Why You Shouldn't Fear Root Canals
What is a root canal? Root canal therapy, or endodontic therapy, is the treatment of the pulp of your tooth to eliminate any infection and protect the rest of your tooth from any future infections. The pulp of your tooth contains tiny canals that are inhabited by nerve tissue, blood vessels and other cellular entities. A root canal is when these entities that are inhabiting the canals are removed and the canals are filled with cement. After root canal therapy your tooth is technically dead and won't be able to feel anymore.
|Root Canal Procedure. From right to left, pictures show: |
unhealthy or injured tooth, drilling and cleaning, filing, and the filling with cement.
Why do I need one? A root canal is done in order to save a tooth that would otherwise be lost due to an injury or an infection. An infection in the nerve of your tooth could be caused by an untreated cavity that has continued to decay through to the nerve. Fractured or cracked teeth will sometimes require a root canal if there has been damage done to the nerve. Even after many years, a tooth that was previously broken or had some type of trauma done to it may be unforgiving and eventually require a root canal.
Does it hurt? Nope! With today's technology and knowledge the procedure should not hurt at all. Your doctor will be sure to sufficiently numb the area, and if you feel anything at all during the procedure, if anything you would only feel a tiny little pinch, your doctor can put more novocaine in the area and relieve any discomfort. If you were having pain in the tooth prior to the root canal then the pain will be gone when it is finished! After the procedure your gums may feel a little sore, but you will be totally fine to go back to work that same day and the day after. Your dentist won't even need to prescribe pain medication since a higher dose of ibuprofen is all that is necessary to eliminate any discomfort after the procedure.
Do I really need a crown put on the root canalled tooth? Yes!!! I know that crowns can be expensive, but if you neglect to do this final step 2-4 weeks after your root canal then you are risking major damage to the remainder of your tooth and possibly losing it altogether. A tooth that has had a root canal will break or chip extremely easily without the protection of a crown. If the tooth is fractured beyond repair then it would be necessary to extract it, totally wasting the whole root canal.
Do I absolutely have to have one if my dentist recommends it? Most likely you do, if you have doubts about your specific dentist's recommendation then you should always seek a second opinion. You can also schedule a consultation with an endodontist, a root canal specialist, to make absolutely certain that you require one. If they say yes then you definitely need to go forward with that root canal!
What if I just don't get one...? Keep in mind that a root canal is a last ditch effort to save a tooth that is dead or dying before it falls out. Ignoring your dentist's recommendation to get a root canal is a very bad idea. The tooth will eventually die, become thin and crack or break, and/or fall out. Once a tooth is gone and it isn't replaced your other teeth will shift and your jaw will experience bone loss. A root canal will stop any associated pain in your tooth. If you have left a tooth that was in pain alone and the pain magically disappeared then there's a good chance that your tooth has already died.
What are the alternatives to root canal therapy? If you just can't afford a root canal and crown then you can always have the tooth extracted. If you just hate the idea of it and want to try other options then some dentists will perform a procedure known as direct pulp capping. Know that most alternatives to root canals don't usually have a very high success rate, so talk to your dentist.
I'm terrified by the very thought of a root canal and I never want one! If the idea of having a root canal is so horrifying to you that you just can't stomach it and you absolutely need a root canal to save a tooth, and extracting the tooth isn't an option, then consider sedation dentistry. There are many ways that you can receive the root canal with absolutely no anxiety during the procedure. A sedation dentist will put you under anesthesia during the procedure and by the time you wake up the whole thing will be over. My office provides nitrous oxide and valium for patients with anxiety.
A Family Dental Care Center: Dr. Seth Rosen
2030 West Main St.
Norristown, PA 19403