Annual Oral Health Section
This procedure not only relieves pain, but also protects from further infection and decay.
The Anatomy of a Tooth
Teeth are made up of four different kinds of tissues – three hard and one soft. The soft tissue, or pulp, is located at the center of the tooth, called the pulp chamber. The pulp is made up of connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves, all of which can get inflamed if bacteria enter the pulp chamber. This can lead to infection, decay, abscesses, and even bone damage and cell death. The causes of this invasive bacteria can include repeated dental procedures, a faulty crown, or a cracked tooth.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a procedure that removes dead, infected, or damaged pulp from a tooth. This can relieve pain and protect your gums, jaw, and surrounding teeth from further infection or nerve damage and decay. In the past, the primary treatment for unhealthy tooth pulp was simply tooth extraction. Now, whenever a root canal is feasible, it is almost always the better option, as it allows you to maintain your natural smile and avoid continuing dental work.
How Do I Know If I Might Need One?
- Your tooth is extra sensitive to heat and cold.
- Your tooth is dark or discolored.
- Your tooth or filling is cracked or broken.
- You have severe pain with pressure or when eating.
- You have a large, visible cavity.
- You have an abscess on the gum line.
- You have pus draining into your mouth.
- You have a foul taste or odor emanating from the tooth.
What Happens During the Procedure?
A root canal is a three-step process. First, the top of your tooth is opened, which exposes the damaged pulp. Following this, the interior of the tooth is cleaned out and replaced with a filling. Finally, the tooth is sealed back up, and in some cases, a crown is placed in order to prevent bone loss and the spread of infection.
The procedure itself is painless, as your dentist or endodontist will first numb your tooth with a local anesthetic. You may experience some pain following the procedure, but it can be managed with good aftercare, such as:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications
- Avoiding sticky and hard foods
- Avoiding chewing with the treated area
- Brushing and flossing as normal
- Completing an antibiotic regimen as prescribed