The first thing to know about root canal treatment is that it’s really not that bad. What is bad is what comes before root canal treatment, which is infection in the roots of the teeth and the sometimes extreme pain that accompanies it. The abscess or tooth loss that might come if the patient avoids that trip to their local dentist’s office is also bad.
Why Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy is performed to save the patient’s tooth. If the tooth can’t be saved, the treatment is a first step in placing a dental crown or a dental implant.
What Happens: Part One
Before root canal treatment, the patient has a consultation with their dentist. The dentist takes a medical history and then takes X-rays of the patient’s tooth.
During the procedure, the patient is given a local anesthetic, though patients who are truly frightened may be given sedation. This type of pain control can be started even before the patient comes into the office. The dentist may prescribe a tranquilizing drug such as Valium for the patient to take the night before the root canal. Because of this, the patient is already relaxed when he comes in for the treatment. He is then given other local painkillers, which may include laughing gas or lidocaine. The patient is pain free but still awake enough to follow the dentist’s instructions.
Patients who are truly phobic might even opt for general anesthesia, though this has risks.
What Happens: Part Two
- The dentist then removes the infected pulp from the tooth as well as the nerves, blood vessels and other tissue they contain.
- The emptied pulp chamber and root canals are then throughly cleaned and filled with gutta percha. This material, which is much like rubber, is secured in place with dental cement.
- The dentist may then put a temporary filling over the tooth.
What Happens Afterwards?
After the procedure, the tooth may feel a bit sensitive. The dentist prescribes pain killers and antibiotics to guard against infection and keep the patient comfortable.
Later, the patient returns to their local dentist office, and the dentist either adds a crown or permanent filling to the treated tooth. If the tooth can’t be saved, the dentist places a post into the patient’s jaw. Over time, the bone fuses to this post, which is often made out of biocompatible titanium. Then, a crown is fixed to the post.
A patient who believes they need root canal therapy should get in touch with our dentist’s office as soon as they can. There’s no need to suffer one more day!