The Most Common Questions About Root Canals and A Surprise Revelation
If you’ve heard your dentist utter the phrase: “You need a root canal,” you’re likely in a bit of a panic, but don’t worry! The pain you’re going through heavily outweighs the pain of a root canal procedure, and the relief you’ll feel once it’s done is well worth the temporary discomfort.
With so many patients feeling anxious and having many concerns about root canal treatments, we thought it would be best to answer your burning questions in a two-part piece. Properly understanding treatments can significantly reduce the anxiety you feel while visiting the dentist. It can also help you dive deeper into the conversation about oral health with the specialists at your dental clinic next time you go in for an appointment.
Along with pain relief, root canal treatments prevents the bacterial infection inside your teeth from entering your bloodstream and spreading to the rest of your body, which can be life-threatening.
Dentists cannot stress this enough: don’t ignore your toothache. It is much better to get a root canal treatment sooner than later.
What is A Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure which treats and disinfects the part of the tooth which carries the same name. The dental procedure removes infected tissue from the inner tooth (the pulp and root canal) to relieve pain, to get rid of bacteria and to allow for a filling to be applied inside the tooth. This treatment is a last effort to save a tooth that is severely decayed.
To give you a better idea of how this procedure works, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the tooth.
- Crown—the top, visible part of the tooth used for speaking, biting and chewing.
- Enamel—the outer layer of the tooth and the hardest, most mineralized tissue.
- Dentin—the layer underneath the enamel. This layer has millions of tiny tubules (like pores) that lead to the pulp.
- Pulp—soft tissue that helps the growth, development and health of the tooth. Pulp consists of blood vessels and nerve tissue in the innermost part of a tooth.
- Root canals—inner parts and passages of the tooth that go from the pulp to the roots.
- Root—the root is the part of the tooth that is embedded into jaw bone and holds the tooth in place. It makes up about two-thirds of the tooth.
Tooth decay usually starts when bacteria on the surface of the tooth is not removed and accumulates. This development causes an acid residue that damages and deteriorates the enamel. As the bacteria develops, the signs of decay begin to show.
Tooth decay therefore usually begins with the thinning of the enamel. If bacteria is not removed, then the dentin becomes affected and eventually the bacterial infection can reach the pulp. Once decay reaches the pulp, you will feel severe pain, which also indicates that the tooth is now rotting from the inside.
It is possible, however, for decay to reach the inside of the tooth without the exterior being visibly damaged which is why dentists urge patients to visit a dental clinic as soon as toothaches begin.
Instead of extracting the infected tooth and getting a dental implant, your dentist might recommend a root canal to preserve the affected tooth.
A root canal involves removing the infected pulp, and attaching an artificial crown over what is remaining of the tooth to restore regular functionality. In fact, the crown is stronger and more resistant than enamel, which will result in better protection of the tooth. You won’t have to worry about breaking or damaging your dental structures.
What Are the Steps to A Root Canal Treatment?
A root canal treatment can take more time than other treatments. For this reason, most dentists will allow you to listen to music during the procedure. To minimize pain and discomfort, as well as to relieve you from any anxiety you may feel while at the dental clinic, your dentist can offer you sedation dentistry.
Your dentist will numb your gums by applying a topical anaesthetic gel, they will then inject a local anaesthetic to completely numb your gums, teeth, tongue, and cheeks.
Using x-rays for guidance, your dentist will affix a latex or rubber sheet to your teeth to prevent bacteria from spreading. This sheet will also keep the rest of your mouth clean and prevent you from swallowing any medications used during the procedure.
Using a dental drill and other specialized equipment, your dentist will drill into the infected tooth. The canals are then disinfected, the pulp is removed, and the canals are cleaned and reshaped to restore health to the tooth.
Afterwards, your dentist will seal the root and the crown with a filling that protects the tooth from any bacteria that could cause harm. This is a temporary solution while a new and more solid crown is prepared to go over the healing tooth.
While it may seem like a tedious procedure to go through, your dentist can reassure you that it is worth the time. Your oral health is essential to your overall health, and the infection will need to be removed as soon as possible. The aftercare process is also rather important. Read the second part of this piece here for more answers to your questions about root canal treatments.
Dr. Hanan Taraf is an experienced dentist. Her first practice was in Morocco, where she was born and raised. In 2005, she came to Canada, studying at the Université de Montréal where she earned her Canadian DMD Degree, graduating in June of 2010. She’s never stopped learning, however; Dr. Taraf’s dedication to continuing education led her to take further studies so she could offer oral sedation to ensure even the most anxious patients are able to enjoy stress-free treatment. Dr. Taraf is also a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Mini Implant Residency with associate professor Dr. Mark Lin.