Root canals get a bad reputation. Where a filling removes an infection of the hard tissue of a tooth (a cavity,) a root canal removes the infected soft tissue (the nerve.) A properly managed root canal should be as comfortable as the restoration of a cavity.

The root canal is the most misunderstood procedure any dentist does.

Quips like “About as fun as a root canal” have painted root canals as scary, painful, and difficult. We understand why, but in reality the root canal involves very little pain. You might feel a headache coming on if and when you hear that you need one, but the procedure itself will help relieve your pain.

Who needs a root canal?

You might need a root canal if:

  • You have significant tooth decay,to the point where the pulp inside your tooth has become infected.
  • You’ve cracked or chipped your tooth, exposing the pulp to bacteria that leaves it inflamed and infected.
  • You can’t find any visible damage,but your tooth hurts badly anyway.

Only a qualified dentist can tell you for sure whether you need a root canal.

What goes on in your mouth that causes you to need a root canal?

Every tooth has a little chamber inside (the canal). In a healthy tooth, that chamber is filled with tissue, blood vessels,and nerves. The nerves are considered to be the “root” of your tooth.All of is known collectively as the pulp.

When the pulp gets infected it gets painful quickly.It also can lead to the formation of an abscess (a nasty pocket of pus forming at the base of the tooth). At that point you’re in danger. An abscess can cause infection to spread through the rest of your body, starting with the jaw. That in turn can lead to sepsis: a dangerous, life-threatening infection raging through the entire body.

What does the dentist do in a root canal?

If you have an abscess the dentist will need to drain it. Then it will be time to tackle the infection itself.  That’s where the root canal comes in.

First, we’ll remove all the infected pulp in the tooth. Once an infection like that starts it’s very difficult to get rid of. Instead, we just remove the pulp, which is a safe, affordable procedure we’ve performed many times.

Then we clean and disinfect the canal area before filling it with a substance known as gutta-percha. This stabilizes and rescues the tooth, while making sure no more bacteria get into the canal.

At this point, you may need some extra restoration work, like a crown. We’ll discuss your treatment options with you.

The alternative to the root canal? Losing the tooth. Nobody wants that.

Do you need to be checked out?

If you have pain, difficulties with hot or cold sensations, or chewing difficulties, you should schedule an appointment right away. Fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a swollen face or cheek are also warning signs of an emergency.

Some people don’t get any symptoms at all. At that point, we must rely on your regular dental check-ups to catch the problem before it gets any worse. If you haven’t been to the dentist for a while,schedule your check-up. You’re probably due.

Though a root canal can leave your tooth a little tender for a few days, after the procedure you shouldn’t feel any pain at all. Though we can’t claim it will be fun, we can tell you there’s not much to be afraid of.

Think you may have an infected tooth? Call Capital Dental Design in Richmond to schedule an appointment today.

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