Root canals have a bad reputation of being painful and scary. The truth is, like many medical procedures, root canals, or “root canal therapy,” as most dentists call it, has advanced over the past few decades to become a much less painful procedure. If you’re scared of having a root canal, please know it most likely won’t be half as bad as you think. Here’s what you need to know about having root canal therapy.
Root Canal Therapy Isn’t Scary
“Once the local anesthetic is on board, the procedure should be painless,” said Tony Nader, DMD. “Any discomfort will more than likely be gone the next day, and is nothing an over-the-counter medication, such as Ibuprofen, can’t take care of,” he added.
Why Do I need Root Canal Therapy?
There are two common problems that require root canal therapy: advanced tooth decay and severe tooth damage or trauma.
Advanced Tooth Decay
Tooth decay happens when a cavity gets out of control. A cavity will first start to eat away at the enamel and dentil layers of a tooth and, if left untreated, can infect the softer center of the tooth, called the pulp. An infection in this area will cause discomfort, such as sensitivity to hot or cold beverages or even a constant, throbbing pain.
Severe Tooth Trauma
Tooth trauma is very common, and occurs in 33 percent of adults. If you experience a trauma to your tooth, it is important to visit your dentist as soon as possible. A dental professional will be able to diagnose any tooth or bone damage, which is only possible to determine through the use of x-rays. With simple chips or fractures, the treatment might be more cosmetic, with the chipped off piece being reattached or filled in using a tooth-colored filling. In more severe cases, where the tooth pulp has been impacted, root canal therapy will likely be utilized.
A Root Canal Saves Your Tooth
Root canal therapy is a common procedure. In fact, millions of teeth are saved and treated using root canal therapy each year. Root canal therapy prevents tooth problems from getting worse. If your dentist has told you that you need root canal therapy, avoiding treatment will only make matters worse, meaning your pain and discomfort levels will likely increase as well.
“Most importantly, root canal therapy will save your tooth,” said Dr. Nader. “Losing a tooth is more expensive in the long run than trying to save it.”
Once the root canal therapy has been completed, good oral hygiene is very important. This will help ensure that treatment is successful.
“I tell my patients, ‘When you buy a new car, you still have to maintain it, put gas in it and change the oil in order to give it life,’” said Dr. Nader. “Just because it is new doesn’t mean it won’t break down. Brush and floss twice a day, and keep the dentist away.”
How Does Root Canal Therapy Heal my Mouth?
Root canal therapy stops the progression of an infection, saves your tooth and alleviates your pain or discomfort. If your dentist has told you that you need a root canal, remember that this is an important treatment to keep your tooth and restore its health. The procedure is common and pain is minimal, and by getting treatment now, you’re avoiding larger problems down the road.
If you are facing root canal therapy and have additional questions, please leave your question in the comments below.
Tony Nader, DMD is general dentist with advanced education in a one year General Dentistry Residency program through The University of Florida.