Somewhere along the line, we began using root canals as a yardstick for measuring unpleasant experiences.
“I’d rather have a root canal than sit through that movie.”
“Dinner with Jim was about as fun as a root canal.”
“That meeting was worse than getting a root canal.”
You hear people say things like this, and the idea of ever getting a root canal seems like a scary proposition. And while there is some pain and discomfort involved in this procedure, there are times when a root canal is necessary to alleviate severe tooth pain.
But how do you know when a toothache requires a root canal? Here are some signs to watch for:
- Severe pain that gets worse when you bite down or put any sort of pressure on the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the gums around the tooth
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot and cold food, even after the heat/cold has been removed
An infected tooth should be treated right away, as infections can spread to other teeth and organs of the body and cause more serious complications.
Besides, anyone who has ever needed a root canal can tell you that the pain they felt before the procedure is much, much worse than any discomfort they might feel during or after the procedure.
What is a root canal?
When you get a root canal, your dentist will try to preserve a tooth that is essentially dead or dying. The tooth is past the point of saving, as infection has set in.
The procedure works like this:
- The dentist takes an X-ray to look for infection
- You’ll get a local anesthetic to numb the area near the tooth
- The dentist puts a rubber dam around the tooth to keep that area dry
- A small hole is drilled into the tooth to remove the pulp, bacteria, and other debris. The dentist will use tools called root canal files to clean this material out.
- Once the tooth is cleaned and the nerve canal is empty, the dentist seals the tooth. But the remnants of the tooth will be brittle, which is why you’ll need a dental crown.
What’s a dental crown?
A crown is a sturdy covering that’s stronger than enamel and protects the tooth from breaking. Until the crown is in place, it’s a good idea to avoid chewing on the tooth that’s been repaired.
What Can I Expect After the Procedure?
After a root canal, it’s normal to feel some sensitivity due to tissue inflammation, particularly in cases where there was pain or infection. You can usually handle this with over-the-counter pain relievers such as Aleve or Advil.
Most patients who undergo root canal therapy experience little or no discomfort. And with proper dental care, their preserved tooth can last a lifetime.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we’ve described, don’t wait to consult with a dentist. The New Jersey dental practice of Dr. Bruce Freund can work with you to get you back on the path to a healthy mouth. Contact us today at 201-568-0606 to schedule an appointment. Be sure to check out our new patient special!