How widespread is our collective aversion to a root canal procedure? So widespread that a joke about root canals is included in the popular animated film “Finding Nemo.” In it, Nemo and a collection of other sea creatures watch from their tank in an Australian dentist’s office as a patient gets a root canal. And “by the looks of those X-rays it’s not going to be pretty,” warns a starfish.
While that scene isn’t exactly scary – it’s a G-rated family film, after all – many people are genuinely frightened at the prospect of a root canal. If you’re one of them, you really shouldn’t be!
Our Dr. Jim Gores enjoys doing root canal therapy because our patients find it doesn’t live up to their negative expectations. It helps that he’s been performing the root canal procedure for more than 30 years. And patient-friendly technology has made them easier than ever before. For example, digital radiography makes it easier for him to get a good look at the inside of your teeth and identify any possible complicating factors before the procedure begins.
If you think it’s possible you need a root canal, call Lakeside Dentistry at 507-316-6444.
Reasons for a Root Canal Procedure
So when will you need a root canal procedure? It’s necessary when the soft pulp inside your tooth becomes infected or inflamed. In some cases, the pulp will already be dead. There are several common causes of this, including:
- Decay that goes untreated and gets into the center of your tooth
- Repeated dental procedures on a tooth
- A cracked or chipped tooth, which lets in bacteria
A Lesson in Tooth Anatomy
Pulp is contained within a hollow chamber inside your tooth. The chamber also contains canals that extend through your tooth roots and down into the bone. All tooth roots have at least one root canal; some have multiple canals. Nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue are also found in pulp.
Pulp is very important during development of teeth, but mature teeth don’t need it. So it’s possible to keep your tooth intact even without the pulp. While you can choose to have an infected tooth extracted, it’s a good idea to save your tooth if you can. It keeps surrounding teeth from shifting out of place, and it also helps avoid bone deterioration in your jawbone.
Don’t Ignore These Danger Signs
You will often, though not always, feel pain when you need a root canal. Additional symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Discolored tooth
- Swelling around your tooth
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit our Rochester, MN dentist office right away. As the infection worsens, you may develop an abscess, a pocket of pus that can spread infection to surrounding bone and tissue and even other parts of your body.
A Root Canal Procedure Explained
According to the American Association of Endodontists, more than 15 million root canals are performed every year. So what happens during a root canal procedure?
Our dentists will isolate your tooth with a piece of latex to keep it clean and dry, then make a small opening in the top of the tooth. They use special instruments to remove the infected pulp, to widen and shape the canals, and to disinfect the interior of your tooth. Then canals are filled with a rubber-like material called gutta percha. The final step is covering your tooth with a dental restoration like a crown to prevent breakage and other damage.
Root canals can often be completed in a single appointment. Occasionally, if a large number of canals are involved, two visits may be needed. If the root canal procedure requires two appointments, we’ll seal your tooth with a temporary filling to protect it.
You’ll Feel No Discomfort
You might not believe it, but the uncomfortable patient in “Finding Nemo” is flat-out fiction. (Or maybe you would, given that it’s an animated fantasy about a lovable clownfish.) For most patients, a root canal procedure is no more uncomfortable than getting a tooth filling or a dental crown. Once we remove the infection from your teeth, any pain you were feeling will go away.
We’ll numb your mouth with local anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing. We do offer inhaled sedation to ease anxiety, if you need it. Also known as laughing gas, it takes effect quickly and wears off quickly too. You can even drive yourself home from your procedure if you’d like. In addition, we can easily increase or decrease the amount of laughing gas as it’s administered so you get just the right amount to control anxiety.
Sedation also makes it easier to remain still or keep your mouth open during treatment, which typically lasts 90 minutes or so.
What to Expect During Your Recovery
You should feel little if any discomfort after your root canal procedure. The area may feel a bit tender, especially if you had an abscess prior to treatment. Unlike a tooth removal, there won’t be any bleeding. And you won’t need to change your diet or oral hygiene routine in the days after the treatment. If eating is uncomfortable, try to avoid chewing with the affected tooth.
Take an over-the-counter pain medication if needed. If you still feel discomfort or notice any swelling after a few days pass, call our Rochester, MN dentist office at 507-316-6444.