About 15 million root canal procedures are performed in the United States each year.1 Most are performed by dentists, but about a quarter of these procedures are performed by endodontists. Endodontists are dentists specializing in diagnosing and treating tooth pain and performing root canal treatments.2

Hearing that a root canal is necessary can create a lot of anxiety for patients. This dental anxiety can be minimized by understanding what a root canal is, how it is performed and what you can expect in terms of pain during and after the procedure.

To understand what a root canal is you have to have an understanding of the basic anatomy of a tooth.

Without getting too technical, the outside, hard part of a tooth that we brush every day is the enamel. Below that is a hard material called dentin. Inside the dentin there is soft tissue, called the pulp cavity or pulp. Pulp contains nerves and blood vessels and provides nourishment for your tooth. The pulp cavity also contains the root canal which is the area in which the root of your tooth lives.

Reasons for a root canal

There are a number of reasons that you may have to have a root canal. They include deep decay in a tooth, a large filling, a crack or chip in a tooth, a faulty crown, trauma to the face and even having repeated dental procedures performed on a tooth.3 If decay or trauma to a tooth goes untreated the pulp can become inflamed or infected, causing pain or leading to an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that results from a bacterial infection which can cause moderate to severe pain and, if left untreated, can turn into a serious, life-threatening condition.4

What is the procedure?

A root canal procedure saves your natural tooth. Before your actual treatment begins a dentist or endodontist will use local anesthesia to numb the area so you remain totally comfortable during the procedure. They will take x-rays of your tooth and the surrounding bone if they have not already done so. Then they will put a thin sheet of protective latex over your tooth to keep the area bacteria-free while the dentist is performing the root canal procedure.

What should I expect?

The dentist or endodontist will then use a drill to open the top of your tooth, remove the nerve, clean and disinfect the root area, fill the root canals with a rubber-like material and seal them. A temporary filling will then be put on the tooth to protect it until such time as a permanent filling or crown can be done. If a root canal is necessary, rest assured that removing the nerve of a tooth does not have any effect on how well you can chew. The nerve’s only function is to provide the sensation of hot or cold.

You should feel no pain during any part of this procedure. After the procedure, you may feel some tenderness for a day or two. This sensitivity or tenderness can generally be alleviated with over-the-counter pain medications.

If you are experiencing dental and or oral pain, call your dentist right away. Ignoring symptoms can lead to a worsening situation in your mouth and may affect your overall health.

Our dental office located in Walled Lake MI is a full-service dental clinic ready and able to meet the needs of your dental health and concerns. We offer the latest technology in modern dentistry, including a comprehensive list of general dentistry, restorative dentistry and cosmetic dental care services to meet the needs of your entire family. Dr. Hechtman has been providing dental care for over 40 years to Michigan residents. Call today for a Free Dental Consult!