Root Canals

Root canals are a rather common dental procedure – odds are if one likes sweets, desserts and other sugary foods they will have a root canal performed at least once in their lives. If you are scheduled for this procedure you may be wondering what you can expect. This article will look at the most frequently asked questions about root canals.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a procedure that is used to take care of teeth that have cavities. When you have a dental cavity it means that bacteria have caused a tooth to develop a hole. If the hole isn’t treated properly the bacteria will continue to eat into the tooth and soon they will get to the root at which time it will be impossible to use the tooth. It becomes painful and can develop an abscess which can lead to serious complications.

During a root canal the dentist will drill a hole into the affected tooth so that they can reach the area that’s affected. It will be cleaned to remove all bacteria and then sealed with a filling, after which a crown will be placed to replace the tooth’s natural look and also secure the filling.

Are root canals painful?

Before the introduction of modern sedation methods root canals were painful – the dentist would drill and fill the cavity without administering anything to dull the pain. Some people even preferred to have affected teeth removed rather than have root canals as it was less painful. That was decades ago; today, root canals are a painless procedure. The dentist will ensure that the area around the tooth is dulled before he can begin the procedure. All you may experience is a dull discomfort. If you are anxious about the procedure the dentist may administer a sedative to calm your nerves.

After the procedure you will be given a mild painkiller that you are only supposed to take when you are in pain. They will also give you antibiotics to ensure that you don’t develop an infection. However, if you develop serious pain or swelling you should go back in right away.

How long does a root canal take?

A root canal doesn’t take very long. When the dentist determines that one needs to be done you will be given an appointment and on the day you can expect the procedure to take no more than a few hours. You may have to come back in for a second visit so that you can be fitted with a crown. If the dentist determines that there are other procedures necessary the process can take two or three additional hours.

Can I be put to sleep for a root canal?

The answer is both yes and no. If you are very anxious about the procedure the dentist can put you to sleep. They will bring in a trained and qualified anesthesiologist to ensure that you are given the proper dose of sedative. The dentist can also choose to put you to sleep if you will be having many root canals done at once. However, most root canal procedures do not require that the patient is put to sleep – you will be able to relax enough with a mild sedative.

What should I do/not do after a root canal?

The gum around the tooth will be tender and the tooth itself will be sensitive and maybe even painful when you bite down on it so it is recommended that you eat nothing but soft foods until the area is sufficiently recovered. Make sure to take your antibiotics as prescribed to eliminate the risk of infection. Once the area heals you should practice good oral hygiene – make sure you brush at least twice a day and floss after meals. You should also use a fluoride mouthwash.

I have a cavity but it isn’t painful – should I still have a root canal done?

Many people are alerted to the presence of cavities by pain in the teeth but what if yours have cavities but you are in no pain? You should still schedule to have a root canal done. The cavities in your teeth were caused by bacteria and if not treated they will only get worse. A root canal ensures that no further damage occurs. If you wait until you are in pain the damage may be so extensive that the whole tooth has to be removed. Replacement teeth are more expensive than root canals.

Should children have root canals?

The dentist will determine whether your child is a candidate for a root canal after doing a thorough examination. In very young children the teeth are sealed to ensure that no further damage occurs.

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