The goal of modern dentistry is to maintain and restore natural teeth whenever possible, avoiding the cascade of dental problems associated with lost teeth. Truckee dentist Dr. Jason Baldwin performs root canals to preserve a natural tooth that has become infected or severely damaged and is considered dead.
Why Do I Need A Root Canal?
Root canal therapy is necessary when the inner portion of the tooth (the pulp) becomes damaged or infected. To reach this part of your tooth, the enamel and dentin outer layers of your tooth will be compromised or breached in some way. This is most commonly caused by tooth decay (a cavity) that has been left untreated. When a cavity is not treated, it will begin to erode these layers and will eventually make its way inside the tooth.
This will create a gateway for bacteria to get to the pulp and cause an infection. Another way for the pulp to become infected is when the tooth is damaged. Cracks or breaks in the tooth, caused by a hard impact, teeth grinding, or jaw misalignment can also lead to the pulp becoming infected.
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
Damage to the pulp can cause many painful symptoms. Tooth pain is usually the first sign a patient may experience, though a dentist can often spot infection during routine examinations. Signs you may need a root canal can include:
- Increased or new sensitivity in the affected tooth
- Tooth pain that is sudden and acute
- Changes in the color of the tooth
- Pimple-like growth along the gum line
Seeking prompt treatment for a possible tooth infection is important for the health of your teeth- and your overall health. Untreated infection can enter the bloodstream and put you at great risk for a life-threatening illness. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of an infected tooth, contact our office right away for an appointment.
Root Canals: What To Expect
The root canal process has been significantly improved as a result of better technique, tools, and materials, causing no more discomfort than a typical dental filling. A common misconception is that a root canal procedure is very painful when really the pain is from the infection itself. Most people report a sense of relief once the treatment is over and the infected tissue is removed.
The first step of the treatment is to numb the area around the tooth with the use of a local anesthetic. This will be administered by an injection into your gums near the infected tooth. You will feel a pinch and maybe a burning sensation that quickly passes.
Once you are numb, Dr. Baldwin will create a tiny hole in the back of the tooth. This is how he will gain access to the infected tissue. He will gently remove the decayed tissue from the center of the tooth using special dental tools. The last step is to disinfect, fill and seal the inside of the tooth.
Dr. Baldwin may recommend the use of a dental crown after your root canal to strengthen the tooth, prevent future damage and ensure a lasting result.
Root Canal Procedure FAQs
Are root canal procedures painful?
The root canal procedure has a bad reputation for being extremely painful. This, however, is not true. They are no more painful than a tooth filling. The pain that is often associated with this procedure is actually due to the infection itself. When there is an infection present inside the pulp chamber of the tooth, this will cause swelling, pressure, and inflammation which can be very painful. Most people report feeling a sense of relief once the infection is successfully removed from the tooth.
What will happen if I do not get a root canal?
The infection will remain there until it is removed. No dentist will advise a patient to wait since there is a possibility the infection can spread to the surrounding tissues. This can cause an abscess to form which is very painful. If you delay treatment, you risk losing the tooth and other surrounding teeth. Saving the tooth at all costs is what is best for your oral health.
I have severe dental anxiety. Is there anything you can do?
Many patients come to Dr. Baldwin with severe oral health issues because they were too scared to seek treatment. If you need a root canal and suffer from fear of the dentist or dental anxiety, we offer sedation dentistry to help you receive the treatment you need. To determine which type of sedation method will work for you, call our office or discuss your anxiety with Dr. Baldwin before your scheduled appointment.
What can you not do after a root canal?
Directly after your root canal treatment, you need to avoid:
- Exercising and strenuous activity
- Using a straw
- Eating hard, crunchy, or chewy foods
- Hot or cold foods and drinks
Once you heal from your root canal, you can resume normal activities. Being careful as your tooth heals will minimize discomfort and help your tooth heal efficiently.
How long will it take to heal after a root canal?
It will take three or more days for swelling and discomfort to subside following your root canal. Your tooth or teeth should fully heal a week or two after your root canal treatment.
How can I avoid future root canals?
If you have already received a root canal and want to know how to prevent the need for future root canals, follow these tips:
- Floss and brush daily
- Use fluoride toothpaste
- Drink fluoridated water
- Avoid highly acidic or sugary foods
- Visit the dentist twice a year
A good oral hygiene routine and regular dental visits can prevent dental infections and the need for root canals.