Your dentist just told you that you need a root canal.
You might be nervous because you know someone who knows someone who had a nightmarish experience. Or maybe you’re curious because you’ve heard of them but you don’t know exactly what it entails.
No matter how you feel about them, you likely have a few questions. Knowing what you’re getting into ahead of time will help make your experience more positive.
What is a root canal?
A root canal is a procedure that is designed to remove bacteria from the root of your tooth.
One of the soft tissues that make up your teeth is called pulp. It has nerves and blood vessels that nourish your teeth as you grow, but once your teeth are fully developed, they can survive without it. Sometimes the pulp becomes infected and you may need a root canal to remove it and any lingering bacteria.
How do I know if I need a root canal or a filling?
While both are restorative treatments, you may be better suited for one over the other.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may need a filling:
- Constant throbbing or stabbing pain, or pain that is worsened when you bite something
- Increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods
- Black or dark spots on your teeth
These symptoms may indicate that you need a root canal:
- Your gums are swollen and sensitive around the affected area
- Your tooth is chipped or cracked. This could be a tooth that was recently treated with a filling or a tooth that underwent some sort of trauma
- Pain, usually more extreme than that of a tooth requiring a filling
- Prolonged sensitivity
What are the steps involved in a root canal?
Each patient is unique. What worked for your friend may not work for you, so it’s important to remember to listen to your dentist’s advice and the reasoning behind it.
In most cases, your dentist will freeze the area with an anesthetic. You shouldn’t feel any pain at all. If you do, let your dentist know immediately. Remember, there are no awards for bravery in the dentist’s chair.
Once you’re numb, a dental dam will be placed in your mouth to isolate the infected tooth. From here, your dentist will begin drilling into the tooth to gain access to the infection. Once the hole is deep enough, it’s time to remove the dead pulp tissue and nerves. After everything has been removed, the inside of your tooth will be disinfected to remove any lingering bacteria.
Flexible rods are then inserted into your canals to help shape the area for the filling and sealer. Your dentist will likely do one more thorough cleaning to make sure any remaining debris is removed.
In a lot of cases, the last step is to apply the filling material which is set in place by an adhesive cement sealer. This step is very important to make sure your tooth doesn’t get reinfected.
Sometimes a post may need to be inserted in your tooth during the filling process to hold the temporary or permanent filling in place. If your dentist places a temporary filling, it is crucial that you return for your permanent one to avoid the risk of infection later on.
If you feel any pain at all, let your dentist know immediately so that they can administer more freezing.
How can I manage pain and discomfort after a root canal?
Once you leave the dentist, you may notice some soreness and swelling around your mouth. This is completely normal. One of the ways to manage it is to keep your head elevated when you’re sleeping. You can also take over-the-counter pain medication to help with any discomfort if your dentist has not given you a prescription.
To prevent an infection from setting in around your gums, gargle with warm salt water. Aim for half a teaspoon per cup of water.
Where can I get a root canal in Ottawa?
If your tooth pain is becoming unbearable and you’re looking for relief, consider reaching out to Dr. Andrea Stevens. She and her team will do their best to make you feel better in no time.