Root canal, or endodontic (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) treatment, is often wrongly perceived as a highly unpleasant experience and one that causes tremendous pain. However, the truth is that the procedure actually relieves the pain being caused by an infected and inflamed tooth pulp (inside of the tooth). Advances in dentistry have made treatment virtually pain free and it can be completed relatively quickly, usually in a single visit. Left untreated, infection can spread into the bone immediately around the tooth's root, so prompt attention is the best course of action.
If the term “root canal” still sends shivers down your spine, don't despair. Here is some information that should help put your mind at ease.
- Root canal treatment is necessary when deep decay or trauma has caused the inside (pulp) of the tooth to become inflamed or infected. Symptoms of infection can include sharp pain when biting down, lingering pain after consuming very hot or cold foods, a dull ache and feeling of pressure near the infected tooth, and tender gum tissue surrounding the infected tooth.
- After a local anesthetic is administered to numb the infected tooth and its surrounding area, we will make a small opening on the chewing surface of the tooth. This will allow us to remove dead and dying tissue from the pulp and to then clean and disinfect the root canals. Using small instruments, we will shape the canals and seal them with biocompatible filling materials.
- You may feel slight tenderness at the treated site for a few days, but this is quite manageable and can be relieved with over-the-counter (OTC) non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. You should refrain from chewing on the treated tooth until your follow-up appointment. A crown or other restoration may be needed to protect the tooth and restore it to full function.
If you think you might be a candidate for a root canal treatment, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If you would like to learn more about the process of root canal treatment, please read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment.”