Root Canal Treatment
The “root canal” is the innermost part of your tooth, composed of the pulp and the tooth roots, which include blood vessels and sensitive nerves. If the root canal gets infected, a root canal treatment procedure can remove the affected nerve and pulp in order to reduce pain and treat infection.
Do I Need a Root Canal Treatment?
Although tooth pain can indicate a variety of problems separate from root canal infection, common symptoms of a damaged root canal include:
- Sharp pain when eating or with pressure, or pain related to very hot or cold food or drink
- Swelling in the gums around the painful tooth, which can be general inflammation or a localized raised bump on the gum
- A tooth that looks stained or darker than the rest
The Root Canal Procedure
After visiting your dentist for a consultation to decide whether you need a root canal treatment, your dentist will schedule an in-office appointment. Typically, x-rays can ascertain how severely your root canal is infected, which will determine the extent of your treatment.
During the procedure, your dentist will provide a local anesthetic to numb the area around your tooth and gum before drilling a small hole into the tooth to reach to damaged nerve and pulp. Once any infected tissue is removed, your dentist will seal the hole to prevent reinfection. If your infection was more severe, your dentist may recommend a crown or filling to both protect the hole from reinfection and allow you to resume normal eating and drinking.
Recovery and Prevention
Recovery from a root canal procedure can take up for a week, but typically patients report feeling better within a day or two. If you received a temporary sealant during the procedure, your dentist will fit your tooth with a permanent crown or filling at your follow up appointment. Be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions for your recovery, including eating soft, lukewarm foods and using soft-bristled toothbrushes.
Prevention of root canal infections is as simple as following your dentist’s recommendations for routine oral care:
- Brush your teeth twice daily, and floss daily
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce infectious bacteria
- Maintain a healthy diet and cut back on sugary or acidic foods that can stimulate tooth decay
- Visit your dentist twice yearly for preventative checkups – catching a potential problem early can be the difference between preventative treatment and a painful procedure.