What is a Root Canal?

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a common type of endodontic procedure in which a dentist and their assisting team will remove inflamed, diseased pulp from the core of an infected tooth, filling it with safe, impermeable dental material to preserve the surrounding tooth structure. This easily-performed pain relieving measure often gets a “bad rap” from apprehensive dental patients. In reality, new advances and techniques ensure that, if you need a root canal, your dental professional can offer one in a single, relatively short visit. Root canals ensure that your tooth stays strong and stops any further pain and sensitivity in the affected area.


Why Do I Need a Root Canal?

If your dentist has recommended a root canal, it is because he or she has the professional opinion that other dental procedures will no longer be effective. Root canals are often a service that can be performed at your regular dental practice. If decay gets underneath a new cavity, for example, you’ll continue to have severe pain, sensitivity, and potentially even lose the tooth entirely. If the nerves in your tooth are exposed due to advanced decay, damage, or disease, simply covering them with dental material won’t work either. A root canal removes the source of the pain – both the nerve ending and the problematic inner tooth pulp.


What Does a Root Canal Treat?

While the procedure is a very common one, it isn’t a dentist’s “go to” solution when a dental problem first arises. This is because one of the main goals in dentistry is to preserve the tooth as-is for as long as possible. That’s why cavities are drilled and filled, rather than simply being replaced with crowns, bridges, or dentures at the first sign of decay or damage. A root canal deals with the core of the affected tooth and does not alter the surrounding structure. Root canals may be used for:

Intense decay – if you’ve had lifelong problems with a tooth or teeth, you’ll likely need a root canal at some point.

Too many repeat procedures – if a filling keeps falling out or a tooth keeps cracking, your dentist will recommend one.

Faulty crown – if your dental crown fails, a root canal may be necessary for protection.

Deep damage – a bad crack or chip that goes down to the nerve can be painful, but thankfully a root canal will eliminate that pain.


What Are the Steps of a Root Canal?

When the time comes for the procedure, there’s no need to be nervous – it all starts with a numbing injection so that you’ll only feel pressure as your dental team works, not pain. Once he or she is sure you are comfortable, they will use a tiny drill to open the top of the tooth.

Once your tooth has a small opening, your dentist will use small files to clear out the decay and damaged pulp and may add in an antibacterial solution to make sure the inner tooth chamber stays infection-free from now on. A temporary filling will be used to seal- off the inner tooth chamber and keep all particles out of it, even if you eat or drink after the procedure. You will need to schedule a follow-up appointment to have a crown installed over the tooth. This acts as an additional safety barrier against anything getting inside the inner tooth and gives you strength and durability in your bite.

You may feel mild pain or discomfort after a root canal as your tooth adjusts to the change. However, the difference between mild after-procedure discomfort and the sharp, throbbing pain of a diseased or damaged tooth with nerve exposure makes the mild discomfort well worthwhile.


How Do I Take Care of a Root Canal?

After your procedure has been performed, make sure you keep up with all follow-up appointments, including the crown fitting appointment. Just like any other tooth, you will want to make sure you brush and floss regularly. Your dentist may recommend a “water flosser” or an alternative flossing method rather than traditional thread-type floss to make sure your crown stays properly seated.

When it comes to root canals, there is no need to feel anxious or worry. Thousands of patients receive the procedure every year, and enjoy a pain-free smile afterward. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to ask your dental team about what to expect.


Williams & Daily Dental is a family and implant dental practice located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.