for the dentist to get to work on removing the decayed portion of the tooth. This will either be done with a dental drill or laser, depending on the dentist’s technique. The decay will be removed from the tooth, the root and the root’s canals. To completely clean out the canals and to ensure that any decay or infected area is removed, a series of small files with increasing diameter are placed into the canals to shape them. The area will then be treated with a solution to disinfect any remaining potential infection-causing bacteria.
In some cases, the canals will be sealed during the same office visit, while in others, you may be sent home with some medication in the open canals and a temporary filling to make sure that any infection and pain subside before a permanent filling is placed. Once it’s time to fill the canals, this is done with a rubber-like material and a sealing paste. The compromised tooth structure will then typically need to be fitted for a crown to make it stronger.
Following a root canal procedure, you may experience minor pain and soreness for a couple of days as the site heals. Your dentist may prescribe a mild pain reliever or you can use over the counter pain medication. If you experience severe pain or the pain worsens, you should call the dentist because it may be a sign that the infection has spread. Otherwise, you should notice a relatively quick return to normal following procedure.
For more information about root canal procedures or to schedule an appointment, contact Gentle Dental in Queens at 718-461-0100.