When most people hear the word “root canal” come out of their dentists’ mouths, they cringe. The procedure has long been associated with pain and discomfort, yet the fact is that the procedure itself is not really the cause of all that pain and discomfort. In fact, root canal therapy is a dental procedure performed primarily using a local anesthetic that not only causes minimal to no pain on its own but is designed to alleviate the cause of existing pain within the mouth.
Most procedures are done to treat excessive tooth decay that has made its way into the core of the tooth’s structure and has begun to affect the canals surrounding the root of the tooth. When this occurs, an individual often experiences pain and discomfort, as well as sensitivity to hot and cold and even difficult chewing. That pain is typically what sends a person to the dentist seeking treatment and by the time this pain is felt, the decay has comprised the structure of the tooth and may have even resulted in infection or abscess.
A root canal procedure is designed to address the issues resulting from the excessive decay and to treat any infection within the root of the tooth. To do this, the patient is typically given a local anesthetic to “numb” the area being worked on by the dentist. Although this can sting momentarily, some dentists will apply a topical gel even before the anesthetic shot is administered so the patient feels virtually nothing at all. Once the anesthetic has had a chance to take effect, the dentist then begins the procedure.
The first thing that needs to be done is that the tooth needs to be drilled into to get to the area of decay. This is done in much the same way as when a cavity is filled, although the decay may be deeper within the tooth or cover a more extensive area. Once the decayed area is removed, the root’s canals must be cleaned out to remove any decay, bacteria or infection. This is done by using a series of small files that are placed into the canals to clean them out.
If the infection is severe, medication may need to be placed into the canals to treat the infection before any restoration can occur. If needed, a temporary crown will be placed on the tooth until such time that a more permanent restoration can be made. If the infection is relatively minor and/or the dentist is not concerned that it will get worse or spread, the restoration can be done in the same visit.
Although you may feel some soreness and tenderness following a root canal procedure, the discomfort should be relatively minor and should be short-lived. In many cases, any pain you feel is a result of the issues you had that necessitated root canal therapy and is not from the procedure itself.
Tooth or mouth pain is a sign that something is wrong and should not be ignored simply because you are afraid of having a procedure done that has a bad reputation for causing pain. The procedure is needed to protect your oral and overall health and is not nearly as bad as people have made it out to be. So, be sure to call your dentist if you suspect that you are having any type of problem with your tooth.
For more information about root canal therapy, contact Gentle Dental in Queens at 718-461-0100.